Opinion: Christopher Huriwai


I have said it once and I will say it again, Maori are a spiritual people, it isn’t something we can take or leave, it is vital to our very being. Of course, the question then is, why not traditional spirituality or Islam or Buddhism, what does this haahi have to offer?

Literally since the very beginnings of Christianity in Aotearoa, the gospel has been by Maori and for Maori. Although more often than not the first mention goes to Marsden, I believe Ruatara didn’t simply translate what Marsden preached, but preached a distinctive sermon, a sermon that was directly influenced by his Maori-ness. Marsden may have preached the first sermon in New Zealand, but the first sermon that was heard in New Zealand was Ruatara’s.

Even if we cannot connect ourselves by blood, our whakapapa of faith intimately links us to all those who went before, including many rangatira of their time. This whakapapa connects us to the likes of Mohi Turei, Matiaha Pahewa, Reweti Kohere, Ropata Wahawaha, Apirana Ngata, Pine Tamahori, Reweti Kohere, Mutu Kapa, Frederick Bennett, Maori Marsden and Puti Murray just to name a few. The thing about this whakapapa is that it doesn’t just exist in the past, but its power to inspire ensures that we carry it with us into the future. As inheritors of this whakapapa we are also inheritors of its potential and that is perhaps the most exciting thing of all.

The whakapono that exists within Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa isn’t one that is newly imported or recently created but one that was received by our tupuna, internalised by our tupuna and made Maori by our tupuna. The result of that is a whakapono that is so deeply influenced by whakaaro Maori that no matter what we, or anyone else tried to recreate now, it would be a shadow of what exists in Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa. Many indigenous people are evangelised by the colonisers, the story of the Maori Anglican Church is a bit different, from the very beginning we were evangelising ourselves, continually nuancing and adding to the whakapono first preached by Ruatara.

Perhaps the biggest asset Te Pihopatanga has is quite simply, its potential. Given its history, whakapapa and whakapono it is no surprise that there is an amazing opportunity for Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa to be an integral part of Maoridom as whole. There was a time when it was an integral part, but that time has long passed. We can no longer ring the church bells and expect our people to come streaming through the doors, instead we must meet our people where they are, offer them the things they need and be prepared to walk with them. Our people don’t want or need a dated institution more interested in itself than them, our people don’t need hierarchy and pageantry, our people don’t need sub-par minita and lacking leadership …but that is the thing about potential, on its own it is useless, its only worth something if we get off our backside, stop pining for the good old days and be the best we can be now. I know that’s exactly what I will be striving for come Sunday, and every day after that…

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