Indigenous | Matariki

South Taranaki church hosting bilingual service for Matariki

The altar in Eltham's All Saints Church was carved in the early 1900s by Gretchen Briant, and was inscribed upon in both te reo Maori and English.

A church in Eltham will once again be filled with songs of praise in te reo Māori and English during a special bilingual service for Matariki.

Central Taranaki Anglican missioner Reverend Paul Bowers-Mason said he and Reverend Vincent Nuku (Ngāti Ruanui) invite people of all denominations to attend a Sunday evening service at All Saints Church in Arakamu/Eltham this week.

“The service will be led by the two of us, with the music and singing led by myself and Rev. Wynne Bowers-Mason.”

Bowers-Mason said he and Nuku were holding the service as a way to celebrate biculturalism.

“It’s a way to celebrate the bilingual and bicultural heritage of the Christian gospel in New Zealand and the Treaty partnership of Māori and Pākehā.”

It’s not the first bilingual service that has been held at the Eltham church and organised by Nuku and himself, he said.

“Our first bilingual service was on Parihaka Day last year, which just happened to be a Sunday. When that was well-received, we planned the idea of having bilingual services every few months. The idea was to use the significant days that relate to Māori and Pākehā together - Parihaka Day, Waitangi Day and Matariki.”

Matariki, said Bowers-Mason, sits comfortably amid Christian perspectives and spirituality.

“There is a nice spiritual tie-in with Matariki, and it’s actually very similar to our January 1 New Year. We might remember those who have passed on, spiritually let go of things from the past year, and ask for God’s guidance for the future year. The reason that Europeans celebrated the New Year on January 1 was because it was midwinter in Europe.”

The altar in Eltham's All Saints Church was carved in the early 1900s by Gretchen Briant, and was inscribed upon in both te reo Maori and English.

All are welcome to attend the service, he said.

“Absolutely anyone can come and participate. The prayers and songs, karakia and waiata, will be Christian in content. People are also welcome to come and just listen if they prefer that. And, of course, there will be shared kai afterwards, which we all know how to participate in.”

With everything in both languages, no one will feel excluded or be unable to follow the service, said Bowers-Mason.

“All the words will be in both languages up on the screen, sometimes Māori first, sometimes English first, so people can just join in as they are able to. It’s a bit different to many people’s usual church services, so everyone will be a bit new to it. For convenience, we use a lot of material from the Anglican prayer book because it is already in both languages, which saves us a lot of translation work. The waiata have a bilingual flavour, too. We do the te reo Māori fairly slowly because most people are still just starting to learn that.”

While many people may only be beginning to learn te reo Māori now, the Eltham church has a long-standing connection to the language. The altar at the church, which was carved in the early 1900s by Gretchen Briant, has text inscribed upon it in both te reo Māori and English.

Bowers-Mason said the service will give people another way to celebrate Matariki.

“Obviously in the public space, Matariki is not necessarily celebrated in a specifically Christian way, which matches the secular way we usually celebrate January 1. It’s a question of your worldview, which is also basically like your faith. We are exploring a Christian way of celebrating Matariki, which is just the same as someone finding a secular way to celebrate specifically Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter.”

The Details:

What: Karakai o ngā tikanga rua/Bilingual service for Matariki

When: Sunday, June 30, 5pm

Where: All Saints Church, Arakamu/Eltham

Details: Nau mai, haere mai. All welcome.

Ilona Hanne is a Taranaki-based journalist and news director who covers breaking and community news from across the lower North Island. She has worked for NZME since 2011.

- NZ Herald