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The Martyrs of Melanesia - September 27

Martyrs of Melanesia

The Anglican Church in Melanesia, like most churches throughout Christian history, has a roll of those who are honoured as martyrs for the faith. The best known is John Coleridge Patteson, the first bishop, but there were many others. In 1864 Patteson and those with him were attacked on the island of Santa Cruz. Among those injured in the attack were Fisher Young and Edwin Nobbs, two Norfolk Islanders, who contracted tetanus as a result of arrow wounds. Fisher Young in particular is remembered for his forgiving attitude to his murderers. In spite of intense pain, Fisher’s faith never wavered. He sent a message to his father: “Tell my father that I was in the path of duty, and he will be glad. Poor Santa Cruz people!”. Both he and Nobbs died as a result of their wounds.

When Patteson himself was murdered seven years later on one of the Reef Islands, north of Santa Cruz, two others, Joseph Atkin, a New Zealand priest, and Stephen Taroaniara, also died. It was Atkin who returned to shore on Nukapu, even though he was wounded, to recover the body of Patteson. Taroaniara, in spite of intense suffering, asked his friends not to think of revenge. The way in which he endured his pain made a great impression on those who had known him before his conversion.

The island of Malaita was a difficult and dangerous area for the Melanesian Mission. In the early twentieth century three Melanesians met their deaths. Arthur Ako was a leading mission teacher in the south of Malaita and began the first school at Fiu. He was killed in 1904. Two years later James Ivo, who was a teacher from Nggela, was shot and killed in northern Malaita. In 1910 James Sili was killed. Charles Godden, an Australian priest on the island of Aoba in the northern New Hebrides since 1902, was killed in 1906 by a Melanesian who had returned from Queensland and sought revenge on some European for his imprisonment there. Further to the east from the main Solomon Islands group are the Reef Islands. There the first Reef Islander ordained, Ben Teilo, was attacked and killed in 1926 after seven years of ministry.

More recently, during a period of civil unrest in the Solomon Islands, a group of guerrilla rebels tortured and killed Nathaniel Sado, a Melanesian Brother at Easter 2003. When the assistant head of the Melanesian Brotherhood, Robin Lindsay, went in April with five other Brothers, Francis Tofi, Alfred Hill, Ini Paratabatu, Patteson Gatu, and Tony Sirihi, to ask for Sado’s body, they also were killed, some when they arrived, others after being tortured. At first it was hoped that they were being held hostage, but their deaths were confirmed in August 2003 when the guerrilla leader, Harold Keke, was captured. The bodies of six of the Melanesian Brothers were buried at the Motherhouse of the Melanesian Brotherhood at Tabalia, Solomon Islands, on the 24 October. Robin Lindsay was buried there on 5 November.

Although these are the best known of those who died for their faith in Melanesia, there are many others who suffered for their faith, and others again who died of illness or in accidents in the proclamation of the gospel. They are all honoured by the church for their witness.


Creator God,
whose majesty is in the storm as well as in the calm,
we thank you for those of every race
who gave their lives in Melanesia
for the sake of Christ;
may your church always proclaim your gospel,
live your commandments,
and overcome the powers of darkness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.


Lancelot Andrewes - September 26

Bishop of Winchester

Lancelot Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes was a devout and learned scholar who brought great stability to the Church of England in the early seventeenth century. He was a fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and as well as his theological scholarship was master of fifteen languages.

Lancelot was born in Barking in 1555. He studied at Merchant Taylor’s School and Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in 1576. He became vicar of St Giles, Cripplegate, in 1589 and master of Pembroke Hall. His duties included preaching at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where his great ability as a preacher was first noticed. In 1601 he became dean of Westminster. During the reign of James I, having already declined two bishoprics under Elizabeth, he was appointed bishop of Chichester in 1605, then Ely in 1609 and Winchester in 1619.

Andrewes attended the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, at which leading Puritans aired their plans for further reform of the church. Andrewes was appointed one of the translators of what became the Authorised Version of the Bible, being responsible for much of the early part of the Old Testament. He was a strong proponent of the Oath of Allegiance to the king, imposed after the gunpowder plot of 1605. The oath was required of the clergy before taking office, and Andrewes conducted a vigorous debate with Cardinal Bellarmine on the issue. Andrewes also served on a number of influential ecclesiastical committees and commissions. In 1617 he joined James I on his journey to Scotland to try to persuade the Scots to accept episcopacy.

Andrewes was a student of moral theology as well as being learned in the early church fathers. His three authorities were the Bible, the wisdom of antiquity, and the judgement of the contemporary church. He did much to form a distinctively Anglican theology in the tradition of Richard Hooker. He disliked the rigidity of Puritanism and was opposed to the prevailing Calvinism in theology in England. He insisted on a high standard of personal holiness among the clergy and expected all servants of the church to be dedicated and diligent in their service.

Lancelot Andrewes was a man of deep prayer himself and compiled Preces Privatae, a book of his own devotions, which was published in 1648 and has been reissued over the years. His own gentle nature, mature wisdom, and kindly wit endeared him to all. He loved the English Church and defended it vigorously from all detractors. He used ceremonial in his worship and had a high appreciation of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Lancelot Andrewes died in 1626 and was buried in what is now Southwark Cathedral.


St Sergius of Radonezh - September 25

Abbot of Holy Trinity, Moscow

St Sergius of Radonezh

Sergius of Radonezh was born at Rostov in Russia about 1314. At that time Russia was in considerable turmoil after the Mongol invasions of the previous century and the civil war in Russia that led to control of the country by the Tartars. In the turmoil, Sergius’ family was forced to leave Rostov. They took up farming at Radonezh near Moscow. The invasion and warfare had severely disrupted religious life, and many of the early monasteries had been destroyed. A revival of the monastic tradition in eastern Europe began in the early fourteenth century, influenced by the practice of contemplative prayer associated with Gregory Palamas. In Russia this led a number of people to seek quiet in the forests north of Moscow.

As a young man of twenty, Sergius joined his brother Stephen and others in a community of hermit Christians in the forests. Following a simple lifestyle they lived close to nature. Over the course of time Sergius brought his fellow hermits into an ordered communal life and founded the great monastery of the Holy Trinity near Radonezh, 70 kilometres north of Moscow, in what is now Zagorsk. This was the first religious community to be established in Russia after the Tartar invasion. Through his influence many other monasteries were founded.

A man of peace, Sergius laboured to keep the peace amongst the quarrelling Russian princes. He did however rally support for Prince Dimitri Donshoi in his attempts to gain independence for the Russian people form the Tartars. The Tartars were finally defeated in 1380. Sergius was also concerned for peace in his monastery. His emphasis on community life rather than the solitary emphasis of some contemplatives was disliked by some of the monks, who would have preferred Stephen as abbot. Sergius withdrew and founded a separate monastery, but was later restored to Holy Trinity by the metropolitan Alexis. His influence was widespread, and by the end of his life he had founded about forty monasteries. The constitution he adopted for Holy Trinity made it a model for all later Russian communities.

Sergius refused to be made bishop of Moscow when the see was offered to him in 1378. Sergius’ appeal was to the common people, from whom he had his own origins. He was honoured as a humble, simple, kind and godly monk. He emphasised the vocation of Christian service to any in need. The people saw true saintliness in his life and revered him for his mystical life of prayer and worship. He is regarded as Russia’s greatest saint. Sergius died in 1392.

Everloving God,
your servant Sergius
was filled with an intense love for you
that made him a shining light
among your people in Russia;
by the same Spirit that empowered him,
strengthen our faith,
and set our hearts on fire
to live as true disciples
of Jesus Christ our Lord.


Churchill Julius - September 23

Bishop & First Archbishop of New Zealand

Churchill Julius

Churchill Julius was bishop of Christchurch from 1890 to 1925 and the first “Archbishop of New Zealand” from 1922 to 1925.

Churchill Julius was born at Richmond in England in 1847 and was brought up in a strict evangelical household. He attended Blackheath Proprietary School, then run by Bishop Selwyn’s cousin, Edward Selwyn. After a bout of ill health, Churchill attended King’s College School in London and Worcester College, Oxford.

Oxford was still the centre of the Anglo-Catholic revival. Julius however came under the influence of Canon Christopher of St Aldate’s, the stronghold of evangelicalism in Oxford. He remained an evangelical, but with no antipathy to the Oxford Movement.Julius was warmed by Christopher’s devout and industrious life, especially during a cholera epidemic. He graduated in 1869, was ordained deacon in 1871 and priest in 1872.

After several curacies he became vicar of Islington, a London slum. He excelled in the development of a well organised parish and the provision of activities for the young people. He demonstrated a love of humanity and developed a strong social conscience. Then in 1883 Bishop Thornton of Ballarat, invited Julius to become archdeacon there, so 1884 he and his family sailed to Australia. Julius again showed himself a gifted motivator in the development of the parish and in particular its educational work.

Churchill Julius was nominated to the Diocese of Christchurch in 1889 in succession to Bishop Harper and was consecrated in 1890. New Zealand was entering one of its first periods of industrial turmoil. Julius was involved with labour organisations from the outset and used his outstanding eloquence to speak out against cruelty, oppression and tyranny in the workplace. He delivered a stinging attack on competitive individualism and willingly accepted the label “Christian Socialist”, by which he meant social co-operation and organisation with a religious base.

The bishop was a strong proponent of the role of women in the church and in society. In 1893 he secured the services of Sister Edith from the Deaconess Community of St. Andrew to found a community in Christchurch for work in education, nursing and welfare. The community eventually became the Community of the Sacred Name. Julius admired the work of Sisters Etheleen and Geraldine in Dunedin at St Hilda’s School and invited their community, the Sisters of the Church, Kilburn, to establish a school in Christchurch. St Margaret’s College was opened in 1910. In 1916 the bishop surrendered half his stipend so that it could be used for education, moved from Bishopscourt to his own house, and used Bishopscourt to found a teaching order. The teaching order did not eventuate, but the “Bishop’s Hostel”, opened in August 1917, continued for the benefit of teachers’ college and university women students. This became Bishop Julius Hostel (now Bishop Julius Hall).

Within the province as a whole Julius was a strong advocate of a standing committee of General Synod, which was set up in 1916. He was also in favour of a primatial see. Elected primate in 1922, Julius was the first primate to be titled “Archbishop”, an innovation he opposed, hoping that no-one would call him “Your Grace”.

Churchill Julius retired as Bishop of Christchurch and Archbishop in 1925 and died in 1938.

Gracious God,
your servant Churchill Julius
won your people’s love and respect
by his faithful witness;
give us a like soundness of advice,
and a steadfast care for all in need;
through him who came among us
as servant of all,
Jesus Christ our Saviour


St Matthew - September 21

Apostle, Evangelist

St Matthew

Matthew is listed as one of the twelve apostles of Jesus in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and Acts.

In Matthew’s Gospel he is identified as the tax collector who left his occupation to follow Jesus. In Mark and Luke, this same tax collector is called Levi, and it is usually assumed that Levi and Matthew are one and the same person, though that cannot be proven.

If Matthew is Levi, then he apparently collected taxes around Capernaum, which was in the district controlled by Herod Antipas. In Palestine, as elsewhere in the Roman Empire, the collection of taxes was farmed out to private entrepreneurs. The taxes were for Herod’s treasury, not Rome’s. Rome exacted tribute from its subject territories rather than direct taxes. According to Luke, when Levi became a follower of Jesus, he held a feast in Jesus’ honour, possibly in response to Jesus’ acceptance of him despite his despised occupation. He occupation would have made his fellow Jews regard him as being in the same category as robbers, prostitutes and sinners generally who were beyond God’s grace.

The early church believed that Matthew was the author of the Gospel that bears his name. Matthew may well be a significant figure associated with the origins of the Gospel. However, the Gospel as we have it has been shaped by the community of which Matthew was once part. This was put together by the final editor or redactor, who used most of Mark’s Gospel, a collection of Jesus’ teachings also used by Luke, and a smaller amount of independent material presumably from Matthaean church circles.

Gracious and eternal God
through your Son Jesus Christ
you called Matthew from his place of business
to be an apostle and evangelist
free us all from greed and selfish love of money
the we may follow in the steps
of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.


John Coleridge Patteson - September 20

First Bishop of Melanesia & Martyr

John Coleridge Patteson

John Coleridge Patteson was born in London in 1827 of well-to-do parents. He was educated at a private school in Devon and then at Eton, where he proved to be a good student and sportsman. He was also deeply religious. In 1845 he went to Oxford where he was influenced by the Oxford Movement, though he never became a “party member”. Patteson studied briefly in Germany, where he became competent in Hebrew and Arabic and showed his outstanding flair for languages. Ordained deacon in 1853 and priest the following year, he offered himself to Bishop Selwyn for work in Melanesia. He arrived in New Zealand in 1855. Two years later he was put in charge of the Melanesian Mission, and on 24 February 1861 was consecrated as the first bishop of Melanesia. Like Selwyn, Patteson was another of a new style of bishop: missionary, at the forefront of the church’s work, boldly leading the church into new areas rather than ministering to a settled diocese. It was a conception of the episcopate that caused debate in England, where the action of a Church of England bishop operating beyond the boundaries of British rule seemed strange, if not illegal.

Patteson inherited the missionary system established by Bishop Selwyn, in which young men and women from the islands were taken to Auckland for instruction during the summer. They were then returned to their islands, in the hope that they would provide some Christian input and influence in their communities. It was not very successful, and Patteson, for all his admiration of Selwyn, determined that missionary work must be done in the islands themselves and in one of the Melanesian languages.

The ten years of Patteson’s episcopate were spent opening up the islands of Melanesia to the gospel, and arranging for the education of young Melanesians, first at Kohimarama in Auckland, then from a base on Mota in the Banks Group, and then on Norfolk Island from 1867. One of his objects was to establish a group of Melanesian priests. This in itself was a novel idea. He was a brilliant linguist, but his greatest gift was that of friendship. He had no sense of prejudice about colour at all and, although he realized that the Melanesians seemed uncivilized, he had a clear vision of what they might become. Indeed Patteson seemed freer than most of his European contemporaries from the nineteenth century view of Melanesian life as something to be replaced with Christianity. He was convinced that the Melanesians could accept and practise Christianity within their own culture. He wrote:

“No Melanesian is excluded now from any position of trust. . . . Some day Melanesian bishops may preside over native churches throughout the islands of the sea.”

Travel in Melanesia was always risky, and Patteson’s life was often in danger. Certainly, his health suffered in the 1860s. In the same period there grew up a considerable labour trade, as entrepreneurs in Australia and Fiji sought cheap indentured labour from Melanesia. While many Melanesians were enthusiastic travellers, some of the labour traders were unscrupulous and even used Patteson’s name to lure people on to their ships. Missionaries in particular opposed the trade, in part because it disturbed their own operations.

On 20 September 1871 Patteson was murdered on the island of Nukapu. Joseph Atkin and Stephen Taroaniara, who accompanied Patteson, died a week later of wounds received at the time. It was widely believed that Patteson’s death was in retaliation for the “slave” trading, but this is by no means certain. Patteson’s death did however ensure more rigorous regulations on labour trading, and gave strong impetus in England to the missionary work of the church. What is also clear from Patteson’s attitude is that his life was taken by those for whom he would gladly have given it.

God of the southern isles and seas,
we remember with thanksgiving your servant John Patteson,
whose life was taken by those
for whom he would freely have given it;
grant us the same courage in extending your gospel
and readiness to share our life with others,
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Redeemer


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