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Current Feasts, Saints and other Holy Days

St Dunstan - May 19

Archbishop of Canterbury and Reformer, 909-988

St Dunstan

Dunstan was an extraordinarily able and gifted archbishop of Canterbury in the late Anglo-Saxon period. He inspired the renewal of the church and the revival of the monasteries.

Dunstan was born in 909 at Boltonsborough, near Glastonbury. He received his education from Irish monks. In 923, when his uncle Athelm became archbishop of Canterbury, Dunstan joined his household. The following year Athelm commended Dunstan to King Athelstan, and he served at court. However his impressive scholarship and considerable influence created jealousy so Dunstan left, took monastic vows and returned to Glastonbury.

In 939 Edmund became king of Wessex and Dunstan returned to court as his Chaplain. The king, convinced that Dunstan’s prayers had saved him from death, appointed him Abbot of Glastonbury. Because of the Danish invasions, religious life in England was at a low ebb. Dunstan reformed the monastery, insisting on close observance of the Rule of St Benedict. Under his leadership Glastonbury became a centre of learning, attracting many new members to the Church.

In 956 Dunstan was exiled as the result of some personal hostility towards him from the royal court. He went first to Flanders, then to a monastery in Ghent, where he became acquainted with the reforms invigorating monastic life on the continent. Recalled by King Edgar in 957, he was appointed Bishop of Worcester, then Bishop of London.

In 960 Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury. He planned and carried out a thorough reform of both Church and State through a reformed monasticism. He improved the education and discipline of the secular clergy and encouraged the use of Anglo-Saxon in teaching and for translating the Gospels.

Dunstan is remembered as man of ability and action, someone who would spend long hours in prayer, a practical administrator and a gifted artist. The extent of the popular affection in which he was held was indicated by a spontaneous acclamation of his saintliness upon his death in 988.

God of truth and beauty,
you called your servant Dunstan
to be a wise and faithful pastor
and to delight in all that is lovely;
grant us your wisdom,
that we may approve what is excellent
and order our lives in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.


Tamihana Te Rauparaha - May 18

Missionary to Te Wai Pounamu

Tamihana Te Rauparaha

Tamihana longed for Maori and pakeha to live together in peace, and he related well to the ways of both peoples. He and his wife were noted for their warm hospitality.

Tamihana Te Rauparaha was the son of the great Ngati Toa chief, Te Rauparaha. He was born in northern Taranaki in the early 1820s while the Ngati Toa tribe were moving south from their original home in the Waikato area to set up their new base at Otaki and on Kapiti Island. His original name was Katu.

By the 1830s the Maori tribes of the Cook Strait area were aware of the changes that the gospel and the missionaries were bringing to the tribes further north, especially in their inter-tribal relationships and the arts of reading and writing. In 1836 Te Rauparaha himself wrote to Henry Williams asking for a missionary, but nothing could be done at that time. About the same time, Ripahau, a slave freed by the death of his master in the north, returned to his people at Otaki. He had learned to read and write at the mission school in Paihia. He taught some of the people at Otaki to read and write, using as his text-books a Prayer Book and the remaining parts of the copy of St Luke’s Gospel which had originally belonged to Ngakuku, and which had been taken from Ngakuku’s daughter Tarore by her murderers.

Katu Te Rauparaha and another young chief, Matene Te Whiwhi o Te Rangi, already disillusioned about warfare and determined to end the fighting, decided in 1839 to go to the Bay of Islands to ask for a missionary. Given the continuing grievances between Ngati Toa and Nga Puhi, this was no easy task. Despite opposition they went. Henry Williams was so impressed with their zeal that he offered to go himself, but his fellow missionaries decided he was most needed among the Nga Puhi. Octavius Hadfield had recently arrived in New Zealand and, chronic asthmatic though he was, he volunteered to go with them, since, as he said, “I know I shall not live long, and I may as well die there as here.” Henry Williams accompanied them to the south, and thus, thanks to the two young chiefs from Otaki, began Hadfield’s long and very successful missionary enterprise at Otaki and Waikanae.

Katu was baptised by Hadfield on 21 March 1841, and it was then that he took the name Tamihana (Thompson). He and Matene Te Whiwhi became trusted teachers for Hadfield. When Hadfield himself was unable to travel to the South Island, they were entrusted with the missionary task. They set out in December 1842 and visited relations and the former enemies of Tamihana’s father. For the last part of the journey, which took him as far as Ruapuke and Stewart Island, Tamihana was by himself. The Kai Tahu people wanted to know whether Te Rauparaha intended to come and attack them again. Tamihana’s reply was: “He indeed will not come; for I have indeed come hither to you to bring an end to warfare, and to bind firmly peace by virtue of the words of the Gospel of the Lord.”

Tamihana broke off his work and hurried home on hearing news of the Wairau affray in June 1843, and a little later that year married Ruta (Ruth) Te Kapu at Otaki, with Hadfield conducting the service. The following year Tamihana acted as guide to Bishop Selwyn on his journey to the South Island, taking him to the places he himself had visited the previous year. Therefore, Tamihana Te Rauparaha played an important part in ending warfare in the South Island and bringing the gospel to those parts.

In 1846 Tamihana and Matene were at St John’s College in Auckland. Following the arrest of Te Rauparaha by Governor George Grey, Ngati Raukawa planned to join Te Rangihaeata in an attack on Wellington, but Te Rauparaha sent his son and Matene south with the message: “Repay only with goodness on my account. Do not incur ill will with the Europeans on my account, for only by Good will is the salvation of Man, Woman and Child.” Tamihana and Matene took this message to Otaki, and no reprisals were made.

Tamihana became a successful and well-to-do sheep farmer in the Otaki district and adopted European clothing and lifestyle. In 1851 he visited England and returned a strong advocate for a Maori king as a means to unity, law and security among the tribes. When the first Maori king was installed in 1858, Tamihana saw the kingship as a bastion against further sales of Maori land. Later, when some Kingites adopted a policy of resistance to the government, Tamihana broke with the movement and opposed its influence at Otaki and in the Wairarapa. He and Matene Te Whiwhi advocated the recognition of the Wellington area as a peace zone when war broke out further north. In this they were largely successful, though they did not prevent those who wished going to join the fighting.

Tamihana died on 22 or 23 October 1876, and is said to have been buried in an unmarked grave beside that of his wife Ruta at Otaki.

God of compassion and power,
you sent your servant Tamihana Te Rauparaha
to labour for your kingdom
amongst the Maori of Te Wai Pounamu;
grant that we also
may make known to all people
the redeeming love of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Wiremu Te Tauri - May 17

Missionary in Wanganui

Wiremu was noted for his contribution to the spread of the gospel in his own area of Wanganui.

Our information about the missionary work of Wiremu Te Tauri is gleaned almost entirely from comments made about him by Richard Taylor of the Church Missionary Society. Taylor arrived in New Zealand in 1839 and was appointed to Wanganui in 1843, where he served till 1866. He enlisted Wiremu Te Tauri as his head teacher and took him with him on a number of his missionary travels. Te Tauri also worked independently and in partnership with other Maori missioners. His full name was Wiremu Eruera Te Tauri, and he was a chief at Taupo of Ngati Tuwharetoa and Wanganui descent. The dates of his birth and death are not known.

Taylor and Te Tauri in May 1846 shared the burial service over the spot where a pa had stood in the Te Rapa valley at the south end of Lake Taupo. The once fruitful valley had been buried, in many places more than twenty feet deep, by the bursting of a natural dam, which caused a huge land slip to sweep down the valley. Among those killed was the Ngati Tuwharetoa chief, Te Heuheu Tukino II. Taylor says of that event:

When I read the burial service over the spot where the pa stood, accompanied by Wiremu Tauri, my head teacher, even then the mud was so soft that we sank in it nearly ancle [sic] deep. It was a solemn moment; an entire village laid buried beneath us, with all its inhabitants - the young, the old, the infant, and the hoary-headed - all in one awful moment were deeply entombed.

At Christmas time that year Te Manihera and Kereopa were preparing to go on what was to be their last missionary pilgrimage. Taylor reports:

Wiremu Eruera, and Tahana, two of the teachers, came forward and said that as these two were now devoted to the Lord, they did not think it right the servants of God, as ambassadors of Christ, should go forth without suitable clothes; they immediately gave each a pair of black trowsers, the only Sunday ones they had; others contributed coats; one person gave one garment and another gave another, until the two were perfectly provided with proper clothing.

Te Manihera’s and Kereopa’s journey eventually led to their martyrdom. A meeting was held at Taupo on 1 April 1847 after their tangi, and the subject of utu was discussed. Wiremu Te Tauri endorsed the opinion of those who were against utu and argued that the loss of a teacher would not hinder the gospel, saying

A minister was like a lofty Kahikatea tree full of fruit, which it sheds on every side around, causing a thick grove of young trees to spring up; so that although the parent tree may be cut down, its place is thus more than supplied by those which proceed from it.

Merciful God,
by your grace your servant Wiremu Te Tauri
bore the lamp of your word
and faithfully proclaimed the good news;
give us all life according to your word,
that we may glorify your holy name;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.


Te Wera Hauraki - May 16

Missionary in Ngati Kahungunu

Although Te Wera Hauraki is commemorated for his importance in Ngati Kahungunu, he was a Nga Puhi leader from the Bay of Islands. It is not known when he was born. His first contact with the missionaries was probably with Thomas Kendall and John King. They gave him some assistance with planting his wheat near Kerikeri in 1817. In the following year he joined a Nga Puhi raid on the Bay of Plenty, and it is probably from there that he took his first wife, Te Aokapurangi. Their child was accidentally burned, and this gave rise to Hauraki’s name, Te Wera (the burning).

Hauraki was visited by Samuel Marsden one evening in October 1819. Shortly after that, Te Wera participated in various Nga Puhi raids on other tribes that took him as far as the Mahia Peninsula and Wairoa. From that district Te Wera took a number of prisoners back to the Bay of Islands, arriving there in 1821. In 1823 Te Wera went with Hongi Hika and Pomare I on their major expedition against Te Arawa, culminating in their assault on Mokoia Island, Rotorua. Already, there were signs that Te Wera was not simply bent on utu. Through his wife’s contacts in the area and his own acceptance of his wife’s child by an earlier marriage, Te Wera compelled Nga Puhi not to pursue the attacks on Te Arawa. Also Te Wera had another task: to restore Te Whareumu, whom he had taken from the Mahia Peninsula and whose sister he had probably taken as a second wife, to his people.

After the battle at Mokoia, Hongi returned north, and Te Wera and other Nga Puhi continued to the East Coast, causing a degree of panic on the way among other tribes, who feared the Nga Puhi and their superior weapons. Arriving at Mahia, not only did Te Wera restore Te Whareumu to his people, but in return Te Whareumu persuaded his people to accept Te Wera as their leader and to grant him land on the peninsula.

By the 1830s Te Wera was one of the most significant chiefs on the East Coast. He formed alliances with other tribes in the area and provided some much needed stability and protection, especially as some of the tribes to the south were under considerable pressure from Te Rauparaha. Although still actively engaged in tribal warfare, Te Wera picked his quarrels judiciously, and was respected for his total integrity.

Never was he ever accused of evil deeds, nor did he ever abandon those who placed themselves under his guidance and beneficent rule. . . . If a messenger came asking his assistance, he carefully inquired into the cause, . . . If Te Wera saw it was a just cause he would consent to conduct the war in order that it might be quickly closed.

When William Williams and others from the Church Missionary Society visited the East Cape area in early 1838, they found continuing tension between the tribes of the Bay of Plenty to East Cape area and those further south. The possibility of peace seemed to open a door for the gospel. William Williams noted:

The natives seem to take it for granted that peace is the universal consequence of the introduction of missionaries, and they are urgent with us that we should use our influence with Wera the chief of Table Cape to induce him to make peace with the natives living on the coast from Cape Runaway to Turanga.

William Williams did not meet Te Wera, who died during 1839, but, when he visited Mahia in early 1840, he discovered a readiness to receive the gospel and a strong desire by some Maori to have missionaries living among them. This was particularly so among the relatives of Te Wera who had come from the Bay of Islands and those who had moved into the area from the Wairarapa and Wellington areas. Christian teaching was already growing among the Maori themselves within the kinship networks of the area. The speed and completeness of the acceptance of Christianity among the Maori of the East Coast was fostered by the conditions established by leaders such as Te Wera. Vocations to the ordained ministry from Ngati Kahungunu soon followed. The first was Tamihana Huata, who died in 1908 after forty-seven years as the first vicar of the Wairoa pastorate.

Te Wera’s principal biographer, Takaanui Tarakawa, says that Te Wera died of old age, mourned by all the tribes of the East Coast. In some traditions it is said that he returned to the Bay of Islands in his last year and is buried there on Te Ahuahu Hill.

Almighty God,
through your living word
Te Wera Hauraki changed his ways
and lived among his former enemies,
ushering in a reign of peace and harmony;
grant that by your grace
we may labour for peace and grow up to salvation,
within the mana of your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


St Matthias the Apostle - May 14

St Matthias

Matthias was chosen by lot “to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside” (Acts 1:25).

The apostles belonged to the first generation of believers. They had been together throughout the Lord’s ministry, from the Baptism of John to the Ascension. According to Acts, there were two who had the necessary qualifications: Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias. Matthias was chosen by lot after prayer to become a witness with the eleven to the Resurrection.

This story reflects a very particular understanding of the importance of the twelve apostles. This is quite different from Paul’s understanding of apostleship, which is not confined to the Twelve. In Luke’s view, the place of Judas had now to be filled in order to restore the number of apostles to twelve. The Twelve were unique. Judas proved false, and so the vacancy had to be made up. There had to be twelve apostles, for they were “to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:14,30). Their vocation to be witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection meant they had to belong to the original generation (Acts 1:22). The casting of lots ensures that Matthias is indeed the divine choice.

A tradition known to Eusebius related that Matthias was one of the seventy (Luke 10:1,17). This cannot be proved, but is more likely than Clement of Alexandria’s identification of him with Zacchaeus.

Almighty God,
who in the place of traitor Judas
chose your faithful servant Matthias
to be of the number of the Twelve:
preserve your Church from false apostles
and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers,
keep us steadfast in your truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Ihaia Te Ahu - May 13

Missionary & Priest

Ihaia Te Ahu, one of the earliest of the Maori clergy, was a missionary to the people of Te Arawa for more than 50 years.

He was born about 1823 into the Te Uri Taniwha hapu of Nga Puhi in the Okaihau area. In 1833 he joined Thomas Chapman, one of the lay missionaries of the Church Missionary Society, at Kerikeri and lived with the Chapmans at Kerikeri and then Paihia. When Thomas and Anne Chapman moved to Rotorua in 1835 to found the first mission station there, Ihaia went with them and worked as a missionary assistant. He married Rangirauaka of Ngati Riripo. They were baptised by A.N. Brown on 9 May 1841. By 1845 he was Chapman’s leading teacher and was entrusted with conducting the Sunday services when Chapman was absent. Chapman himself noted that Ihaia’s abilities were fully acknowledged around by all. As a Nga Puhi from the north, Ihaia was able to move with some freedom during the tribal conflicts in the Rotorua area.

When the Chapmans moved to Maketu in the Bay of Plenty in 1846, Ihaia and his family went with them. In 1857 he began preparing for ordination. He first studied under A.N. Brown, and then at St Stephen’s School, Auckland. He came first in a class examination and was given a Bible as his prize.

Poor health forced Ihaia to return to Maketu before his studies were completed. He returned to mission work and eventually took over from Chapman in 1861. On 3 November 1861 Ihaia was ordained deacon by Bishop William Williams.

Ihaia continued to work at Maketu and was responsible for the building of St Thomas’ Church there, which was opened in 1869. He was appointed the first vicar of the Ohinemutu pastorate in Rotorua in 1882. One of his first tasks was to start a drive to build a church. Although the Chapmans had established a mission station in Rotorua in 1835, mission work in the area suffered as a result of the disturbances during the 1860s. The people of Te Arawa had seen something of the hollowness of the Christianity of civilised men. The Hauhau movement and the events surrounding Te Kooti had also contributed to the unsettled state of affairs.

Ihaia had virtually to re-establish the work of the church in the Rotorua area. This he did to great effect, so that he became known as the “hero of missionary effort” in Rotorua. His plans to build a church came to fruition with the consecration of St Faith’s Church, Ohinemutu, on 15 March 1885.

Ihaia left Ohinemutu in 1889. He served briefly at St Stephen’s College, Auckland, but had retired by 1892 and moved to Kaikohe. He died there on 7 July 1895 and was buried at Maketu.

Loving God,
you gave your servant Ihaia
grace to serve your church
faithfully for many years;
grant us a like zeal
in the proclamation of the gospel,
that the people of our day
may hear the good news;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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