Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In Some Sense the Work of an Individual

From chapter 3 of In Some Sense the Work of an Individual – Alfred Willis and the Tongan Anglican Mission 1902-1920, by Stephen L Donald, published by ColCom Press, 1994.

Beginning with the revision of the Catechism in 190, Willis consistently revised all the services produced by Baker [the former minister/missionary] which included Orders for Morning and Evening Prayer, Holy Communion, Confirmation and Baptism. Willis added the occasional services of the Burial of the Dead, Marriage, the Churching of Women and Private Baptism of Infants. In no way did he attempt to produce a Tongan liturgy. Like most of his Anglican contemporaries, he saw the Book of Common Prayer as the yardstick for the Church, and his aim was to produce what he considered to be the most accurate translation possible. Willis was dissatisfied with both translations of the Bible then in use in Tonga, and in the preparation of his Psalter and Lectionary, collated the two translations to produce what he considered to be the best possible form for use in worship.

On Dr Moulton’s translation he commented, ‘He has not kept strictly to the rules by which a translator should be governed and…I could never sanction the use of his translation in public worship.’ Moulton’s mistake was that he had used the then unpublished documents of the Revised Version in English, and not the Textus Receptus which, in 1880, was the recognised basis for all Bible Society translations. In addition, to this academic problem for Willis, the Moulton translation was only used by the followers of Wesleyan Mission and not the majority Siasi Tau’ataina, for reasons that had more to do with Tongan Church politics than accuracy of translation. Willis later attempted to produce a ‘corrected’ translation of the whole Bible by this collation method, on which he was still working when he died. This was never published, the West translation of 1884 remaining the accepted version for Tongan Anglicans.

Whilst the services of Baker had required merely revision, it was in the area of Church music that Willis made the most drastic outward changes. He was delighted by the new chants that Baker’s daughters had taught for the canticles, but not so enamoured with the ‘hymnody of the Free Church at present in use by our people.’ By 1905 he had translated over 100 hymns from Hymns Ancient and Modern, selecting what he considered suitable for the Catholic expression of the Faith. Over seventy of those selected were the products of hymn writers influenced by the Tractarian movement.

Willis, in response to a request form the petitioners, had brought new anthems with him to Tonga, and he continued to supply his Church with what he considered to be a suitable music for worship. The Tongan love of music suited Willis’ particular view of what was ‘proper’ in liturgy. A full choral service with use of vestments and two candles soon became normative Anglican worship in Tonga. R T Mathews, the Vicar of Suva visited Nuku’alofa in 1910 and later reported to the SPG: ‘Bishop Willis was priest and Yim Sang Mark deacon. Full vestments were worn and the service was excellently sung.’ E H Strong wrote in 1921 that ‘the use here has been lights and vestments.’ In true High Church style, Willis established a pattern of weekly Eucharist or Ante-Communion in Kolofo’ou, and considered that the only proper place for Holy Communion was following Morning Prayer.
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