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The Annual Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1925.

From Melanesian Mission: Report Issued by the English Committee 1925, pages 11-17.

No place: Melanesian Mission, 1925.

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

[11] The Annual Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1925


THE year 1925 will, at any rate for some considerable time to come, be counted as one of the turning-points of Melanesian history. It has been marked by three events which are of first-rate importance as evidencing an advance both in the internal and the external affairs of the Mission.

First in time, and it may prove in the future first in importance also, is the formal recognition by the General Synod of the Church of New Zealand of the fact that New Zealand is primarily responsible for the support of the Mission, coupled, in consequence, with the setting up, with the full authority of General Synod behind it, of a Melanesian Mission Finance Board. Hitherto the finances of the Mission, in New Zealand at any rate, have been in the hands of Committees or individuals appointed by the Bishop and responsible only to him.

No unprejudiced critic can justly reproach these devoted individuals or bodies with lack of zeal or lack of ability. I, myself, must put on record my very high appreciation, not only of the efforts but, also of the achievements of my late Executive Committee. But, on the other hand, no unprejudiced critic can doubt but that the present arrangement is in every way better than those of past years. Formerly we had to approach the Churchpeople of New Zealand as humble suppliants whenever we needed increased support. In consequence of this, we never dared ask for more than was immediately necessary to relieve us of indebtedness or to meet some unexpected financial burden. As a further result, our appeals were almost constantly appearing. A natural comment on the part of New Zealand Churchpeople was: "How badly the financial affairs of Melanesia are managed, they never seem solvent, but are always asking for help."

No one can blame the friends of the Mission for taking this view of things. But it would have taken superhuman courage on the part of the managers of our affairs to ask for more than they needed at the moment, and I do not think that they ought to be blamed for not doing so. Especially as whenever they did dare to appeal for a little more than usual, they were asked, "Who is responsible for spending all this money?" and they had to reply, "The Bishop." And to whom is the Bishop responsible? Well--this was the crux of the matter. Here was a single individual, who might or might not be a business-like man, the sole arbiter of expenses and the sole final authority for every penny expended; and the annual income of the Mission was very considerable.

This did not seem a proper arrangement. Accordingly, a Commission was set up to go into the whole matter, and among its recommendations [11/12] was the setting up of a Board, responsible to General Synod, that should, without interfering with the internal management of the Mission and its policy, have the control of all moneys which passed through the hands of the Church of New Zealand. No one who has not had the experience of being the sole responsible person for all matters financial (and otherwise) concerning the Mission can realise how welcome this new departure is to the Bishop. He can now say, "My Finance Board will not allow me," or "My Finance Board approves," and his personal sole responsibility is no longer one of his heaviest burdens.

But more than this. He has no longer to come "hat in hand" to the great ones of the New Zealand Church for every penny he wants. If his Finance Board is convinced that a certain expenditure is necessary, they, speaking with the authority of General Synod behind them, can say, "This or that sum of money must be found." Further, it must be an immense help to a Bishop of Melanesia to have at hand a body of financial experts, in a responsible position, with whom he can consult as to the future financial policy of the Mission, who are not in the last instance simply the mask through which he speaks, but men who will have to answer themselves for the policy determined upon, and therefore will consider every case on its individual merits, and give reasoned and responsible advice. As long as the Bishop and his Financial Board work hand in hand, and I can see no present likelihood of their failing to do so, the financial and consequently the effectual future of Melanesia seems brighter than ever before, at least for very many years past.

The second great event, in point of time, is the consecration of an Assistant Bishop. For many years past the Bishops must have felt the difficulty of the physical impossibility of being in two places at once. The Solomon Islands were the scene of the greater amount of Church life, but the New Hebrides the more in need of a resident Father in God. Let the Bishop live in the Solomons, and he felt that the South was neglected; let him live in the New Hebrides, and problems needing his decision arose in the North. Now this will be altered. Practically, from now onwards, there should be in both parts of the Mission a man resident permanently who can speak with authority when needed and to whom the people can look as a "very present help in trouble." The advantages of this are immense.

Moreover, in this extension of the Episcopate one cannot but hope to see the first, but by no means the last, step towards the setting up in the not far distant future of that Island Province which I myself believe to be not only of the bene esse but of the esse of the growth of the Church in the Islands of the West Pacific. Many matters, small in themselves, have, of late, seemed to hint that this solution of our problems is gaining wider acceptance, or may even be forced upon us by external circumstances.

The third great event is the actual and formal acceptance by the Mission, on behalf of the Church of Australia, of the responsibility for [12/13] the Mandated Territory. It would be rash to attempt to prophesy what this will involve before long; but it is safe to say that its consequences are bound to be more far-reaching than, probably, anyone anticipates at present. Both on the present advance and on the future dream of a Province the establishment of the Finance Board is bound to have its effect. Every scheme of advance or consolidation means added financial responsibilities and difficulties. Without a duly accredited Finance Board it would be almost impossible to face the one or the other, but with the establishment of this Board, some, and these not the least important, of the preliminary difficulties have been lessened, if not altogether overcome.

Turning to internal affairs, perhaps the most noteworthy event is the resignation of Mr. Hopkins. Our custom, in the Mission, of avoidance of mutual admiration is, perhaps, carried to excess; at any rate we cannot let Mr. Hopkins leave us with only a casual note to the effect that he has gone. Twenty-five years of untiring work against every kind of odds is enough to demand some notice, apart from the striking personality of the man in question. We shall not soon forget him, rather is he likely to live for long among the legends of the great ones of Melanesia.

His work in Mala, the most uncivilised of all our people, at a time of great unrest, his work at Norfolk Island and then at the Training College was marked with such a self-forgetful zeal, such an absolute disregard of physical handicaps that he must always be reckoned as one of the Missionary heroes, not only of Melanesia, but of the Church at large. Not least heroic was his resolution to leave when he recognised that his powers were failing. If it took great physical courage to face the cannibals of Mala, it took great moral courage to face the fact that he ought to leave the Islands to which he had given his health and the better part of his life, great as must have been the wrench of breaking so many and such close ties. Those who knew him well will miss a loyal friend and a very wise counsellor, and all alike will miss a wonderful example of devotion to Melanesia and to his Master. May he have many years more of happiness and usefulness (to him synonymous terms), and at the last may he reap the reward of one who was a good and faithful servant, a Knight of the Cross sans peur and sans reproche.

With this report is published a long and full report of the work at Maravovo, from Mr. Warren. It deserves careful reading and thought. Mr. Warren has put up a long and keen fight against many difficulties, among which the bugbear of "economy" has not been the least. He and his wife are taking a well-earned holiday early in 1926. May they return full of strength to go on with the fight and, as they so well deserve, to see victory in their grasp and attain to it.

Rumours are dangerous things, they should be slain as soon as they raise their deadly heads. One most lively little brute was called "extravagance." He bit a good number of people in and out of the [13/14] Mission. The fact that Mr. Warren is able to report, and quite correctly, that the very large (for Melanesia) establishment under his care is "nearly self-supporting" will, I hope, scotch if not kill this poisonous little creature.

Mr. Teall's report is full of encouragement, and Miss Hurse's shows good work being done in an unobtrusive but very effective way.

These are all the local reports that have come to hand here so far.

In Raga, things are progressing well. Maewo actually seems to promise a real resurrection of Church life. Opa, or Aoba, as we are bidden to call it now, Mr. Teall tells us about in detail.

Vureas School still flourishes under the amazing energy of Mr. Hart. At last he has a helper (in Mr. Steel), and when he takes his long overdue holiday we hope to give Mr. Steel at any rate temporary help till the return of Mr. Hart.

Motalava has awakened wonderfully under the influence of Joe Gilvelte. Merelava and Merig still go on quietly following their light. Mota, alas, shows no signs at present of any stirring of the dead bones. Perhaps the presence of Bishop Molyneux in the South will have a revivifying result. We will trust this may be so.

Gaua and Lakona are suffering from the loss of Mr. Tempest; we can only comfort ourselves with the thought that their loss is Siota's gain.

The Torres Islands are, as is only to be expected, still showing very little more than signs that life is not yet quite extinct.

When are volunteers coming? Ticopia still needs the guiding hand of some European to keep the ever-growing stream of Christianity in its proper course. Do we here again see the uselessness of appeals? How many years ago is it that we called for "Gentlemen Adventurers for Christ"? A good many, at any rate, and they have not set sail yet.

In the Reefs, Mr. West made a good start, but ill health seized him and he was forced to go home, we hope to return a new man to his most lonely, difficult, but important post.

In the Solomons each man is still doing the work of two or three, and, thank God! doing it and not only trying to.

We at Siota are doing our most important work of training the young recruits for the Front, but we MUST HAVE MORE LEADERS.

I never cease to wonder at our continued existence, let alone our amazing progress. But when we see so much done with so few and so feeble means, we cannot but send out our cry, the continual cry of the understaffed and overworked Missionaries in every part of the world, "Come over and help us."

We want the very best type of man and woman. Do you say, "Well, then, it's no good my offering"? It's quite true that we WANT [14/15] the best; but we don't get them, so we have to put up with what we can get! So, offer yourself. You may not be exactly what we want, but you'll do! and you won't feel lonely even if you are not absolutely of the first class! Very few of us are, least of all your Servant in Christ,

Bishop of Melanesia.


THE financial tangle in the Islands is gradually being straightened out. We are able now to estimate with a very considerable degree of exactness the cost of our various establishments. It may be taken as a generally determined fact that each scholar costs about £5 per head. That is, a school of forty girls or boys will cost about £200, and so on in proportion. As the numbers in our schools naturally fluctuate more or less, an exact statement of costs is not possible; but allowing for about 60 boys and girls at Vureas and Torgil, we have our Southern Schools costing about £300. In the North we have: (1) Pamua, some 40 boys; (2) Pawa, some 90 boys; Maravovo, about the same number; and Buñana, with about 30 girls. The total of these will come, in round figures, to about £1,250. But, as a matter of fact, Maravovo only costs the Mission about £200 for its 90 boys. This means that the plantation there makes an annual profit of about £250, on the estimated cost of educating a boy for a year. Again, Pawa contributes about £250 a year from its coconuts, and Pamua has a small contribution on the credit side from the occasional sale of nuts.

So far, I think, we can congratulate ourselves on the fact that the cost per head of educating our girls and boys is very reasonable indeed. But there is one institution which, financially, shows a heavy balance on the wrong side, and that is Siota. The difficulties here are very great. We have deliberately accepted the principle that the teachers who come to Siota for training should bring their wives with them, and this means nearly always several young children too. It will not be an extreme estimate to say that every teacher at Siota means from four to five people to feed, none of whom can give any financial help. These all have to be fed; to feed them a considerable staff of work-boys must be maintained; in addition to these are launch-boys, house-boys, and, generally, boys employed in carpentering, painting and keeping the settlement in good order. Siota being also the Mission head-quarters, there are a considerable number of extra expenses over and above the College expenses. Food and wages reach the large total of about £800, while the total expenses of Siota are estimated at from £1,250 to £1,500 a year.

This seems to be a larger sum than we should be expending upon one single settlement. Our main problem is how to reduce this total. [15/16] We have been disappointed in the quality of the soil here; this is a matter that could not have been foreseen, as "experts" differed so widely on this question when we were discussing the making of our head-quarters here, that the only thing we could do was so try and see. Alas! the most pessimistic expert proved to have over-estimated the productiveness.

We are importing two horses next year (1926), and we hope that they will enable us to dispense with a considerable proportion of our work-boys. If this is so, we shall be able to keep our expenses within a reasonable limit; if not, we shall have to consider our position very carefully. The crux of the whole matter is that there is no other place available for a Mission head-quarters, anything like as convenient as Siota, and it seems a pity that the Training College should not be where the head-quarters are, and it is the Training College that makes Siota so costly.

Maravovo helps us to some extent. There is, in the name of the Mission, a considerable cash balance, about £450, from the sale of Maravovo copra; a certain amount of this is earmarked for Maravovo, the balance is at the disposal of the Mission for current expenses and enables us to avoid frequent drafts on Auckland or Sydney. We hope, as more and more copra is sold, that before very long we may have a balance in hand sufficient to enable us to pay for the "Southern Cross" customs duties, thus avoiding any drafts, except for unusual expenses such as coal bought in the Islands.

It is not possible to work on a very "business-like" system here, as circumstances render it impossible to put a limit, e.g. on the amount of indebtedness each Station may incur. We are so out of touch with one another that it is impossible for every expenditure to pass through the Siota office, as should be the case, but in time the statement of expenditure reaches us, and we are able, to a great extent, to keep an eye on our outlying Stations financially.

I am certain that there is a considerable source of income from Melanesia at present untapped. We can see many ways in which the native contributions can be increased without laying any excessive burden on our people, but this will need considerable organisation. No one of the Missionaries has time to give to this, had anyone of them the necessary qualifications.

There MUST be a Mission Secretary resident in the Islands who can give his mind to regulating and improving our financial position. If this work is left to a Missionary to do in his spare time, the present financial conditions CANNOT be expected to improve, but if we have a man whose business it is to attend to the finance in the Islands, I can see no reason why before very long we should not be drawing a very considerable income from our own resources. This is a matter that calls for the most careful consideration, and which demands action with as little delay as possible. I give it as my reasoned opinion that you [16/17] cannot expect, and ought not to ask, the individual Missionaries to do more in the matter of finances than to carry out the suggestions of some organiser. They cannot be tax-collectors, they cannot seek about for sources of income; they can, and I am sure will, do all they are able to further well-considered plans which another man will make effective.

To sum up; our financial position in the Islands is fairly good. Siota is the only non-returning financial burden. But we are not getting nearly the amount of contributions from the natives that we ought to get, and we shall not do so unless we have at head-quarters a man who is capable, willing and enthusiastic to devise and carry out further schemes for tapping our local resources.

Bishop of Melanesia.

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