Project Canterbury

Untitled message by the Bishop of Melanesia, dated 3rd March 1944

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009



3rd March 1944.

My dear Associates and Friends of Melanesia,

Within a few days now I shall be leaving Sydney on the first stage of my journey back to Melanesia. Although my Annual Report for 1943 will shortly be in your hands, I want to write to you of some things which I think can be more fittingly written of in a letter rather than in such a Report. .

First, I want to thank you - hundreds of you - for the warmth of your reception of me in my visits throughout the length of New Zealand and in a large number of centres in Australia. I came down from the Islands at the end of October to attend General Synod and for 'a rest' - or perhaps I had better say 'a change of occupation' - and for a holiday with my family.

General Synod was full of happy experiences. It was, as everyone agrees, one of the happiest of Synods. That apart, I could not help but be gratified with the extraordinary kindness shown to me as (I hope) the representative of my Staff and people of Melanesia.

Synod over (No! I think I excused myself a day early!) I began a fairly comprehensive tour of New Zealand arranged by Mr. Long of the Board of Missions. Some folk thought I was being most unfairly treated but the 'fault' was my own for I had previously written to Mr. Long and told him that I should be prepared (indeed, happy) to do anything anywhere in New Zealand from (about) 14th November until such a date as he could secure me an air-passage which would ensure my being in Adelaide to spend Christmas with my family. I agree that Mr. Long made the most of his opportunity! But doing deputation work in New Zealand, strenuous as it can be, is always a joy to me. Travel arrangements are always made which go through without a hitch and everywhere one is so warmly welcomed so kindly entertained and so enthusiastically greeted by large crowds at all services and meetings that such a tour as mine from 14th November until 15th December is not a burden but an inspiration. I am profoundly thankful to you all and I shall not soon forget this 1943 visit to New Zealand. From the Ordination (of Mr. Garrity) at Tauranga right through to that very jolly Prize Day at King's School, Auckland, happy experience followed on happy experience and, frankly, I was almost sorry to leave.

BUT family claims were very definitely in my mind. It was just two years since I had seen my wife and children (although neither my wife nor I forget that thousands of others have had in these dark days of war to suffer far longer and much harder separations) and on 15th December I flew the Tasman. Then followed two busy days in the Sydney Office. I know he will almost resent my saying it: but we [1/2] who have the interests of the Melanesian Mission very definitely in our hearts, should be very thankful for the continued enthusiastic work of Major Robinson, our General Secretary. Others, whose judgment I trust, have expressed what is also my own very definite opinion that we could find no one whose loyalty to me personally and to the Mission at large would surpass that of Major Robinson. It is true to say - 'He lives for the Mission'.

For a month I had an excellent holiday at Adelaide - a 'bucket and spade' holiday: and it was great fun.

Then for some weeks I placed myself at the disposal of A.B.M. for deputation work in such centres as could arrange special meetings - although late January and early February are not the best times for missionary (or other) meetings. As in New Zealand, so in Australia. Everywhere there was the same kindness, the same hospitality, the same enthusiasm. I think I shall not soon forget the meetings in the Town Halls at Adelaide, at Melbourne, at Sydney and Brisbane. My visit to Queensland was not intended but as the Bishop of New Guinea was reported as likely to arrive in Australia within a few days of the approximate date of my leaving Australia and as I was most anxious to meet him to discuss some of our 'common' problems and particularly the situation in the so-called Mandated Territory of New Guinea where our Dioceses meet (which has yet to be solved either by the establishment of a third diocese or by a readjustment of our present 'legal' boundaries) I extended my time in Australia. This made the Brisbane visit possible and I was able to talk over things with Bishop Strong before he left on a visit to England.

Thereafter, I was able to pay a further short, not prearranged or expected, visit to Adelaide: and now I am almost ready for 'home' again.

Secondly, I want to urge you all 'to buy up the opportunity' which is open to us (and to the Church at large) through this very definitely and almost universal 'changed outlook towards the missionary work of the Church'. There is no doubt at all about this changed outlook. Thousands of men who previously had never thought of missionary work, or, if they had, had regarded it as a sort of 'extra' or had had other and very erroneous ideas of it, are now very kindly disposed to 'Missions'. I know there has been a good deal off sentimentalism
talked. That sentimentalism will evaporate in due course: I know that the Press has stressed (perhaps, even over-stressed) the help that the native peoples of the S.W. Pacific have rendered to 'the Allied cause'. Much of that will soon be forgotten: (I am no cynic. But I do not forget the 'homes fit for heroes to live in' verbiage - followed later by the queues of thousands at the doors of Labour Exchanges and 'the Dole'. ) Even so, there is a profound change in men's outlook towards the work of the Church overseas which is bound to survive. Let us thank God for it and let us think out how we can best use it for the extension of His Kingdom.

And thirdly and lastly (which sounds rather like a sermon!) I want to ask for a very definitely increased number of 'Associates of [2/3] Melanesia'. It is, I fear, true, that quite a proportion of our present Associates are behind with their subscriptions ('I think that that does not apply to YOU. Or does it?'). The Associate subscription is almost a nominal one but every little helps: We want Associates not that their subscription may augment our funds but to maintain, increase and develop interest in the Work and our peoples. All Associates receive 'the Log' - indisputably (I think) one of the very best Missionary publications of the Church - and through reading it ('YOU do read yours, don't you? Every word of it?') folks' interest will be deepened, their prayers will become more real and so the staff and means will be forthcoming which will enable the Work to go on and to be extended in ways which have as yet been closed to us through lack of funds. Our General Secretary, whose office address is at the head of this letter, will gladly send a specimen copy of 'the Log' to any enquirer and addresses to which application for enrolment as Associates can be addressed appear on the cover pages of it. Very shortly I hope that Major Robinson will be able to take a well earned rest (or, shall I say of him as of myself?, a change of occupation!) in New Zealand. He will, I expect, visit some at least of the chief centres. I think he may not be carrying spare copies of 'the Log' with him: I am sure he will have forms with which to enrol new Associates.

I shall hope to write Quarterly Letters again now that things are straightening out in the Islands. Thereby you will be able to watch with prayerful interest the reconstruction and development to which we are already putting our minds and hands.

My thanks to you for all that so many of you have done for us in the past and my kind regards to you.

Sincerely yours,

[signed] +Walter Melanesia

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