Members of four Melanesian religious orders visited Archbishop Justin at Lambeth Palace on Thursday last week. Amid prayer, worship and song, the Brothers and Sisters pledged their desire to work for “peace and reconciliation in the Anglican Communion.” Watch a video of them singing to Archbishop Justin.
Archbishop Justin welcomed a group of Brothers and Sisters from Melanesia to Lambeth Palace on Thursday night for an evening of prayer, conversation and Melanesian song.
The visit was part of the Melanesian Religious Orders’ mission to the UK, in which they visited five different dioceses around the country. The theme of their mission was ‘Simply Living’ in which they live the question ‘How do we live the Gospel in relation to God, creation and one another?’
During the evening with the Archbishop, the Brothers and Sisters shared their experiences of prayerful living, peace and reconciliation, mission, outreach and environmental issues.
The group was composed of members of the Franciscan Brothers, the Sisters of the Church, the Melanesian Brotherhood and the Sisters of Melanesia.
Of these, the largest is the Melanesian Brotherhood, whose 400 members take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for three to seven years, after which many return to their villages. The Brotherhood has houses in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.
On behalf of the four orders, Franciscan Brother Clark presented the Archbishop with a cross hand-carved by Novices from the Melanesian Brotherhood.
Brother Clark said the cross symbolised “a pledge to you of our desire and our willingness to work for peace and reconciliation in the Anglican Communion and to help deepen spirituality and prayer life wherever we go”.
The Melanesian Religious Orders became internationally known after seven of Melanesian Brothers were martyred while carrying out reconciliation work during the civil unrest in the Solomon Islands in 2003.
The Rev Richard Carter, who was chaplain to the Melanesian Brotherhood during that period, recalled that learning about the Brothers’ deaths was “the saddest day of all our lives”.
But through the fact that each of the martyred Brothers came from a different Melanesian island, the Rev Richard said, they “were showing the nation that we didn’t have to divide along ethnic or tribal lines, and they became a symbol to the whole nation that something better was possible.”
The visiting Brothers and Sisters later told Archbishop Justin about their religious life in Melanesia, which is centred on prayer, simplicity and serving their communities. The orders share their resources with their neighbours, offer them labour, and show care and respect for all they meet.
Many of the Sisters work with women and children who are the victims of domestic violence and other abuse. As with the male orders, the two orders of Sisters are self-supporting.
Archbishop Justin has expressed a wish to strengthen such religious communities as part of his ministry.
Thanking the Brothers and Sisters for coming, he said: “Renewal of the church has never come without a renewal of prayer and praying communities. So it is wonderful and a great privilege to have you here this evening.”
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