Indigenous | Rātana Church

November 8 the most important day on the Rātana church calendar

November 8 is considered the most important day on the Rātana faith calendar and is celebrated by its morehu every year in Rātana Pā and in its many parishes throughout the country and abroad.

It commemorates the day the voice of the holy spirit spoke to the founder of the Rātana faith, Tahu Pōtiki Wiremu Rātana on November 8, 1918. Many followers have been making the annual pilgrimage to Rātana Pā for many years and still do.

Seventy-seven-year-old Matiu Rutene from the Wairarapa region has been an āktipa (Māori warden) for many years. He still remembers his first days of coming to these celebrations when he was a child.

“When I was a little boy, about six or seven, I used to run all over the place as other children used to do. Mum and Dad did,” Rutene says. “Those days, my brother and I travelled with our mum and dad. They had a little car, and my brother had a little car, and we used to put a canvas over the top, and turn it into a little tent. And those were the days, oh my gosh, I’m going way back.. Those are the times I can remember.”

‘Solely a spiritual day’

Āpōtoro Wairua Maranui McGregor from Wairoa says this special day has much significance for him and his family.

“Today is about acknowledging the work he was given by Ihoa,” McGregor says. “I have followed Ratana for years. The 8th for me, it’s solely a spiritual day. First time in four years I’ve been back for the 8th. I told the tumuaki that I’m coming for the 8th.

“It is one day that every mōrehu should remember. It’s one day I believe that every mōrehu should come to, regardless of work commitments. I remember the 8th growing up. It was as big as the 25th of January celebrations. Yeah, so for me the 8th is a spiritual day.”

Āpōtoro Rehita Jacob Tobin from the Mangakāhia area in the far north says he is upholding a tradition that his forbearers started.

“The significance of this day is when the Holy Spirit came under the direction of God, Ihoa, appointed our matua, T.W. Ratana, to become his footstool on earth, to be a spokesperson for te iwi Māori, te iwi Mōrehu,” Tobin says.

“And for me, it’s to come down here and follow in the traditions that have been left to us of this generation and from those, our forebears, that carry on that tradition of giving thanks to Ihoa, first and foremost, and secondly, our whakawhanaungatanga with the rest of the mōrehu who are here from around the motu.”

Some this year have arrived on a new journey in life such as 70-year-old Āwhina Katarina Cook from Taupo, who was baptised at Rātana Pā on Tuesday night.

“I was actually baptised last night, here in the temple at Ratana Pa. I was baptised by the Apostle Joel Smith. It’s been a wonderful time. We’ve been purifying ourselves just reflecting on what is ahead of us. It’s been great.”

For the glory of ‘Ihoa o ngā mano’

Pahu Akuhata is 79 years old and is from Motiti in Tauranga Moana. Akuhata has been an apōtoro of the faith for many years and his passion for his religion is as strong now as it was when he first joined the faith.

“It’s for the glory of ‘Ihoa o ngā mano’, and it is the day that he chose our people to be his footstool on earth,” Akuhata says.

“This is the first time I have back for the 8th in a long time. Usually, I would attend our own church service every year back in Tauranga. This year I managed to travel from Nelson, from the Manakuratahi, and extended my stay to be able to come here to the pā today.”

The next big occasion is the annual Rātana January 25, 2024 celebrations.