Project Canterbury

General Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1908

From Annual Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1908, Sydney: D.S. Ford, 1909, pages 3-8.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2010

[3] General Report


The Melanesian Mission

for 1908.


IT is not easy, during a few days in Sydney, to write a Report at all adequate upon the Mission's work during the past year. It is sure to be full of omissions. However, the general impression of the past year's work made upon my mind is very favorable.

Good progress was made in the Islands, and the Mission was well supported in Australasia and England. The year 1908 will be ever memorable for the holding of the first Pan-Anglican Congress, followed by the Lambeth Conference, with a greater attendance of Bishops than had ever been seen before. The Pan-Anglican Congress was, as is well known, the practical realization of Bishop Montgomery's dream, that there should be held in England, at the time of the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of Lay and Clerical Delegates from all parts of the Anglican Communion, after the nature of the Congress held in Sydney in the year 1900. Of course the Pan-Anglican Congress was a far greater thing than that was. The Church had sent the best of her sons and daughters together to think out afresh and study the deep problems which were meeting her in all parts of the world--she was furbishing up her lamp that she might shine more brightly. She was confronted everywhere with needs which she was longing to satisfy, and now she took counsel that she might satisfy them more fully and with greater economy.

People were astonished to find the Church interested in such a variety of subjects with which many had thought she had no concern:--wages, housing of the poor, sweating, faith-healing; besides temperance, questions of Biblical criticism, revision of the Prayer Book and Foreign Missions, and such questions as were looked upon as naturally falling to her. When the needs of [3/4] humanity were in consideration all over the world it was natural that great attention should be paid to Foreign Missions, and the work of our Mission in the South Sea Islands had its due share of attention.

Following upon the Congress and the Lambeth Conference, came three months of hard work for me in visiting large centres where we had been receiving support, and giving them an account of the Mission's work.

The result of the Congress was that a very large number of men and women offered themselves for Missionary work. In my work afterwards, travelling about England, I was able to secure the services of many whose hearts had been touched by that wonderful fortnight, and enroll them amongst our future workers. There were 18 men whom I accepted, and two or three ladies. At Oxford and Cambridge undergraduates offered themselves, some near the end of their course, others only just beginning. The majority of those who offered, however, had no hope of a University education, and were sent to the different Missionary Colleges for a three years' course of training before they came. I hope now that there will be a steady flow of new workers from England during the next three years, to work side by side with young men and women who are preparing themselves in New Zealand and Australia.

It seems probable that the staff of the Mission will be doubled in the next three years. The greatest need of the Mission is thus at last satisfied--its need of workers.

The question now arises as to the support of the Mission on such a very much larger scale. Happily for us the Rochester Diocese claimed me and the Bishop of New Guinea as men of Kent, and, therefore, specially entitled to some of the offerings of Kentish people; both our missions benefitted to the extent of £1,100.

Many of the English schools allocated their offerings to our Mission, and altogether we received through allocated funds of the Pan-Anglican Congress £1,770. A little more is to come. This, together with the increased funds raised by the work of Mr. Hopkins, Mr. P. T. Williams, and myself in England, raised the English subscriptions during the year to a considerable amount above that of former years. New Zealand also contributed largely, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. R. G. Coates had, most unfortunately, lost his health through hard work, and had been obliged to resign his post.

We were thus able, in this memorable year of the Pan-Anglican Congress, to set aside, for the first time, a Working Fund, upon which we may draw and save ourselves paying interest upon overdraft at the bank. This was a most necessary [4/5] thing for the Mission. Great Missions, like the S.P.G. and C.M.S. have each a working fund of £50,000 upon which they draw, and which enables them to avoid overdrawing at the bank at all and paying interest. Ours is a modest Working Fund, but we shall hope to increase it as our expenses grow.

I estimate the increased cost of the enlarged staff of the Mission during the next three years at £3,000 a year. It is for those who are unable to offer themselves for the work of GOD abroad to find this sum of money for their brethren who have left their homes for Mission work.

Meanwhile the work went steadily on in the Islands, with, however, a very heavy loss to us in the Solomon Islands. After many years of faithful work in Bugotu and the neighbouring Islands, Dr. Welchman laid down his life at his post after a very short illness at Mara-na-tabu. From one end of Bugotu to the other, the Doctor's influence had made itself felt. Not only Bugotu owes its Christianity chiefly to him, for he watched over the early days of the little Church in Guadalcanar, visiting and staying with the Teacher who won the first foothold for the Church there, George Basile. Almost by an accident he found an opening for the Mission in Savo. He pressed forward to Vella Lavella and opened work there, and also repeatedly made attempts upon Choiseul. In Russell Island (Lauba) he planted teachers for the first time, and he made a stronghold of the Church at Nagotano. White men and natives alike were benefitted by the Doctor's skill as a physician, and it will be long before his name is forgotten in the Solomon Islands.

Mr. Steward speaks of undoubted increase in zeal in Florida and in Tasimboko District of Guadalcanar:--

"A large sudden influx of hearers of the new teaching, and remarkable keenness.

"Many requests for Teachers for coast villages, and a distinct hope of reaching the people of the interior.

"The outlook," he says, "is promising, but a resident Priest is a necessity."

Miss Kitchen's work amongst the women has gone on steadily and with great success. She has moved her Headquarters to Halavo, where Mr. Lindsay Buffett, and others working as traders in this island, most kindly built her a new J Mission· House. Miss Bridges and Miss Owen and Miss Ollerenshaw were Miss Kitchen's helpers at different times here.

The other, or western side of Guadalcanar--Mr. Bollen speaks of other denominations, Roman Catholics and others showing "a hostile front to our Mission." Sad reading this, when the harvest is so great and the labourers so few. He writes, [5/6] "Never before has there been such a demand for schools. On all sides in this island, where, a few years ago, no teachers were allowed ashore, and where a footing was at last gained with such difficulty, by George Basile living amongst the people without books or other signs of civilisation or Christianity, but just living a Christian life--on all sides now goes up the cry, 'Give us teachers.' Here, returned Queenslanders seemed to be helping their people and us, trying sometimes to teach them, and at other times bringing their relations and neighbours to school and prayers. In some places where there is no Church, Sunday is observed as a day of rest, owing to the presence of one of these returned Queenslanders."

Mr. Bollen pleads for a Missionary at the further end of the island, and for a Ladies' Mission Station, without which there is little hope of winning the women. His account of Savo is not very bright. It seems that the people love riches, which they can easily earn by trade, and Christianity has very little attraction for them. Yet the Church has made some headway. A school has been opened in a village new to us, and there are a few people preparing for Baptism, but in Savo it is a day of small things as yet.

Dr. Welchman's last report of his work has now a pathetic interest. One would never guess in reading it how strong the Church is in Bugotu. The Doctor never had any opinion of his own work, but to the eyes of others it seems that no district was in better order than Bugotu. Of his 1,636 baptised Christians 570 were Communicants, and he has left 710 Catechumens.

It is cheering to read that Lauba (Russell Island) is beginning to show signs of life. A woman was baptised on her death bed and suddenly revived, causing a great sensation, the opponents of the Faith having always said that, if people were Baptised they would die.
Of the other Solomon Islands reports have not come to hand at time of writing.

Mr. Hopkins was on furlough in England, and in his absence, Mr. Sage held North Mala, Mr. Ivens visiting the Saa District from time to time. He and his wife spent the year in Ulawa.

Of Mr. Drew in San Cristoval, with Mr. Moir to help him, and part of the time at Santa Cruz, we are able to give no information, but Mr. Drew has been there for a few months.

In the Torres Islands, Mr. Durrad has not found the Queenslanders as helpful as Mr. Bollen did in Guadalcanar. He says that, with some bright exceptions, the Queensland traffic has had a deteriorating effect on natives. I fear that this is the verdict that the Missionaries and others would generally pass upon it. But it is no good flogging a dead horse; the labour traffic with [6/7] Queensland is a thing of the evil past. For some years the evil it has done will remain, but we trust that it will pass like others.

It is gratifying to write of the good work being done by Motalava Teachers in the Torres Islands, and of the first Baptisms at Hiu (14 men and 10 women). So at last the message of the Gospel is being heard at every island of the Group.

Mr. Adams writes very happily of his school at Vureas, in Vanua Lava. He and Mrs. Adams are doing excellent work there, giving careful training to about 30 little boys, some of whom will be passed on to Norfolk Island, and others will become Junior Teachers in the different islands. Already one of his scholars has found his way to Mala. The cocoanut plantation is bearing heavily now, and some copra has been made. It is hoped that some day the expenses of this School may be defrayed by this plantation.

Mr. Charles Christian, of Norfolk Island, is Mr. Adams' right-hand man here, both in school and farm, much of the prosperity of which is due to him.

I much regret to hear of the death of Mr. A. E. Harland, a trader with whom we have had dealings for many years on this island of Vanua Lava.

The Banks Islands are feeling the need of a white Missionary terribly. There are schools and churches in almost every village, but the people know as much as the teachers, and the latter are disheartened and need a white father to instruct them, in every island, and to lead them higher. In some parts the people still hanker after the "Suqe" (the native secret society), and neglect school and prayers for long periods in order to attend its meetings. Knowing how fatal the "Suqe" is to the Church, it is good to know that the Merelava, Merig, and Gaua Islands are altogether rid of it, under the influence of William Vaget and Joseph Qea, whilst in Lakona, Mota Lava, and Rowa, the people have followed my ruling, and carried through all the ceremonies of the Society in one day's feast. If all would do the same, there would be little if any difficulty with this old native custom. But in Mota, Vanua Lava, and Ureparapara things are altogether different. "Suqe" is, in these islands, of far greater importance than religion. The thoughts of the people run on pigs, as pigs are necessary for the "Suqe" feasts, and the churches and schools stand empty.

A terrible epidemic of whooping cough worked havoc in the Banks Islands, the villages losing heavily. Poor Joseph Qea, the Merelava deacon, lost five of his children in a few weeks. Many teachers died who will be hard to replace. Mr. Palmer says that there are 66 teachers drawn from the Banks Islands working in other groups in the New Hebrides.

[8] Mr. Drummond gives us a more encouraging report of Maewo. The Christian villages are showing more life than formerly, and all the remaining villages have now asked for teachers.

I am sorry to say that I have no report come to hand of Raga, but all the letters I have seen, received from the workers there during my absence, have been most encouraging. Mr. Drummond has spent his time chiefly here, and has had the help of Miss Hardacre, Miss Wilson, and Miss Hawkes, whose classes and help the women greatly appreciate.

Mr. Stanley Howard was away for some months from Opa, but he returned towards the end of the year with a steam launch given to him by his friends in the Sydney Diocese.

I have been obliged to write this Report in a great hurry. It gives some of my impressions merely. It is a very imperfect account of what has been going on during the year, but it is sufficient to fill us with hope of good success in the work still lying before us.

Project Canterbury