Review: Prisoners, Pitcairners and Pilgrims: A History of the Norfolk Island Methodist – Uniting Church
Author: Rev. Dr Robert Wyndham
Norfolk Islanders live history. They re-enact it, argue about it, politicise it, signpost it, research it, own it, write plays and sing songs about it. History is a major factor in the economic and spiritual well-being of the island; it makes a significant contribution to the multi-layered fabric of the island’s culture. Robert Wyndham’s Prisoners, Pitcairners and Pilgrims weaves another colourful thread into the island’s extraordinary rich (and sometimes raw) cultural heritage.
The history of the Methodist – Uniting Church people on Norfolk Island is an exceptional one. Its Pitcairn origins and traditions give it an exotic flavour. Situated 1700km from Sydney and 1000km from Auckland, Norfolk Island has fostered a self-reliant community, highly attuned to seafaring, whaling and maritime traditions.
Prisoners Pitcairners and Pilgrims is a generous book both in length and tone. It is written by a person who loves the island and its people. It is an inclusive book with a comprehensive index. It is written in an ecumenical and ironical spirit by a person who does not make hasty judgements. The book is a great storehouse of the deeds of ordinary, faithful people. The narration of the events and the depiction of people are done with dignity and respect. The author identified that it was not enough to start at the beginnings of Methodism on Norfolk Island in 1879 but found it necessary to go back to the Evangelical in England and Wales in the 18th Century.
Wyndham, does not make grand claims for Methodist, and the Uniting Church but he is a reliable witness to important events on the island and the manner in which the local church has participated and responded.
This book is a testimony to the Methodist, now Uniting Church long-lastingness on the island. It is a testimony to generation of courageous Christion people who have been faithful witnesses to the gospel. It is testimony to the church’s creative involvement in the public life of the island. And, finally, it is a testimony to the importance of place, stability and Christian commitment for the long-term. Wyndham delights in the ordinary, avoids exaggeration, and refrains from overly speculative and complicated explanations.
Prisoners Pitcairners and Pilgrims was launched in March at the Uniting Church on the Norfolk Island by the Rev. Dr William Emilsen, formerly lecturer in Church History and World Religions at United Theological College.
Rev. Dr Robert Wyndham is a retired Uniting Church minister but still serves as a ‘Supply Minister’ during clergy vacancies.