Taupō Plimmerton Heritage Trail

14   Early Christian Services

Following a visit from Wesleyan missionaries in June 1839, Christian Māori regularly led services on Mana Island.  Anglican missionaries who arrived in November that year noted similar services at Hongoeka.

John Hewgill Bumby Wesleyan missionary National Library of New Zealand

John Hewgill Bumby Wesleyan missionary
National Library of New Zealand

In June 1839, two Wesleyan missionaries, John Hobbs and John Hewgill Bumby, met with Te Rauparaha in his whare on Mana Island.

‘The house in which we found him was larger than the generality of native habitations. …About thirty natives, warriors and slaves, were laid at full length, in various directions, on the floor…. The Chief expressed himself as glad to see us, pressed us to sit near him, and wished to enter into a long conversation; but, after singing and prayer, we were glad to make our exit, giving him to understand that at our next meeting we would more fully state the object of our visit.’

The following morning Te Rauparaha had breakfast with the missionaries on board the Hokianga.  He expressed a wish to have a missionary, promising a range of benefits if his request was met. On leaving, Mr. Bumby assigned to him, as a teacher, a young Māori appropriately named Paora (Paul), one of the cleverest and most pious of the Mission lads.

Later that year, Te Rauparaha sent his son Tamihana Te Rauparaha to the Bay of Islands to request a missionary.  In November 1839, the Anglican missionary Octavius Hadfield (later Anglican Primate of New Zealand) arrived in the area.  In his diary, he noted that Christian services were regularly held on Mana Island, presumably led by Paora.

Octavius Hadfield, Anglican Missionary National Library of New Zealand

Octavius Hadfield, Anglican Missionary
National Library of New Zealand

Hadfield was also present while Christian services were held at Hongoeka.  On Sunday 17 November 1839, he wrote in his diary ‘..was much delighted with the attention of the natives and more especially with the earnestness and the beauty with which the native Christian enforced on his countrymen the blessedness of receiving and believing the glorious truths of the Gospel.’

In 1843 Wesleyan Reverend Ironside recorded in his journal that Rawiri Puaha took his followers from Cloudy Bay and Port Underwood in the South Island to Taupō.  Puaha had converted to Christianity, and Taupō Village became the centre for missionary work in the area.

In 1845 Ironside and his fellow Wesleyan missionary James Watkin held a major hui here, and in 1848 a chapel was erected at Taupō Village, costing £3.

Although Māori conversions were initially few, by the mid-1840s, well over half the Māori population in New Zealand were estimated to be gathering regularly for Christian worship, influenced by Anglican, Wesleyan and Catholic traditions.

By the end of 1841 Hadfield, based at Waikanae, was ministering to some 7,000 widely scattered Māori, and supervising 18 schools set up to provide an elementary European education.

Tamihana Te Rauparaha in 1859 Canterbury Museum

Tamihana Te Rauparaha in 1859
Canterbury Museum

Local Māori practitioners took up and expanded the work of the European missions.  These evangelists and teachers witnessed the spread of the gospel from Kaitaia to Rakiura/Stewart Island.   Tamihana Te Rauparaha, son of Te Rauparaha, was one of the local Ngāti Toa Rangatira Anglican Christians.

Hadfield fostered the Māori pastorate, on the basis that a Māori ministry should be ‘the ultimate aim of all missionary efforts‘.  According to his Te Ara biographer:  ‘He was a determined, bold and energetic man, he did not shrink from the acrimony directed against him as he fought for principles he believed must be put into practice.’

Deirdre Dale
16 September 2016



J H Roberts, The Wesleyan Maori mission in Te Upoko o Te Ika, Wellington District, 1839–1885. Christchurch: Methodist Publishing, 1992.

John Hewgill Bumby, Journal June – December 1839, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Octavius Hadfield, Diary 30 Sep – 21 Dec 1839, National Library of New Zealand

June Starke,   Octavius Hadfield, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-2012
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/1h2/hadfield-octavius

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