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Letter from Bishop Wilson

From The Southern Cross Log, Auckland, Vol. V, No. 50, June 15, 1899, pages 1-3.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2012

NORFOLK ISLAND, May 4, 1899.


WITH a very thankful heart I landed on Norfolk Island once more, after an absence of sixteen months. I left in December, 1897, to attend the General Synod in New Zealand. In February, I left New Zealand for England. At Hobart, the Bishop of Tasmania told me of the death of Bishop J. R. Selwyn, and I realised that one of my strongest reasons for going to England was removed; for he had been taken to rest with whom I had hoped to discuss our problems, to talk over all that had happened during the years just past, and to gain wisdom from his experience and advice. I need not try to tell you what his death meant to me, nor need I tell you how serious a blow it was to the Mission in England. He had been our strong man at Home. No man was more able than he to make men believe in missions, and particularly in the Melanesian Mission. He never refused an invitation to speak or preach on our behalf, if it was possible to do it. His name and his reputation attracted great audiences, and the straightforward, simple, stirring appeal of the crippled Bishop, who had spent and been spent in his Master's service, never failed to touch the hearts of those who heard him For my part, I can say that I never saw any other missionary meetings like his. It was my lot to stand alone, or almost alone, as the one Melanesian deputation for the whole of England. In my seven months in England I saw more of the inside of railway carriages, lecture halls, and churches than of the green fields and beauties of the Old Country, and more of audiences and congregations than of my own friends and relations. However, such is the lot of every missionary bishop when he visits England, and we have no reason to complain. We would far rather have it so than find English churchmen cold and indifferent to missionary work, careless about [1/2] our success or failure, and not wishing to hear anything about it. We can at least say this: That people in England will gladly hear about foreign missions, if missionaries will go and tell them what they have seen and done.

I left England again on November 17 last year, and reached New Zealand just after Christmas. Here, as you know, I was married to a daughter of the Bishop of Christchurch, and after doing more deputation work in New Zealand and in Sydney, reached my home again on April 8. The Mission party gave us a hearty welcome, decorating the road to S. Barnabas' with flags and mottoes. The Norfolkers, headed by Doctor Metcalfe, were kind enough to meet us on the pier and read us an address. It was good indeed to be back again after so many months of absence, and after so much travel. I do pray that my year of work away from here may have strengthened the Mission by making more secure its base, when its chief human support in England has been taken away, and by some little encouragement given to old friends, and by the enlistment of new ones. If this is so, we shall be able to go on acting upon what has been called "a policy of faith," accepting good, earnest men as missionaries whenever they offer themselves for the work, believing that money will come to pay their stipends. Trade is spreading rapidly through the islands, and more and more traders are settling amongst our people. Besides these, a new element has to be considered. Roman Catholics priests have entered our diocese at both ends—in the Solomons and in the New Hebrides. 'Twere better to live from year's end to year's end amongst our people, and it is natural to expect that some islanders, at any rate, will follow the teaching of those who are always on the spot. I believe that we shall be forced to alter our methods, as traders and Roman Catholics push forward, and to leave our missionaries in the islands for two or three years at a time, instead of bringing them back to Norfolk Island. This can only be done by increasing our staff of clergy, and that can only be done through the increased support of the Mission in the Colonies and in England.

On April 8, the day we arrived, the "Southern Cross" also came in, bringing back Rev. R. B. and Mrs. Comins, and the new chaplain of the Island, Rev. P. M. Aldous, with his wife. Mr. King, the new Magistrate, and the Rev. H. V. Adams came with us in the "Victoria" from Sydney. On April 12 our vessel left us again, taking away Archdeacon Palmer, Revs. R. B. Comins, [2/3] W. C. O'Ferrall, and about 20 boys. We are a scattered party. Where are those just mentioned? At sea, somewhere now, perhaps in the Solomons. Dr. Welshman and Rev. R. P. Wilson are at Siota, in Florida; the Rev. W. G. Ivens is holidaying (i.e., lecturing and deputationing) in New Zealand and Australia. The Rev. C. W. Browning, and his wife, and their two little boys are on board the "Thermopylae" on their way home to England, Mr. Browning having suffered from sunstroke and been sent by the doctor to a cold climate. The Rev. L. P. Robin is in England. with a license from the Archbishop of Canterbury to act as organising agent for five years. At our Friday night intercessions in S. Barnabas', our thoughts travel after our absent ones all over the world.

This letter is a long one. I must say the rest of my say in a few words. The first piece of Episcopal work after my return was to confirm, on April 11, 15 boys and three girls. Their names were:—(Boys) Horoi, Gilvette, Susua, Gagesi, Wotleh, Tuaria, Qat, Lingpei, Manevuti, Horihenue, Samarofa, Leabi, Bua, Tangiale, Domo; (Girls) Bethania, Annie Manvivaris, Selima Sputu.

There are now four deacons here, preparing for Priests' Orders, which they hope to receive next year. They are the Revs. W. H. Edgell, E. S. Wayne, H. V. Adams, and Alfred Lobu, the last a native of Florida.

The very beautiful office-book, given by Canon and Miss Foy to the late Bishop, and used by him in Selwyn College Chapel, has been presented to our Chapel here, and is now in regular use.

Those who subscribed to the fund for providing a book of Scripture pictures, with texts and explanations in Mota at the bottom of each page, will be pleased to hear that Dr. Codrington has seen the book through the press, and we have now 1,000 copies, well-bound, with more than 100 pictures in each. The boys and girls are delighted with them, and we all say that they are just the thing that we wanted. I think it should be known that the Religious Tract Society not only printed the book for us, but also made us a grant of £25 towards the cost.

In conclusion, let me draw your attention to our appeal to the Church for a new ship. It is a matter of the most urgent importance. I do hope that every reader of the letter and appeal will send a donation to the local secretary, or to the General Treasurer, Rev. G. MacMurray, St. Mary's Vicarage, Auckland, New Zealand,

I am, yours very faithfully,
Missionary Bishop.

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