BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
ULAWA Island successfully marked 140th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Anglican Missionary that brought Christianity to the people there.
This marks the history of Clement Marau a Vanuatu Missionary who first brought Christianity to Ulawa Island in 1878.
The anniversary programme starting on Wednesday and ending on Friday for three days last week witnessed the official unveiling of the statues of Clement Marau and Walter Waaro from Ulawa who assisted him during his Christian mission.
The unveiling was done by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM), the Right Reverend George Takeli.
A visit was also followed by the Official Guests to Su’utaluhia where the remains of Clement Marau’s house and stone Alter are built as a drama of Clement Marau and Walter Waaro was played during the night program of Day Two by the Mwadoa Community group seeing other villages doing drama on how the church went to their village as well.
On the last day the 4th generation descendants of Clement Marau organised a ceremony in honour of their great grandfather in which all proceeded to bless the cross on the seaside rock where Clement Marau and Walter Waaro spent for three years after being told by the heathens on Ulawa to not go further ashore from that boundary.
This included proceeding on to blessing the graves of Clement Marau, Susan Marau (his wife) and Walter Waaro closing the anniversary with a grand feast.
Speaking during the official closing of the historical anniversary, ACOM’s Archbishop the Right Reverend George Takeli thanked the people of Ulawa Island for gathering together to celebrate their history of how Christianity went ashore.
“I hope everything we have come to witness and hear and involve in for the past three days will help us to understand who we are, where we are and what we should be doing as we look into the future,” reminded the Right Reverend George Takeli.
“The arrival of the two missionaries on Ulawa Island during the past has opened up a new history for us. It is marked by change making us become new people living with love, unity and peace. This is what open’s up blessing on Ulawa Island.
“We must re-look back at the history celebrating this 140th Anniversary. We must re-read it and understand how we have come for the last 140 years, where we are and how we have come to draw ideas. This is a time for reflection.
“This is so that we can reshape our leadership, our Priesthood and Christianity so that it can be relevant for today. Without this the work of the Church will not be strong. We will not meet the expectation of people by not addressing their need and not developing the ministry.
“Look at where and the values of the stories we have come and the challenges. In embracing the future and making use of this knowledge will enable us to re-read and re-design our work, life and community for today.
“It is important because there are a lot of challenges that our communities, Churches and leadership are facing.”
The theme for the 140th Anniversary was ‘Remembering the Past, Bridging the Present, Enhancing the future’.
Born about 1855 on Merelava Island in the Banks Group of Vanuatu, Clement Marau was the youngest son of Qoqoe, a Ni-Vanuatu chief.
In 1869, Marau, like two of his brothers before him, went to the Melanesia Mission School on Norfolk Island and was baptised and confirmed in 1875.
He travelled to Ulawa with Walter Waaro from that island in 1877 to begin the first school, initially for only three months.
Marau returned to Ulawa in 1878 for another year. He battled very difficult conditions and after three years little progress had been made.
When he wanted to marry Susie, a local woman, her family requested an exorbitant £50 for the bridewealth payment.
He learned to carve shell inlayed bowls and sold them to raise the money, and they married later married Susie in 1883.
Marau became a deacon in 1890 and a priest in 1903, by which about four hundred Ulawans had been baptised.
He became very influential, and supervised the building of a beautiful church from sawn coral rock, which still stands and was considered the most substantial building in the Protectorate until the Catholics built their stone church at Visale on Guadalcanal in 1909.
Unfortunately, Marau was suspended for some years for faithlessness and returned to Merelava, but he was later restored to the Mission and returned to Ulawa.
In 1918, his son Martin Marau was put in charge of the Ulawa church, a position he held for twenty-four years.
Clement Marau lived quietly nearby at Su’utaluhia until his death in 1920.