Archbishop of Canterbury to join Patteson celebrations

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visits Norwich today.
PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be visiting this weekend - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

More than 150 people will be attending a special service this weekend to celebrate the legacy of Ottery-educated Bishop John Coleridge Patteson.

The event has been organised by The Melanesian Mission UK and the charity’s president, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, will be preaching at the Eucharist.

Before the service, Archbishop Justin will be walking part of a new circular pilgrimage route that begins and ends at St Andrew’s Church in Feniton.

It also includes St James and St Anne, Alfington, where Patteson was first a priest, St Mary’s, Ottery, which has a Melanesian Chapel, and Patteson’s Cross  – a memorial sited where the Ottery to Feniton road crosses the A30 and where Patteson left Devon by stagecoach on his journey to Melanesia.

Pupils at Feniton and Tipton St John Church of England Primary School have a very special bond with schoolchildren in Melanesia. For the past 10 years the schools have welcomed guests from Melanesia and sent teachers to volunteer at Melanesian schools. 

MMUK is an Anglican mission agency that provides support to the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM). 

Patteson was brought up in Devon at Feniton Court so as to be near the home of his mother's relatives in Ottery.
He was educated at The King’s School, and at Eton College, then graduated from Balliol College, Oxford.
Patteson was ordained at Exeter in 1853, becoming curate of Alfington Church for two years before a chance meeting with the Bishop of Auckland – who was visiting Feniton Court – led to the young priest accepting an invitation to undertake missionary work in the South Pacific.

His commitment and success led to his appointment in 1861 as the first Bishop of Melanesia, a subregion of Oceania in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, which includes the four independent countries of Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.

After 10 years in this post, what should have been a routine visit to the island of Nakupa ended in tragedy.
Patteson and his companions were mistaken for a raiding party who routinely abducted islanders for indentured work, mostly in Fiji and Queensland.

They were attacked, mainly with bows and arrows, and three of them, including the Bishop, were killed.
Patteson was buried at sea, and memorials to him exist in Alfington Church, Exeter Cathedral and by the monument at Patteson's Cross in East Devon.

Chair of the Melanesian Mission, Bishop Mark Rylands said: “MMUK is humbled and grateful that so many supporters are travelling from as far away as Scotland to be with us, as we give thanks for Patteson and celebrate our companionship with Melanesia. We are also delighted that Archbishop Justin is joining our festival day in Devon.

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“Of course we are sorry that our Brothers and Sisters from Melanesia will not be with us, due to travel restrictions, but they have sent their prayers and greetings, which we will be sharing on the day. The service and talks will also be live streamed by the Cathedral, so our Melanesian friends and UK supporters, unable to be with us in person, can still join us online.

“Patteson’s witness and legacy is alive today and our guest speakers will reflect on what we can learn from the first Bishop of Melanesia. We will also have talks on science and faith in addressing the challenges of climate change, and also on peace and reconciliation in the pacific. The day will end at the Cathedral with our Annual General Meeting.

“I would like to thank the Exeter Melanesia Link Group, the Diocese of Exeter and Exeter Cathedral for all their assistance and support in hosting this year’s special MMUK Festival,” added Bishop Mark.

The event will run between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, 18 September at the cathedral.

For more information about this ticketed-only event please contact the charity by emailing or calling 01404 851656.

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