Pitcairn Island Adventist
Thomas Coleman Christian Dies
Seventh-generation descendant of mutineer kept faith and radio contact with world. (Posted August 14, 2013)
BY HERBERT FORD
, Pitcairn Islands Study Center, Angwin, California
homas Coleman Christian, 77, a longtime lay leader of the Pitcairn Island Seventh-day Adventist Church, and a widely known representative of the Adventist faith throughout the world, died on Pitcairn at 2:00 a.m., local time, Sunday, July 7, 2013.
Christian was a seventh-generation, direct descendant of Fletcher Christian, masters’ mate on the famed H.M.S. Bounty of the widely known Mutiny on the Bounty sea saga.
For many years Christian served as head elder of the Pitcairn Island congregation, serving as a mainstay of the faith. His wife, Betty, was church organist and served in other capacities in the life of the small island community.
ADVENTIST STALWART: Thomas Coleman Christian, 77, with his wife, Betty Jean, was a longtime lay leader of the Pitcairn Island Seventh-day Adventist Church. He died on Pitcairn at 2:00 a.m., local time, Sunday, July 7, 2013. [PHOTO: PISC]
Through his many years as radio officer for Pitcairn Island, during a time when radio communication was Pitcairn’s only contact with the outside world, Christian had worldwide amateur radio contact with thousands of shortwave radio enthusiasts who were eager to record having had radio contact with remote Pitcairn Island. As a result, Christian probably held the world record for such contacts, which numbered in the scores—if not hundreds—of thousands. In each of these contacts he was quick to speak of his faith, with the result that many came to know and appreciate it.
The cause of Christian’s death was not immediately known, but he had been in ill health for the past two years with what was suspected to be Alzheimer’s disease.
Christian was honored by Queen Elizabeth with the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1963 for his service to the Pitcairn people.
He was seriously injured several times in his years of crewing island longboats while going out to meet calling ships through the dangerous surf that often beats against Pitcairn Island. During several years away from Pitcairn he served as radio officer aboard several ships.
Elected a councillor several times to Pitcairn’s governmental leadership, Christian traveled abroad on numerous occasions, once as a delegate from the South Pacific to the General Conference session in the United States, and on another occasion to take radio training at the Adventists’ broadcast headquarters, then located in Glendale, California, United States.
Christian’s wife, Betty Jean; daughters Jacqueline Beth, Raelene Kari, Sherileen Theresa, and Darlene Michelle; and a number of grandchildren survive.