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Portions of the Book of Common Prayer in Mota


Mota is a Melanesian language spoken in the Diocese of Banks and Torres in the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Today there are about 1,500 speakers of this language—mostly on the small island of Mota in northern Vanuatu, but also in diaspora communities on Vanua Lava, Espiritu Santo  and Efate. Christianity first reached Mota in 1857, and it was an early center of Anglican missionary activity—Missionary Bishop John Coleridge Patteson visited often—particularly before the location of the Melanesian Mission headquarters on Norfolk Island in 1867. Mota has been called the "Iona of Melanesia", as it is a similarly small island from which Christianity spread to the rest of Melanesia.

The first missionaries chose Mota — the language of one of the first islands they evangelized — to be the lingua franca of the Melanesian Mission, used widely throughout the central western Pacific for worship, instruction, and communication before the adoption of English as the official central language of the Mission during the 1930s. The first Melanesian to be ordained to the priesthood was a Mota-speaker, George Sarawia (1845-1901); Mota was the first Melanesian language into which the entire Bible and Prayer Book were translated, and it often served rather than English as the basis of other translations into regional languages. Prominent early western ethnographers and linguists of the many Melanesian Islands often began their studies with Mota, among them Robert Henry Codrington and Archdeacon John Palmer.

The Mota language served as a significant area of exchange and cooperation for missionaries and Melanesians—both missionaries and local clergy had to invest substantial time in learning Mota, as it was the "official language" of the Melanesian Church. The Melanesian Mission Press produced a large number of publications in Mota, including bibles, prayer books, hymnals, textbooks, doctrinal treatises, and newsletters.

This 116-page publication was printed in 1947 in New South Wales, where the Melanesian Mission Press relocated briefly during and after World War II. This abbreviated Book of Common Prayer is not included in David Griffiths’ Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer, but we believe it to be identical to his 113:9, less the Psalter. It appears to follow the 1662 BCP fairly closely, with a few additions and omissions.



cover of Mota BCP

Table of Contents

Morning Prayer 3-13
Shorter Morning Prayer 14-17
Evening Prayer 18-25
Shorter Evening Prayer 26-29
Litany 30-35
Prayers 36-45
Thanksgivings 45-47
Catechism 48-53
Baptism of Infants 54-60
Baptism of Adults 60-67
Confirmation 68-71
Holy Communion 72-88
Collects 89-116

Thanks are due to Richard Mammana for providing and transcribing the text.


Web author: Charles Wohlers U. S. EnglandScotlandIrelandWalesCanadaWorld