Waitangi Trip to Ohope Marae

Waitangi Trip to Ohope Marae

Ann McKenzie
Sun 24 Jul

On Friday February 5th 2016, Waitangi weekend, Rev Glynn Cardy, David McNabb and I went to Te Maungarongo the Marae of the Presbyterian Church at Ohope, just beyond Whakatane. 

We went at the invitation of Rev Wayne Te Kaawa, the Moderator of Te Hinota Maori previously known as the Maori Synod of the Presbyterian Church.  He was joined by the Rt Rev Andrew Norton, Moderator of Presbyterian Church Aotearoa New Zealand.

The magnificent house and surrounding facilities have been extensively renovated and were opened only 2 weeks before.  We were the first to sleep in Te Maungarongo since this renovation.

Rev Wayne had a vision to gather both the Maori and Pakeha sides of the Presbyterian Church together at this place and to explore what the Treaty of Waitangi means to our bi-cultural Presbyterian Church.  We also explored the partnership that Te Hinota Maori, has with the Pakeha church and to imagine how this partnership could be developed to meet the modern challenges of the church.

The vision for such a bi-cultural place was seen by Very Rev Laughton and his team of deaconesses in 1947.  Now they would be amassed that the original idea has been updated into a magnificent modern facility with underfloor heating in the sleeping house and disabled toilets easily accessible for the old kuia and grandmothers.

The marae was described as:

“A place of belonging, reconciliation, peace, pilgrimage and spiritual renewal.  A place to come home to where we rediscover our identity and our destiny.  It is where to learn the depth of manaakitanga as we experience welcome, hospitality and respect for one another and are united as one in Christ.”

The magnificent meeting house reflects this bi-cultural vision.  On the left hand walls the carvings tell the Maori story of creation, conflict between two brothers, myths, and flood, while on the right from the Bible story of creation,  conflict between two brothers, myths and flood.  Many of the figures have two tongues representing both Maori and English languages.

We heard very moving stories of how the tangata whenua had been nurtured in the early days of the church.  Some of the kuia had been brought up and educated by the deaconesses, named in their tributes, when parents were unable to.  Happily the tradition of faith and education has been handed down to the younger generation.  Present were a lawyer and doctor as well as other outstanding young parents and youth.

A moving testimony by one young parent told how, when his family were growing up, some of them joined the Mongrel Mob, but the only patch he got was the Presbyterian Church.  Many spoke with love of Turakina Maori Girls College which had closed the previous week.  This was a great grief to these people who had been given such a good life and education at Turakina. 

A recurrent theme in the korero was from Proverbs chapter 22 v 28.  “Never move an old boundary marker that your ancestors have put in the ground”.  In the context of the Treaty of Waitangi this means the partnership that was established at that time should continue to be honoured.  

I felt hope that we can learn from our experience of Maori hospitality and freedom of discussion on the marae to build even better partnerships and peace within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.  To break down barriers and exclusions that still exist, and to become a truly multi-cultural church. 

Te Maungarongo claims to be many firsts:

first church marae, first Christian marae, first bi-cultural marae and first bi-lingual marae.   I hope that many St Lukans can have the marae experience that we had at Te Maungarongo in the future. It was an uplifting and encouraging experience on our Christian journeys.