“My time is well taken up in the mission ship,” Mrs Baddeley said. “Because there are plenty of interesting things happening all the time. We land twice a day as a rule, and I go ashore and visit the villages and talk to the natives [sic] as well as I can while my husband takes a service.”
My granny was referring to life on board The Southern Cross – the mission ship belonging to the Anglican Church of Melanesia – where she spent much of the first years of her married life with her husband Bishop Walter Baddeley and their infant son (my uncle Martin).
Granny had some terrific stories of life on board – of storms and running aground in the night, of flying fish and visits to tiny islands. The Southern Cross was central to the mission of the Church in the Solomon Islands enabling the Bishop to reach even the most far-flung reaches of the Diocese.
The Southern Cross, my granny knew, was in fact the seventh Southern Cross ship (there have been two more since) after number six was wrecked on her maiden voyage from England just before Bishop Baddeley arrived in the Solomons. The Centenary Book of the Melanesian Mission talks about the importance of the ship:
“On all sides the developing evangelistic, educational and medical work were woven together into the texture of sound Christian life by the ceaseless work of the “Southern Cross” and her smaller sisters.”
On the wall in my mother’s house hangs a wonderful painting of the seventh Southern Cross – a precious reminder of the great work in those times.
In my study hangs another reminder of The Southern Cross vessel – the Australian Naval pennant from 1941 when the mission ship was requisitioned during World War II. While The Southern Cross was used mainly for troop and cargo transport, the naval pennant hanging in my study serves as a constant reminder of how we are able to use even the best of things for purposes for which they were never intended.
The Southern Cross, so important in “the developing evangelistic, educational and medical work” in the Solomon Islands, was for a short time an instrument of war.
I was reminded of this lamentable capacity mid-year when I saw images online of Donald Trump holding up a Bible for a photo-op outside an Anglican church in Washington after sanctioning the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors near the White House. In response, The Episcopal Bishop of Washington The Right Rev’d Mariann Budde said:
“The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.”
This kind of jarring disconnect also happens when particular pieces of scripture are taken out of context and weaponised for use ‘against’ particular people or groups of people. The scriptures, which are the great treasure of our tradition, reveal to us again and again the faithfulness of God to a faithless people – they are words of life that can enhance our capacity to live fully and freely as humans. Yet, rather than a message of love and hope, so often the Bible becomes a weapon used to exclude, alienate or punish.
Echoing throughout the scriptures is a vision of God’s kingdom where the last and the least are first, the mighty are cast down, the hungry are fed and the captives are set free. As ones who are ‘on the Way’ with Jesus we are called to do our part in making this kingdom come, on earth as in heaven, through Jesus’ way of love.
Our time, too, could be ‘well taken up’ with this Way rather than giving ourselves over to violence and spite.
Editor’s note 24 September 2020: Thanks to Eve James from the Roscoe Library for contacting anglican focus with the name of the newspaper that the ‘Island Cruises Of Bishop’s Wife’ story was published in. The image caption has been updated with the title she provided.Jump to next article