Some of the longest-established companion links between dioceses in different parts of the Anglican Communion are celebrating significant anniversaries this year. The creation of companion links was endorsed by bishops at the Lambeth Conference in 1988 and some dioceses were quick off the mark to establish formal links – and some of the original links are still going. Next month, special events will be held to celebrate companion links between Bath and Wells and the Anglican dioceses in Zambia; and between Lichfield and the Anglican dioceses in South East Asia. They follow celebrations this week in Chester to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that diocese’s links with the Anglican Church of Melanesia.
Foxhill House, the Diocese of Chester’s centre for prayer, study and mission, hosted a celebration of the 30-year companion link. Brother Nelson, the Head of the Melanesian Brotherhood; Brother Michael, Head of the Tabalia section of the Brotherhood; Sisters Priscilla and Mary-Gladys from the Sisters of the Church; have travelled from Melanesia for the event. The Associate Vicar for Mission at London’s famous St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Richard Carter, who had spent 15 years as chaplain to the Melanesian Brothers, was also present.
“We heard accounts of how the link began back in 1988, partly through the initiative of Bp Michael Michael Baughen, and how the story of the link has unfolded over the last 30 years,” the Diocese of Chester said on its website. “Personal visits, educational exchanges, schools links and sustained prayer have all been part of the picture.
“Richard Carter spoke movingly of the martyrdom of the seven Melanesian brothers in 2003, and how this diocese had provided much-valued support at that time. We were also reminded of the establishment of Chester Rest House in Honiara, funded largely by this diocese, income from which now sustains 60 per cent of the activities of the Melanesian Brotherhood.
“There was a Melanesian Eucharist with Bishop Willie Pwaisiho from our diocese as president and Brother Nelson as preacher.”
Today the link continues as a two-way process involving a number of inter-school partnerships. Members of the Mothers’ Union in Melanesia will visit Chester in the autumn.
The Primate of Melanesia, Archbishop George Takeli, sent a message which was read at the celebration. He wrote: “Warm greetings and our unceasing prayers for God’s blessings on your gathering today to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the mission link between the Diocese of Chester in UK with the Anglican Church of Melanesia.
“Any such partnership link is always conceived and born out of true love and friendship for mission work to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to people within our churches and the Anglican Communion.
“The growth in the partnership link between the Diocese of Chester and the Anglican Church of Melanesia in the past 30 years has borne strong testimonies shown through friendship and mission work, annual financial support, exchange of staffs, training members of our religious communities (one is now a Bishop), and support to different development projects in our church.
“I am pledging my support to grow this mission link between our churches in future.”
Next month, Archbishop Moon Hing, the Bishop of West Malaysia and Primate of the Province of South East Asia, will travel to Lichfield with a team of Anglicans to lead a week-long programme to encourage intentional discipleship. During the event the companion links will be re-signed and renewed.
And 10 young people from Anglican dioceses in Zambia will be in Bath and Wells for celebrations marking 40-year-long companion link. They will “engage with young people in Bath and Wells to shape a return visit to Zambia next year,” the diocese said on its website. “The planned two-way young adults’ exchange, organised by the Go Team, will see young adults from Zambia and across Bath and Wells have the opportunity to share how they live and tell their own stories of Jesus in their respective cultures, lives, homes, churches and communities.”
Earlier this year, the companion link was celebrated in a service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, attended by the Zambian President Edgar Lungu.