1931-1858: Whonsbon-Aston Archdeacon of Fiji explains the skills needed for a Bishop in Polynesia

In the preface to The Moon and Polynesia C. W. Whonsbon-Aston Archdeacon of Fiji, London: Published by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
Sydney: Australian Board of Missions, 1961 records Whonsbon-Aston was in Levuka, 1931-34, Suva, 1934, New Guinea, 1934-39, Viti Levu West, Fiji, 1939-43, Western Samoa, with the Cook Islands, 1943-58 and Levuka, Fiji, 1958–

The perfect the Bishop in Polynesia: “To be perfect the Bishop in Polynesia should, among other things, be a competent linguist in Fijian, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, with local Fijian-Indian bhat, some Cantonese, Tongan, Samoan, Gilbertese and Cook Islands languages, with some French for Tahiti. He should be conversant with the political trends, with are completely different in the various island groups.

Financial wizard: The Bishop, too, must be adept at finance, for he must run this huge diocese and open up new work on an annual budget that a Canon from New York remarked would just keep New York Cathedral running for six weeks. Then there is the multiplicity of administrations and monetary systems that are embraced by the diocese. Fiji is a Crown Colony administered from London, with currency 12 1/2 % below par, next door is Tonga, with currency at 25% below par, on the Australian level. Western Samoa, with its affairs emerging from New Zealand Trusteeship, with Niue and the Cooks (the latter N.Z. Territory) on par with New Zealand and Great Britain, while American Samoa, administered from Washington, deals in dollars, and Tahiti, with its deputies in Paris, deals in francs. This leads to much accountancy confusion, especially as monies, too, come to us from London, Australia and New Zealand.

To be perfect the Bishop in Polynesia should, among other things, be a competent linguist in Fijian, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, with local Fijian-Indian bhat, some Cantonese, Tongan, Samoan, Gilbertese and Cook Islands languages, with some French for Tahiti. He should be conversant with the political trends, with are completely different in the various island groups. He should know just when to be tactful in matters of self government or wages ceilings. The “winds of change” in these parts are to some extent a modest breeze today, but they can always be influenced by gales from without, from “dogooders” who have no idea whatever about conditions, or from elements whose whole purpose in life seems to aim at unrest and mutual distrust. The Bishop, too, must be adept at finance, for he must run this huge diocese and open up new work on an annual budget that a Canon from New York remarked would just keep New York Cathedral running for six weeks.

Then there is the multiplicity of administrations and monetary [7/8] systems that are embraced by the diocese. Fiji is a Crown Colony administered from London, with currency 12 1/2 % below par, next door is Tonga, with currency at 25% below par, on the Australian level. Western Samoa, with its affairs emerging from New Zealand Trusteeship, with Niue and the Cooks (the latter N.Z. Territory) on par with New Zealand and Great Britain, while American Samoa, administered from Washington, deals in dollars, and Tahiti, with its deputies in Paris, deals in francs. This leads to much accountancy confusion, especially as monies, too, come to us from London, Australia and New Zealand”.

Time traveller, too:The huge diocese straddles the International Date Line, which cuts it in half, so that today and yesterday are happening in the diocese at the same time. While the people of Fiji are yawning their way to another Monday’s chores, the people of Samoa are getting down on their Sunday’s knees. If the planes fit the schedule, it is quite possible for a priest to take a midnight service of Christmas in Suva, fly then to Samoa and take a similar service there on the same day. One leaves Fiji on Thursday, flies for 4 1/2 hours and arrives in Samoa the day before. Thus the diocese has the great privilege of taking the first services of the Anglican Communion of each new day. It then flings “a girdle around the earth in twenty-four hours” to give the priest in Western Samoa the responsibility of gathering the whole world’s suffrages and handing the last offering of the same day to God.

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