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Diocesan Board of Missions.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, April 16, 1864, page 5.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006


A PUBLIC meeting in connexion with the Sydney Diocesan Board of Missions was held yesterday evening, in St. James' schoolroom, Castlereagh-street, for the purpose of receiving from Bishop Patteson a statement of the progress of the Melanesian Mission and of adopting measures for furthering its objects. The attendance was rather numerous. His Excellency the Governor and Lady Young were present. The Bishop of Sydney presided.

The Rev. Canon WALSH opened the meeting with prayer.

The CHAIRMAN, having read the advertisement of the meeting, said that his observations would be followed by a statement from Bishop Patteson, after which two resolutions would be moved, one thanking the Bishop for his statement upon this and upon other occasions, and the other of a formal character but necessary to carry out the objects of our meeting, one of the principal of those objects being that we would assist the Bishop in his important and deeply interesting mission. He had been requested in the programme that the secretaries had given him, to explain to the meeting the connexion between the Diocesan Board of Missions and the Melanesian Mission. And in order to do that he must revert briefly to the history of the Melanesian Mission. That history did not go very far back. He believed that the year 1851 saw its rise. Its progress was perhaps somewhat difficult to trace. From the year 1851 to 1855 he was not able to give any details concerning its operations, and probably the departure, followed by the death of the late Bishop of Sydney, might account for the absence of any historical records as to the proceedings of the Melanesian Mission. But in the year 1856, the year after his arrival in the colony, our society was somewhat quickened by the visit of the Bishop of New Zealand, the result of that visit being, as the Bishop himself expressed it on another occasion, equivalent to a thousand pounds; for he was pleased to compliment his friends in Sydney, by saying that he regarded his visit to Sydney as equivalent to one thousand pounds. The second visit of the Bishop to Sydney--to which he now particularly referred--in 1856 was perhaps not so productive as the former one, because we were at that time engaged in forming our own Church Society, and received not a little assistance from the Bishop of New Zealand on that occasion--assistance for which he should always feel grateful to him. But the missionary spirit had not altogether died out; we did make one attempt to educate a young man for the Melanesian mission, but we found he was not qualified for that high vocation, and we were obliged to discontinue our attempts in that direction. Some of us contented ourselves by entrusting to our dear brother, the late Mr. Richardson, our contributions both to the Jews' Society and to the Church Missionary Society; and it was natural, if we believed it to be our duty to assist Church missions, to seek some such opening as that, while there was a special propriety in our assisting the Church Missionary Society, inasmuch as it was mainly owing to that society that New Zealand possessed its present Christianity. Bishop Patteson had, in his former addresses, stated, in a very satisfactory manner, the reasons why so little was heard of the Melanesian mission during the period which elapsed between the year 1856 and the present time. During that period an experiment was being carried out. Some regarded that experiment as of a doubtful character. His (the chairman's) own mind was perfectly satisfied that the experiment was now no longer doubtful, but had been eminently successful. And the reasons that the Bishop had given for the peculiar manner in which the operations of the Melanesian mission had been carried on must, to all who heard him, he thought, be quite satisfactory. The peculiarities were these--the climate in the islands he visited was such that no European could safely remain there for a long period, because of the fever and ague which prevailed there. Then a variety of dialects had introduced a kind of Babel-like confusion of tongues; while a population, comparatively small, and scattered over a considerable number of islands, made it impossible to indulge the hope that a European resident missionary would ever be placed on each of the islands. He thought he was not incorrect in stating that the Bishop of New Zealand had only placed one missionary--the Rev. Mr. Nihil--upon an island, and that in that case the missionary's career had been very soon cut short by death. The plan that Bishop Patteson had so fully explained to us was this--that the youths should be collected from the different islands, taken to Auckland, and there brought under Christian instruction and careful supervision for five or six months, and that they should then return to their native islands, in the hope that they might prove to be the leaven by which the mass of heathenism around them would to some extent be leavened. The Bishop would, he was sure, be the last person, even by implication, to censure the ordinary mode of conducting missionary operations. But those operations must be varied according to circumstances of time and place, and even the means by which the operations were to be carried on. The Bishop had peculiar facilities in carrying out the plan, which was originally adopted by the Bishop of New Zealand. He seemed to have inherited all those sailor-like qualities which had made the fame of the Bishop of New Zealand as one of the best skippers in the Pacific so well known among sailors that it had been stated that a sailor would rather enter the service of the Bishop of New Zealand than that of any other captain who sailed in these seas--(cheers and laughter)--while the details that we had heard from our brother's lips, and the manner in which he had gone in and out amongst us on various occasions, must have convinced us that the Church of England was fairly and admirably represented in its missionary operations in the islands of the Pacific by the services of Bishop Patteson. (Cheers.) In that year 1861 to which he had referred, and which was memorable in the annals of the Church in Sydney by the five Australian bishops being present,--in that year the Melanesian Board of Missions was established, and at the same time a Diocesan Board of Missions was formed. It was this Diocesan Board of Missions which, by one of the resolutions to be proposed this evening, would be revived, and through which the Church of England in this diocese recognised Bishop Patteson, and the operations conducted by him, as the means of sending forth missionary labourers to the islands of the Pacific. He certainly was thankful and grateful to Almighty God for permitting the reproach which had so long rested on us in the matter of missionary operations to be rolled away; also, that He had permitted us to welcome this brother again amongst us, and to send him forth again supported by many prayers, laden with many marks of the good will and the kindly feeling of his fellow-Christians here; that we might, by our prayers, and in thought concerning him, follow him in his labours; and that we might, from time to time, hear about him, and possibly receive visits from him--all of which would serve to stir up our prayerful endeavours on behalf of the remnant of the aboriginal tribes remaining on this continent. The Bishop would himself give an account of that which had taken place since he last kindly addressed us; and in his (the chairman's) own mind it formed one of the most important points in the present mission--that the Bishop seemed to be the link that united in the missionary work the labours of the Bishop of New Zealand in the Pacific with the wants of the native population in Australia itself. He would not intrude upon the Bishop's province, but would leave him to explain what had taken place; he would only venture to suggest that those who were present on a former occasion when the Bishop addressed us, would not find his address on this occasion tedious. He thought that he had sufficiently explained the object of the meeting; though he must not omit to say that one of (he did not say the principal) objects in the Bishop's own mind--one of the main purposes that we had in view--was that the Bishop might have some certain income from this colony upon which he could rely in carrying on the operations of his mission. The Bishop had received several donations here, one of them to a considerable amount, which, if funded, would support half a Melanesian boy for life. (Laughter.) Collections had been made in several of the churches; and he had also heard of the great kindness shown by Mr. Metcalfe and other gentlemen connected with shipping with regard to the insurance of the Bishop's vessel. Very material assistance had been afforded to the Bishop; but it was of great importance that he should know the actual income he was likely to receive from this colony. The Bishop would make his own statement as to his wants; but he (the chairman) should much regret if the Bishop left this colony without not merely the feeling but the assurance that his modest wants would be abundantly supplied. He also hoped that even more than the Bishop asked might be supplied, and that those condemned buildings in which he and his fellow labourers were at present habited (if it could be said that they were habitations at all)--buildings which, eight years ago, were condemned as unfit even for the Maori population--(laughter)--might no longer be the residence of the Bishop and of his friends and fellow labourers, but that there should be some more ample accommodation provided for him than a room fourteen feet by nine, in which perhaps a sick boy might have to share his chamber, and to be watched over by him in his capacity as a nurse. He trusted that what was to be done here would be done liberally, effectually, and permanently--that the subscription lists which would lie on this table, and which might hereafter be obtained by the efforts of the committee, would be of such an extent, and of such a commercially valuable character, as to set the Bishop's mind perfectly at ease with regard to his operations, at least for the present year. He would now call on Bishop Patteson address the meeting. (Cheers.)

Bishop PATTESON, in a few preliminary remarks referred to the commencement of the Melanesian Mission, and to the difficulties which had been overcome. The navigation of the seas was unknown; the dialects had to be mastered; we did not know how to approach any of these islands with safety where we now went as to familiar places. There had been difficulties of obtaining water and provisions, and questions almost every day arose which it was hard to solve. Already we had visited more than seventy islands, twenty-five of which were partially known to us, and some of them we were well acquainted with. The languages of a good number had been reduced to writing, and some of our scholars could write their own language as well as English boys could write English. The plan of operations had been sketched by the Bishop of Sydney. We endeavoured to bring away from the islands as many people as possible, and to place them under Christian teaching. After remaining with us six months in New Zealand, they returned to their homes, whither they ought to be accompanied by the missionary under whose charge they had been. We had contrived in the case of the scholars from the Banks Islands to carry on their education continuously during four years. We had also had many scholars from the Loyalty Islands, the New Hebrides, and the great archipelago of the Solomon Islands. In the Eastern Pacific, the climate was not unhealthy, and the dialects were known, all being derived from one cognate language. But the islands of the Western Pacific were so unhealthy that he could not take the responsibility of locating any one permanently on them The heat was not dreaded, but to dwell there was like living in an Indian jungle, where, especially after the tropical rains, fever and ague carried off the people. He never left any party on them for more than three weeks, and then it was necessary that the mission ship should constantly visit them. Last year he left a number of scholars on one of the islands for a fortnight, when, on his return, he found them well. He again left, but, on going there again fourteen days afterwards, sickness was very prevalent. The first night he slept on shore, with his arms round two boys who were both in delirium from fever. Ten adults died that night, and during their stay a still larger number, to say nothing of women and children, were also cut off. He was consequently compelled to return to New Zealand long before his usual time. He knew some islands where a number of languages were spoken by the inhabitants of the same islands. We must therefore deal with these peculiar circumstances, and regard the youths as the future teachers of their own people. He could speak with much confidence of their intellectual capacity and moral earnestness. He had no doubt whatever that, humanly speaking, under the Divine blessing, there would be before many years pass away, a number of Melanesian ordained clergymen working satisfactorily among their own people. Why had we not carried on the work elsewhere than at the Banks Islands? It was because we had not had the means. The languages were known, the people were friendly, the preparatory work had been already finished, and he might say that he hoped this very winter to go to the New Hebrides and Solomon's groups preparing the way for the permanent residence of missionaries. He was specially anxious that they should not cherish too sanguine anticipations of some great work to be accomplished--that they should not be too eager for results, as we wished to be allowed to go on in our own way, not being forced into any premature action contrary to our better judgment. Allow us to go on quietly, honestly accounting for all assistance rendered, and do not let us be rushed into circumstances which we think, on the whole, injudicious. [Bishop Patteson then spoke of the difficulties which had been met with at the beginning of the mission in the selection of a place for its head-quarters.] He had visited Norfolk Island, but though the people living there had repeatedly and unanimously urged him to remain amongst them, he had always declined, simply because it would not suit our purpose. Even if the island had a harbour, there would still be an insuperable obstacle to that place, because there was a great deal of indolence there, and that would be most dangerous to our scholars. He had oftentimes to teach Norfolk Island boys by the example of the Melanesians. We had got many a boy and girl in our school in New Zealand who could teach the men and women of Norfolk Island how to keep their houses tidy and decent. Since he last spoke in Sydney a matter of very great importance to the mission had occurred. He was most thankful that he had been to Brisbane, and for what had occurred there. From the Islands of Melanesia the course to New Zealand was in the eye of the trade wind, and he could not depend on reaching Auckland in less than three weeks. It was, therefore, most desirable to have some spot under our lee, as it were, on the east coast of Australia, where in case of sickness we could run with our invalids. Last year he found so much sickness prevailing at Mota, one of the Banks Islands, that he had to take the whole party off, and with the vessel crowded with sick people he was obliged to sail for New Zealand. He not only had to return earlier than usual, but at a time when the weather was very boisterous, whereas if he had had a settlement on the east coast of this continent he might have landed them there in four or five days and then resumed his missionary operations. He had received much sympathy at Brisbane, where he had an interview with his Excellency the Governor, Mr. Herbert the Colonial Secretary, and Mr. Gregory the explorer, who is now Surveyor-General of Queensland. Mr. Gregory had suggested the south-western portion of Curtis Island as the most suitable place to found a missionary school. The elevation was very good, the place was healthy, and wood and water were plentiful. Gladstone was only a few miles distant, and there was good harbour accommodation. There was, too, just a sufficient number of aborigines, through whom we might be able to open up communication with other tribes; and if we could only obtain their dialect we should be able to pass on to other islands on the Australian coast. It was thought that this might, by God's blessing, open up in time some way by which good might be done to the natives of Australia. He was quite sure there was not a single person present who did not wish to do his duty to the aborigines of this country if only some suitable and practicable plan could be devised. At Brisbane everybody seemed willing to do what they could. The Colonial Secretary there had said he would reserve a large block of Curtis Island, and we might be able to buy some portion of it at the upset price,--so that, humanly speaking, there was a probability of our having a branch school there in the course of three or four years. He could take a hundred islanders to Port Curtis in less time than he could take sixty or seventy to New Zealand, and thus our scholars would be at once numerically increased three or fourfold. The latitude was favourable for the growth of yams, and a school of 300 or 400 lads, young men, and married men, might be judiciously carried on at Curtis Island, at a cheaper rate, and the mission work would consequently go on with much greater rapidity than heretofore. In New Zealand during the summer we might have a school of thirty or forty, and during the winter about twenty, who would always be under the charge of the missionary belonging to what he might call the finishing department. These scholars would be many of them married people whom we might hope soon to see engaged in carrying on the work. The two schools might be carried on simultaneously. If it should please God that our operations should be extended to the aborigines of this country, he was sure that all would be more than ever willing to co-operate in this good work. He must express his gratitude for the great kindness he had received from the Metropolitan, and all with whom he had been brought into contact. He could not tell them the amount of encouragement and refreshment he had received, the new life and energy with which he was returning to his work. He had met everywhere with the most hearty reception and the greatest possible kindness, and what was still more, he found this plan of missionary operation cordially supported by men of all classes. He felt as if the mission had passed a great crisis in its history, and he thanked God in being permitted to see it adopted by the Churches of Australia, to see that we were standing no longer isolated and that there was stability and perpetuity given to the mission. (Applause.)

His Excellency Sir JOHN YOUNG rose to move, "That the thanks of this meeting be respectfully offered to the missionary Bishop for the full and satisfactory information he has afforded on the subject of the Melanesian mission." (Applause.) The applause with which this resolution was greeted assured him that it conveyed the sense of the whole meeting. (Cheers.) He was sure that all present had listened with interest and satisfaction to the statement that they had listened to from the right reverend prelate as to his missionary labours, his plans for their continuance, and the hopes and views which he entertained. There could not be a doubt in the mind of any person--of any Christian who had any idea of the privilege which attached to that name--that this work should be carried on to the utmost extent. The localities in which the labours to which Bishop Patteson had called their attention may truly be said to be the haunts of darkness, in which cruelty and impure practices prevailed. To pour the searching truths of the Gospel into the minds of these heathen islanders, and to ameliorate the evil to which they were subject, was a work which they were bound to take in hand by their love to the Gospel. (Cheers.) To this great task Bishop Patteson had devoted the energies of his life. He had mentioned accidentally that he had visited Norfolk Island. He (Sir J. Young) was very glad to hear it. He hoped those visits would be repeated, and he should be, in the capacity of Governor of the Island, happy to give him all the assistance that he could. (Cheers.) But having heard an eloquent appeal, and having such a labourer whose inclination for the work was there manifested, and whose diligence had been shown in an extraordinary degree in taking up and carrying on the work there, he trusted there would be no failure or shortcomings in the subscriptions, but that worthy and well-disposed persons would come forward and by their generous assistance, not only now, but permanently carry him through the great losses and expense to which he must inevitably be exposed. To the eloquent appeal to which they had listened, he could add nothing further than that he wished the Bishop, as a missionary, God speed with all his heart. (Applause.)

The DEAN OF SYDNEY said he occupied the position of a reverend gentleman who was unavoidability absent, and had much pleasure in seconding the resolution which had been proposed by his Excellency. It was impossible to have listened to the statement which they had heard that evening, or the able expositions which they had heard from the right rev. gentlemen on previous occasions without being interested in the work, and with the feelings of a Christian, praying that God would abundantly bless him and his fellow labourers. He confessed that in listening to the manner in which the work was carried on, he had learnt many valuable lessons, and he thought the members of the Church of England in this diocese were under obligations to the Bishop for this visit. His Lordship (The Bishop of Sydney) had made allusion to one matter upon which he thought they should have a clear understanding. He understood him to say that the buildings used by the Bishop and his Melanesian scholars in New Zealand had been condemned eight years ago as unfit for the occupation of Maories. He thought they should be put in possession of the facts of that part of the self-denial of the Bishop and his friends who had contented themselves in this building for several years. He thought this meeting should feel that there was a special calling to provide a better building for the Bishop and those who were the subjects of his care and instruction. He was sure that more healthy and appropriate buildings would tend to the greater success of the Bishop and those engaged in the work. He trusted that the branch establishment which it was proposed to open on the northern part of Curtis Island may be successful, that the remnant of the aboriginal race of this great continent may have reason to thank God for Bishop Patteson. (Cheers.) He had much pleasure in seconding the resolution.

The motion was put and adopted.

Mr. A. GORDON moved the next resolution, which was as follows:--"That this meeting pledges itself to support the connection with the Melanesian mission." There was one part of the resolution which could hardly be treated as formal--the part which pledged support to the Board, for that he apprehended would be carried out. What the committee wished to do was to obtain a certain number of subscribers to subscribe annually for several years to come, so that they might reckon upon affording a certain fixed support to the mission from the members of the Church of England in this colony. (Hear, hear.) What he wanted, therefore, was to get their names as subscribers for a certain number of years, say, three, four, or five. He would suggest that this matter might moreover be brought before the different congregations by the clergymen once or twice in the year. He felt sure that the parochial revenue would not suffer by so doing. With these remarks he begged to propose the resolution.

The Rev. W. STACK, in seconding the resolution, said, that his mind had been strongly excited for several years past by the mission in which the Bishop of New Zealand and Bishop Patteson were engaged, and that interest had been increased by listening to the Bishop of Melanesia, and he thought the committee had a right to call upon them for all the assistance they could give. He thought Bishop Patteson had laid them under a deep obligation. As the Church of Christ, they were bound to be a missionary Church. (Hear, hear.) Placed as they were in this southern sea, as a kind of advanced guard, they ought to avail themselves of every means of sending the Gospel to the heathen islanders of the Pacific. It would be a great shame to the Church of England in this colony if Bishop Patteson did not receive a warm welcome and cheerful support in the work in which he was engaged. In reference to the suggestion of Mr. Gordon, that an appeal should be made to the different congregations, he had much pleasure in saying that, in consequence of the visit of the Bishop to his parish, he should be able to give one or two collections yearly, and he though they should be able to establish a branch in Balmain if it were found to be necessary. (Cheers.)

The resolution was put and agreed to.

The CHAIRMAN said he had the pleasure to place in the hands of the treasurer the sum of £5 as a donation from the Hon. G. C. Hawker, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of South Australia. (Cheers.) He had also placed his (the chairman's) name on the list as an annual subscriber, and he had no doubt but that Mr. Metcalf would be glad to receive the names of all who wished to subscribe. There was one part of the Bishop's work in which he felt a great interest, and that was the translation of the Scriptures. It appeared to him, from what the Bishop had said, that he had conducted that portion of his work with the conscientious nicety of a Christian and a scholar. The difficulty of translating the language of the Gospel into a heathen tongue was very great. In China controversy was still going on among the scholars as to what was the proper word to express their idea of a deity. In India, they had been told, they had no word to express gratitude, because the idea did not exist among the people. He admired the scrupulous care with which Bishop Patteson had approached the subject. He believed that the apostle Paul would have acted, under similar circumstances, very much as the Bishop had done. Paul would have had many advantages; but the Bishop carried on the work with a special reference to the people to whom he addressed himself, and in this age, care, scholarship, conscientiousness and love to God and love to the souls of men must supply the absence of inspiration or the gift of speaking in tongues they had not before known. He could not feel satisfied without thus expressing his confidence in the manner in which the Bishop had been carrying on the work. (Applause.)

Bishop PATTESON explained that he was enabled to tell the Melanesian youth the simple story of God's love in sending his Son to die for them before he could speak in precise, technical, and theological expressions. In translating the Scriptures he had always chosen to use the word "God" in preference to the word "spirit," as the latter was associated with some mystery. The reverend gentleman gave a detailed account of the plan he pursued in translating the Scriptures, and in doing so paid a well merited tribute to the scholars of high standing in the Church of England at home, from whose labourers he had received valuable assistance in translating Melanesian language.

The proceeding terminated with the benediction, pronounced by the Bishop of Sydney.

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