Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 27 (June 1959)
– 56 –

RELIGIOUS LIFE OF THE
AUCKLAND MAORI

The most effective force uniting Maori and Pakeha in a large city is the church. But an obvious feature of ordinary church attendances in Auckland is the relatively small number of Maoris in the congregations. One reason for this is the growing tendency to cater for Maoris at their own services.

The Maoris are a spiritually minded people. Many families in Auckland who have been brought up in the Ringatu Church, which has few people in the area to minister to its adherents, attend interdenominational services rather than forego church. Furthermore, the Maori is greatly influenced by spiritual considerations in his social and cultural life. The essence of Maoritanga is spiritual. Consequently, he needs spiritual nourishment in order to live a full and happy life, particularly in a large city.

This is recognised by the churches which are endeavouring to find the best way of satisfying the religious needs of the people. The Church of England tries to bring Maori and Pakeha together as one people in its services. The Bishop of Auckland, the Right Rev. W. J. Simkin, recently appealed to an Orakei congregation to make Maoris “one with you in worship”. He reminded the members of a sacred obligation to bring the Maori to church.

Thus, in its ministry, as in its schools and social life, generally, the church adheres to the principle laid down by Bishop Selwyn a century ago that Maori and Pakeha should live, be educated, and worship together. St Stephen's School at Bombay which was founded by Selwyn for this very purpose, gradually assumed the character of a Maori boys' school, but its administrators have now taken steps to restore its original role. Today, it is doing excellent work cultivating goodwill and understanding between its Maori and Pakeha scholars.

The Presbyterian Church, which has a long and happy association with the Maori people, places importance on the cultural difference between the races. It believes that the Maori should view religion through Maori eyes and understand it in Maori thought forms. This is ensured through the Maori Synod within the church. In the case of the city Maori it has the advantage that a large number of people benefits from being ministered to at special services instead of being left to their own devices.

“Te Houhou Rongo” (The Peacemaker), the new name for the old Presbyterian Social Services Centre in Edinburgh Street, is where the Maoris meet every Sunday for service. In spite of its distinctive Maori character the gathering rarely fails to attract some Europeans.

The association has a special appeal for Maoris because of its emphasis on communal endeavour. It has been a great advantage to many families, who, through misfortune have been unable to cope in the city. Recently the association furnished a home for a Maori family in distress. It received word of the family's needs at 10 a.m. By 4 p.m. the home was completely furnished.

The church in Auckland is closely in touch with Maori social and cultural life. There are Presbyterian youth clubs. Young Maoris are helped in obtaining suitable employment. Missionaries are in contact with the people in the outer suburbs. Hostels provide accommodation for about 100 young Maoris and preserve a homely atmosphere as well as cultivating cultural arts.

The Catholic Church does not direct its efforts specifically to linking Maoris with Pakehas in the church. To some extent it tries to satisfy Maori needs within a Maori social and cultural frame-work. It arranges special services for Maoris in certain areas but, otherwise, the congregations are mixed. Regular Maori services are held in the

– 57 –

city in the chapel at the old Wellington Street Catholic School. Marriages and baptisms are conducted normally in St Patrick's Cathedral.

There are schools for Maoris, many of them with hostels attached. The Legion of Mary, a world-wide lay organisation, which, among other things, is helping to keep the faith alive in China, is a growing force in Auckland. It is a tower of strength to Maori families in the city and if they are in distress is able, as one church authority said, to do “anything within the bounds of possibility that lay people can do”. Its members visit homes, hospitals, and hostels and it is constantly looking for new avenues in which to apply its useful efforts.

The hand of fellowship is being held out to Maoris by the Methodist Church largely by the Pakeha ministers. They are moving gradually into Maori circles in an attempt to bring the people into the fold instead of appealing to Maoris to link up with the church. The new policy is designed to overcome that reticence which many Maoris, particularly those of the older generation, feel at joining Pakeha groups, especially when this may react against satisfying their own cultural ideals.

Efforts are being directed to reaching the younger section of the Maori community, partly through youth clubs but mainly through Sunday Schools and Bible Classes. The policy of uniting the two peoples through the agency of the ministry has had considerable success in areas such as Manurewa, Pukekohe, and Helensville. It is being extended and the results so far indicate that it will be successful.

The Ratana Church is a live organisation in Auckland although it may not appear to be so from outward appearances. Many Auckland Maoris attend the annual Easter Convention which was held this year at Matakana Island. In the metropolitan area, the church committee is active with the sisters making regular visits to the sick and the needy. Regular Sunday services are held at the Maori Community Centre with attendances sometimes of 100 or more people. There are at least 10 ministers of the religion in Auckland.

One of the most active groups among the Maoris in Auckland is the Church of the Latterday Saints (the Mormons). Last year it completed a chapel at Tamaki at a cost of £27,000. It is now building one at Takapuna on the North Shore for £22,000. A church centre will be erected soon in Mount

Roskill with a double chapel and recreation hall. The movement aims to provide the members with spiritual recreation including speech, drama, music, dancing, athletics, and Maori culture through the Mutual Improvement Association. The Relief Society Organisation caters for the women with such studies as homecraft and literature. Leadership training meetings are held every month.

These activities supplement the normal services in the different chapels. Like other denominations the Latterday Saints find they have to conduct their services in the Maori language to a less extent than was the case 10 years ago. The younger city Maoris are rapidly becoming Europeanised and more dependant on European methods to satisfy their daily needs.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

A Maori meeting house is to be built at Rehua Maori Hostel in Christchurch by 14 of the hostel's carpentry apprentices and three qualified Maori tradesmen. The house will accommodate 200 and will stand beside the hostel. It is hoped to provide traditional carvings for the front of the house.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

There will be an Anglican rally at Putiki, Wanganui, during Labour week-end this year. About 550 young Maori people are expected as guests.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

A committee of management has been elected for the Sir Apirana Ngata Memorial College in Ruatoria. Although the college is now being run by the Hawke's Bay Education Board, the committee will be able to gain experience in administering affairs of the college, and eventually a Board of Governors will be installed. The new members are: Mr W. Goldsmith, Ruatoria; Mr G. Reedy, Hiruharama, Mr J. C. Reedy, Ruatoria; Mr H. F. Smyth, Ruatoria; Mr P. Milner, Whangara; Mrs H. Waititi, Ruatoria; Dr D. Sinclair, Tolaga Bay (representing the Hawke's Bay Education Board); Mr H. Thatcher, Ruatoria (representing the Waiapu County Council); and Mr H. Fox, Waipiro Bay (representing the tribal committees).

A longer article on the college will be published in our next issue.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

The Tuhoe Maori Trust Board, set up to administer £100,000 compensation granted by the government recently, held its first meeting last March. Members are Messrs S. White, of Murupara; J. Boynton, B. Biddle and U. Tutuwhenua, Waimana; P. Tari, R. Rangi, T. Nikora and W. Te Paora, Ruatoki; I. Pouwhare, Waiohau; J. Tahuri and P. Apirana, Ruatahuna.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆

The owners of the Taharoa ironsands formed an incorporation at a meeting at Kawhia last March. The incorporation owns 3257 acres of ironsand deposits, held by fifty-seven owners. Mining will not begin for some considerable time.