Project Canterbury

In the Isles of the Sea: The Story of Fifty Years in Melanesia

By Frances Awdry

London: Bemrose & Sons, Limited, 1902.


I TRUST that the public will welcome these pleasant pages, summing up as they do in a popular form the history of one of the most interesting Missions of our day. It was founded by giants, both intellectual and spiritual. No such names have appeared in the South Seas as those of Selwyn and Patteson, although in his own way Chalmers of New Guinea will ever stand out as one of the heroes of the Mission field. Probably no biography of any modern Missionary Bishop has had so deep an influence in drawing men to become missionaries as the "Life of Bishop Patteson," the first Bishop of this Diocese.

But events move rapidly in these days, and as I look back over the ten years that have elapsed since I was in Melanesia I am amazed at the change that has come over the situation. To state what this change has been must be my share in this book.

The Solomon and Santa Cruz groups are now annexed to Great Britain, and the influence of the Empire is really felt throughout these regions. There was no adequate Government supervision ten years ago, and traders and others were almost free to act as they pleased. Now all has been changed. There is a Government Resident in the Solomons exercising effective control. Before him all traders must appear ere they can do business, and they are all licensed. No outbreaks can occur on these once mysterious shores without the advent, without delay, of Fijian Police. The general result is that the quality of the traders has steadily improved; the old type is disappearing. In place of enmity upon their part to Mission work, we now find them welcoming Christian schools. The effect upon the Mission of course is that the pace of the work is accelerated; the openings are more numerous, and a trebled staff is needed. It will soon be impossible to discover an island upon which no Christian work has been done. Women's work, that is, the work of ladies in the Mission, must soon find its place in the islands as one of the chief factors in the Christian problem. It may well be indeed that within a twelvemonth after the new steamer has begun its work, our ladies may be actually located in the various groups, especially in the Solomons.

These islands may also be the homes ere long of thoroughly civilised natives, who have been banished from Australia by the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia. This is not the place to discuss political questions, but it may be permissible to look on with amazement at the formulation of laws which force islanders to return to homes which they left twenty years ago under the regulations of the Australian Government to work in [xiii/xiv] Australian plantations, and who have for years lived peaceably on Australian shores. If, however, they return to homes which are still in a state of barbarism, many interesting questions arise. They must be carefully protected by the Government, and their own influence upon their barbarous relatives must be reckoned with. Will they mix readily with the stationary population or not? Will the civilization to which they have attained stand contact with the old barbarism ? If not, their condition is deplorable, and we are putting back the hand of the clock in the case of persons whom we have once raised.

There is, however, another factor in the Melanesian problem of to-day. A tendency is abroad to ignore the tacit compact made fifty years ago between different denominations of Christians to respect the allotted spheres of work. Rome has never made any such compact. But Anglo-Saxon Missions, led by Bishop G. A. Selwyn, have made amicable arrangements among themselves. Personally I regret, I deeply regret, the appearance of Wesleyan Missionaries in New Georgia and a threatened appearance of Presbyterian Missionaries in our group in the New Hebrides just at the time when a fast steamer will transform the whole aspect of the Mission within five years. Without question the pace of Mission work among us has not been of late years what it has been in other Missions. The old ideal of a few white corks for the black net must be altered as times change. No Mission must be left at any time of the year without white Missionaries altogether. If no boys can be obtained from an island, then white or native teachers must be landed there in order to create the needed spirit. And this is the conviction of the Bishop and of all his staff. They are conscious indeed that everything depends upon the work of the next ten years, and we know that our hopes will not be disappointed. I venture to prophesy, that although the. aspect of the Mission is wonderfully changed during the last ten years in order to meet entirely new conditions, all this is as nothing to the developments that await us even within the date of the meeting of the next Lambeth Conference, which is apparently to be held in 1908. And in the name of this great Mission I venture to call on all its supporters to strain every nerve in its interests, to make full use of the beautiful steamer, to provide a full staff of clergy, and to make it possible to occupy fully in the next six years Utupua, Vanikoro, the Reef Islands, Guadalcanar, Mala, Choiseul, and Bougainville. It can be done: please God it will be done, under the leadership of a young and vigorous Bishop and of his noble staff. New Guinea, the great Australian Mission, is forging ahead gloriously: the great New Zealand Mission must develop itself under new conditions with equal force. Some day the two great Missions may meet, and new developments, unseen as yet, may become possible.

I heartily commend pages, written by a talented writer who bears a great Missionary name, to the increasing numbers who support Mission work throughout the world.

Secretary of the S.P.G.

Project Canterbury