Rapaki Church Centennial
The centenary celebrations of the historic church at Rapaki, Lyttelton, were held during the weekend 3–4 May. Distinguished guests were welcomed to the marae on Saturday morning, and after a relaxing afternoon, sat down to a magnificent banquet in the evening.
Guests of honour were Queen Te Atairangikaahu and her husband Mr Whatumoana Paki, accompanied by a large party from Waikato. Three local members of Parliament, Mr N. Kirk, Mrs W. Tirikatene-Sullivan and Mr H. J. Walker, the Mayor of Lyttelton, Mr J. B. Collett, the chairman and councillors of the Mount Herbert County Council, and representatives of local churches were among the 500 who attended. The Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt Rev. Manu Bennett, also called at the marae.
After the meal, speeches and entertainment went on for three hours, many paying tribute to the work of those living at Rapaki, and recalling events of past days.
Two services were held on Sunday, one of ‘Thanksgiving and Re-Dedication’ at 10 a.m., and another of ‘Remembrance and Dedication to Service’ at 2.30 p.m. Some of the ministers taking part were the Rev. Rangi Rogers, senior Maori Methodist Minister, the Rev. Ruawai Rakena, assistant head of the Methodist Maori Mission, the Rev. Maaka Mete of the Anglican Church, Rev. Moke Couch, and the Rev. Dr M. A. McDowell, who spoke at the afternoon service.
A delicious hangi meal was served during the interval, and girls from Te Waipounamu, led by Ngatai Huata, provided informal entertainment.
Local residents expressed their gratitude to the staff of the Christchurch Technical Institute and the Maori boys in the painting and paperhanging course, who had completely repainted the church and hall, as one of their projects.
From a booklet prepared for the centennial by Mr Wera Couch, kaumatua of Rapaki, we give some of the history of the
‘Rapaki was founded by a Ngaitahu explorer named Te Rangiwhakaputa, who on landing from his canoe on the foreshore, took off his rapaki, his waist mat, and laid it on the ground as his claim to the area. The full name of the settlement is Te Rapaki o Te Rangiwhakaputa. When he moved on to claim other areas, he left his son Wheke to establish the settlement, and his name is commemorated in the name Te Wheke given to the hall and marae.
‘In 1948, the Maori Reserve of Rapaki, comprising 850 acres, was set aside, and ownership granted to about 70 people.
‘The Christian message was first preached to the South Island Maoris in 1839 by Taawao, and in 1844 the Wesleyan Mission Staff in New Zealand recommended that a Maori Mission be established at Rapaki,
Mr Henare Tuwhangai thanks the local people on behalf of Tuheita, son of Queen Te Atairangikaahu, for their gift of a cake modelled after the Rapaki church
‘Following his appointment, the people of Rapaki decided to build a church, and this was completed at a cost of £159, and opened on 4 May, 1869. Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist ministers together conducted the service, and hymns were sung in both Maori and English by the large congregation, inside and outside the church. Visitors were then invited to a tent and regaled with an abundant supply of refreshments.’
Those who attended the centennial celebrations will realise how closely this opening service was repeated 100 years later, together with the refreshments, and thank the people of Rapaki for their hospitality.
photographs by M. Fraser
Bishop Bennett dedicates the new dining hall. At his left are Mr N. Kirk, Sir Turi Carroll, Dr Pei Te Hurinui Jones, the Rev. Sam Rangiihu and Mrs W. Tirikatene-Sullivan
Visitors from Hawke's Bay, the East Coast and many parts of the country were welcomed by a group from the Tuai-Waikaremoana district.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Norman Kirk, and the Member for Southern Maori, Mrs Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, officiated in opening the hall, which was blessed by the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt Rev. Manu Bennett.
The new dining hall, which adjoins the Takitimu meeting house, was erected at a cost of $46,000.