June 6: [Ini Kopuria, Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, 1945]

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From Southern Cross Log (New Zealand Edition), June 1, 1946, pages 21-24.

About this commemoration

Ini Kopuria, the first Elder Brother of the Melanesian Brotherhood, was born soon after the start of the twentieth century on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomons.

Ini attended St. Barnabas School on Norfolk Island, an institution started by Bishop J. C. Patterson with the purpose of training young men to teach their own people. Ini’s daily contact with the Anglican Christians at St. Barnabas led to his own developed sense of religious calling. One story about his time there relates his strict adherence to a rule of silence during Lent, and on one Ash Wednesday, when confronted by a teacher who questioned this practice, Ini replied by letter, refusing to break his vow. It was then that many around him began to notice his calling to a religious vocation.

Although it was expected that upon leaving school, Ini would return to Guadalcanal to teach his own people, he surprised everyone by becoming a police officer in the Native Armed Constabulary.Though initially unhappy with his role in the police, he earned the respect and admiration of his superiors with his dedication and wisdom. In 1927, after he had left the police force, he was asked by the Commissioner to return to the police and go to the island of Mala to quiet local unrest. Ini is said to have remarked, “It would be bad if I were to go there with a rifle; I may want to return one day with the Gospel.”

It was during his recovery from an injury in 1924 that Ini came to the realization that only in service to Christ would his life find meaning and fulfillment. Under the direction of his Bishop, John Steward, he took his vows as the first Elder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, an Anglican order devoted to the spread of the Gospel among the non-Christian areas of Melanesia. The Order, characterized by its vows of simplicity, in this day continues its work of peacemaking and includes not only Melanesians, but also Polynesians, Filipinos, and Europeans.


I  Loving God, may thy Name be blest for the witness of Ini Kopuria, police officer and founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, whose members saved many American pilots in a time of war, and who continue to minister courageously to the islanders of Melanesia. Open our eyes that we, with these Anglican brothers, may establish peace and hope in service to others, for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Loving God, we bless your Name for the witness of Ini Kopuria, police officer and founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, whose members saved many American pilots in a time of war, and who continue to minister courageously to the islanders of Melanesia. Open our eyes that we, with these Anglican brothers, may establish peace and hope in service to others, for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 31:19-24


Zechariah 1:7–11

Revelation 14:13–16

Matthew 8:5–13

Preface of a Saint (3)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

9 thoughts on “June 6: [Ini Kopuria, Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, 1945]

  1. I had been aware of the Melanesian Brotherhood without knowing very much about them, and this commemoration is welcome.

    I recognize that we may not know the exact date of Ini’s birth, but we certainly need to know more about his death at a fairly early age — how and why did he die? What was the role of Ini Kopuria and the Brotherhood during the Second World War? — referred to in the Collect but not explained in the bio. (Bear in mind that Guadalcanal was the first major land battle undertaken by the US against the Japanese in the Pacific.) Is there any relationship between the Brotherhood and the Martyrs of New Guinea?

    The third paragraph includes a 1927 incident and then the fourth goes back to 1924. Not very tidy.

    Yes, Ini Kopuria started out as a police officer, but that’s not why we remember him. The Collect is really not very well balanced. (We’re very happy that the Brotherhood saved many American pilots, but that was hardly their major ministry.

    Greater use could be made of Charles E. Fox’s piece, excerpted today (with a link) in “Speaking to the Soul” in the Episcopal Cafe.

    The lectionary is okay, I guess, although I had to think about them a little before I saw the point. I’m still not quite sure why the centurion’s servant.

    Next to the last line: “TO this day….”

    Good commemoration, but the Collect and the bio both need a lot of work.

  2. This commemoration is for Trial Use. All elements (Title, Collect, Lections, and Proper Preface) are new.

  3. Collect: The title give to Ini Kopuria is Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, yet in the collect he is ‘police officer and founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood.’ I suggest dropping police officer in the collect. And the collect describes the work of the Brotherhood: ‘… whose members saved many American pilots in a time of war …’ It seems that the collect is for the Melanesian Brotherhood and less for Ini Kopuria. The bio is all about Ini Kopuria. The collect should reflect him.

    Bio: Bio: He needs a ‘Who he is’ and ‘Why he is important’ statement. And a ‘He died in 1945.’ statement.

  4. I hae a;ways been interested in the work of the Melanesian Brotherhood. I had read about it and heard about it from a formed Army chaplainwho served in that area during WWII. I think the inclusion of thier founder in the calendar is excellent,
    I wonder if thewords “police officer and” would be bwetter left out of the collect.

  5. There feels like a pretty significant disconnect between the bio and the collect. And to re-affirm previous posts. There is nothing about Kopuria’s death – especially important given his relatively short life-span.

  6. Ini Kopuria,
    I may be a test case for this commemoration, knowing nothing of the Brotherhood, its work, its founder, or even its geographic area. I found the narrative disorganized (not unified) leaving me wondering about missing pieces, and groping to put what it did provide into a meaningful whole.

    The piece suggests the view that “service to Christ” means church work — not police work. I would have been content with a police person who did police work with integrity and a sense of faith in Christ, plus a role as a member in the local congregation. There’s nothing wrong with Ini’s preference for either one over the other, but besides NOT presenting church calings and secular callings as mutually exclusive, I think HWHM should be keen to present representative lay persons engaged in non-church vocations as faithful baptized lay persons working in “the world.” (Or at least within commuting distance of the world.) I did stop to lament the motive for Ini’s religious vocation being presented as self-realization (“meaning and fulfillment”) without indicating “service to Christ” didn’t automatically mean a church based vocation. That statement lacks theological connection to anything greater than self realization (e.g., love of God, advancing God’s purposes, reconciliation, eternal life, transformation of creation, new being, or anything of the sort — I thought that was an unfortunate oversight or omission).
    Reading this narrative was something like a whiplash effect: first Ini was introduced as a Melanesian Brother, then (paragraph 2, at an earlier time) he attends school for teachers; then sense of religious calling mentioned with story of Lenten vow and religious vocation noticed by many. Paragraph 3 repeats expectation to teach, joins police instead (we don’t know when), leaves police “by” 1927 (again we don’t really know when he left) and comment is quoted about returning with the Gospel. Paragraph 4, mysterious injury (mentioned, but without need) introduces “meaning and fulfillment” by “service to Christ” through evangelizing via the Brotherhood with vow of simplicity, now doing “peacemaking.”
    I had the feeling of rocking back and forth between specifically religious vocation and secular employment (presumably, the Brothers don’t also hold outside jobs). I don’t know the context of “peacemaking” or its relation to spreading the gospel, i.e., if the two objectives of the Brotherhood are dovetailed, if the emphasis has changed, or if they have multiple ministries. The lack of dates and the order of those given seemed disorienting and disorderly (as mentioned in another’s comment). I didn’t have a sense of what year he entered or left police employment, or in what year he made his vows, or organized the Brotherhood. His year of death is not part of the narrative; if it is not grasped at the title c’est la mort (not toujour l’amour – nor Dorothy). Nothing is mentioned about the circumstances of his death. I have not looked at the readings so have no comment on them, but the criticisms of the collect by others seem accurate and significant to me.

    The commemoration doesn’t seem to know where its center of gravity needs to be, or how the pieces (or which pieces) support that center and therefore need to be constellated around that center (or discarded as irrelevant) for a well balanced presentation and a corresponding collect. The person is worth including, but the commemoration needs to be revised.

  7. There are rather substantial resources available, re: Ini Kopuria, if you Google the name. A personal
    account of contact is available from 1946 which seems worth reading thru– it is part of Project
    Canterbury. Did not know of that source. I find this a valuable addition but we need much greater
    clarity about the man AND the Brotherhood.

  8. Line 6, second paragraph: substitute a “;” for “, and”.

    Add a fifth paragraph: “Ini died on June 6, 1945.” (I have been unable to find the place of his death listed anywhere online.)

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