Nga Kura Mihinare

1473016_10151761615125264_2002702212_nHukarere Girl’s College recently held their prize giving and end of year karakia at Waiapu Cathedral. Rev Christopher Huriwai traveled to Napier to be part of it and shares his thoughts on the future of the kura.

There aren’t many things that I would make a solo five hour round-trip for, but the end of year service and prize giving for Hukarere is one of them.

Hukarere is the only Maori Anglican boarding school for girls in the world. It is a taonga, it is history, it is whakapapa.

Despite a less than certain future and at times troubled past, Hukarere has continued to offer not only education, but also spiritual sustenance to generations of young Maori women.

Opened in 1875, Hukarere has established itself as an integral part of not only the future of the Maori Church, but the future of Aotearoa generally.

But why bother taking the long and lonely drive to their prize giving? The answer is simple, tautoko. For too long the church has had somewhat of a passive relationship with both Te Aute and Hukarere, the time has come for change, intentional change.

It isn’t enough to employ a chaplain and think we can then tick the box and be done with it. These schools need on the ground tautoko, affirmation and relationship.

Te Pihopa o Aotearoa is leading this new phase of relationship with both Te Aute and Hukarere. Under his leadership intentional, long-term relationships are being established. These are relationships not only with the institution, but with the students, relationships that will last long after they graduate.

In a time where things spiritual are relegated to something you only do on Sundays it is more important than ever to ensure that our young Maori men and women are imbued with a sense of spirituality that doesn’t turn itself off and on depending on the situation, but one that equips them for life. A spirituality that empowers their Maori-ness and affirms their identity. Hukarere is in a unique position to be able to not only do that, but to also lead the way.

History and tradition are an extremely important part of the heritage and character of Hukarere, but we must acknowledge that those things are somewhat limited in what they can offer to the ongoing success, life and future of the school. We certainly can’t ignore Hukarere’s history, but we mustn’t dwell there, and we certainly can’t afford to build the future of the Hukarere upon nostalgia alone.

Hukarere, however cannot be left to reimagine its own future by itself, it needs the church just as much as the church needs it. In order to reinvigorate Hukarere, we need to reimagine Hukarere.

The church, the old girls, the staff and the students need to both commit to and be a part of the new vision for their school.

As a church, I hope we can commit anew to Hukarere. Our contribution to the school may be in a way never before seen or imagined, but perhaps that’s exactly what we need. Traditional chaplaincy will always have its place, but we live in a dynamic world, and the church should be just as dynamic in its relationship to Hukarere.

Te Hahi Mihinare have and do claim among our numbers some of the best composers and song writers in Maoridom, so why not offer Mihinare Kapahaka at Hukarere? We also have numerous minita and laypeople who are native speakers of Te Reo, so why not offer to expose the students of Hukarere to these living taonga. We have a chaplain at Hukarere, but that doesn’t mean we cannot tautoko and supplement the work of the chaplain with a comprehensive pastoral care programme at the school.

Te Aute and Hukarere are in a time of transition and change. They have both received new principals this year and they are both going to benefit from a sizable monetary commitment from the St Johns College Trust Board. If there was ever a time to reimagine, rethink and recommit to the schools, that time is now, the students deserve it, our whakapono requires it, and our whakapapa demands it.

Kia u ki te pai, kia u ki te Pihopatanga.

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