The story of the Church of England on Norfolk Island is really a story about the word of God. Hebrews 4 teaches us that the word of God is living and active:
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Knowing the word of God as living and powerful was certainly the experience of the small community on Pitcairn Island in 1808 as they gathered for Christian fellowship around the HMS Bounty Bible.
But it was not always so.
Eighteen years earlier, when nine of the mutineers of the HMS Bounty and their Tahitian companions settled on Pitcairn Island there was every expectation that this community would not only survive, but thrive. Pitcairn had ample food, water, and land for everyone. However, after just four years the community was in disarray. Fuelled by alcohol, disputes over women eventually led to the deaths of all but two of the men – Ned Young and John Adams.
Young eventually taught the illiterate Adams to read using the only book available at the time, the HMS Bounty Bible. As he read the scriptures Adams recognised his need to repent and give his life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16).
Adams went on to lead the community (11 women and 23 children) to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith. Using the HMS Bounty bible (together with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer) Adams instituted a daily prayer time, grace before meals, and Sunday worship. In fact we still use his most famous prayer in our services today:
Suffer me not O Lord to waste this day in Sin or folly. But Let me Worship thee with much Delight. Teach me to know more of thee and to serve thee better than ever I have done before, that I may be fitter to dwell in heaven, where thy worship and service are everlasting. Amen.
In 1808, Pitcairn Island was discovered by an American ship. Needless to say, the members of the crew were shocked to find that the island was inhabited by thirty-five English speaking people of Polynesian blood, practicing the Christian faith!
When 194 Pitcairn Islanders landed on Norfolk on June 8 1856 they brought with them this living faith in the word of God. Like the Apostle Peter before them, they looked to Jesus for their real and satisfying hope; “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68).
The Church of England on Norfolk Island has always looked to the word of God for her authority and hope. Indeed, the lyrics of our national anthem come straight from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, Verses 34 to 36, and 40.
Then shall the King say unto them,
On His right hand
Come ye blessed of my Father
Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you
From the foundation of the world.
I was hungered and ye gave me meat
I was thirsty and ye gave me drink
I was a stranger and ye took me in
Naked and ye clothed me
I was sick and ye visited me
I was in prison and ye came unto me
In as much as ye have done it unto one
Of the least of these my brethren
Ye have done it unto me
Ye have done it unto me
Our prayer, as we continue to gather for fellowship around the Word of God, is that we would grow in our love for Jesus, in our love for each other, and in our love for Norfolk Island.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.