Local Kapiti churches are collaborating for a great day of celebrations on 30 August to commemorate the gospel arriving in Kapiti and surrounding districts.
The celebrations represent a local contribution to nation-wide, bi-centennial commemorations of the first official preaching of the Christian gospel on New Zealand soil, by Samuel Marsden on Christmas Day 1814.
Marsden had sailed to the Bay of Islands from Sydney, where he was a chaplain to the recently established Sydney settlement. He was sent by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and accompanied by Nga Puhi chief, Ruatara. His sermon was held at a little bay called Oihi and attracted huge Maori interest. A major bicentenary celebration will be held there at the end of this year.
The Gospel was first brought to Kapiti in the 1830s by Maori catechists who had been captured in warfare, released and subsequently educated in various mission stations in the north. Maori recognised the power of the written word and with new trading opportunities opening-up from whaling operations and trading with Sydney, many of the Maori leaders were keen to learn to read and write the English language and also to learn more about the new Christian faith, which offered a life-giving alternative to the principle of utu/revenge.
Kenakena Pa, Waikanae Beach became the first major centre for worship in the Kapiti district, led by Maori catechists who were instrumental in erecting a substantial wharenui/church building there.
In May 1839, Wesleyan (Methodist) missionaries John Hobbs and John Bumby, accompanied by a number of Maori from Taranaki, sailed from Kororareka (Russell) to Wellington to further the gospel in various communities, including Porirua and the top of the South Island.
In November 1839, another breakthrough occurred when a young Octavius Hadfield, accompanied by Rev Henry Williams, both CMS missionaries, arrived in Wellington and walked to Kenakena Pa. They came after Tamihana Te Rauparaha and Matene Te Whiwhi had gone up to the Bay of Islands to plead for a permanent missionary to come and instruct the “natives” (as they were then often called) in the Kapiti area.
Hadfield first ministered at Kenakena Pa and then at Rangiatea Church, Otaki, which was officially opened on 7 October 1851.
Hadfield, gained the support of ageing chief Te Rauparaha, with whom he developed a close personal relationship. Hadfield was dedicated to the spread of the gospel and became proficient in te reo Maori. He trained and taught Maori about the gospel and also how to read and write. He commissioned six of the first Maori lay-readers into the church, including Rota Waitoa, who was the first Maori to be ordained deacon in 1853 and a priest in 1860.
On Saturday 30 August the community will celebrate with joy the arrival of the gospel and proclamation of the Good News to Kapiti and surrounding districts. We will also be honouring the memory of the many Maori who willingly welcomed the Christian gospel and helped to spread its message of aroha to their own people. Many of their descendants are still living among us.
The hikoi/pilgrimage will commence with a powhiri and speeches by local tangata whenua iwi, Te Ati Awa, Ngati Toa Rangatira and Ngati Raukawa at Te Atiawa Park, Paraparaumu (on Mazengarb Road near Hadfield Place) at 9.30 am. The next stop will be at Waikanae War Memorial Park across from St Luke’s Anglican Church, Waikanae (11.30am) for further speeches and lunch. Participants will need to provide their own lunch, but tea/coffee will be supplied free of charge. Pilgrims will then travel to Pukekaraka Catholic Mission, Otaki for a powhiri, and further talks about the Catholic mission at 1.30pm. Closing commemorations will take place at Rangiatea from 3pm, with prayers and a keynote address by the Rev. Steve Maina, national director of NZCMS. This links us with the society which stood behind Williams and Hadfield. Steve is a Kenyan who has been in New Zealand for several years now and has had many opportunities to observe Maori-Pakeha relationships. Local rangatahi/youth will also present a play at Rangiatea. From about 5.15 pm a hakari/hangi feast (and other food), will be served at the neighbouring Hadfield Hall, All Saints Anglican-Methodist Church. Pilgrims are asked to make a koha to help contribute towards the hangi costs. Pilgrims are welcome to join or leave the hikoi at any time during the day.
Handouts with maps and activity books will be given out to pilgrims at Kenakena. This is going to be a fun event, an ecumenical event and a family event. –something for all ages. It is hoped that the celebrations will also provide the springboard for much closer relationships between Maori and Pakeha Christians on the Coast. Anglican bishops Justin Duckworth and Muru Walters will be present throughout the day, contributing as the celebration proceeds.
Further information can be obtained from either of the organisational convenors,Ven Te Hope Hakaraia(0275668831) or Don Mathieson(04 9041260).