Topic: The Village Church

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An article appearing in the 1998 "Souvenir Book" subtitled "Take a walk in living history". May contain minor OCR errors

Looking strange? see an archived version here

Converted to the Anglican Christian faith by the Missionaries, Chief Taiaho (Hori) Ngatai built his private chapel on tribal land at Matapihi. After his death his followers converted to the Ratana religion and his church fell into disrepair. One of the last to serve there was Manu Bennett who was later to become the Bishop of Aotearoa.

Several approaches were made to the Maori people to preserve the features of the church and finally agreement was reached that these be incorporated into the Museum’s Village church. Principal items are the tukutuku and Kowhaiwhai panels and decorative rafters.

The distinctive feature of these panels is the use of blue colouring in place of the traditional black used elsewhere in New Zealand. It is said that this was a result of the early contact with shipping and traders in the area and the resulting availablity of a new decorating medium - blue paint.

The chisel placed in view in the church wall was found in the walls of the chapel when it was being dismantled. The theory is that a carpenter’s tool was always left behind when a church was ‘built as a tribute to Jesus Christ who was also a carpenter.

Old materials from many other buildings were utilised in the building of the Village church.

 The stained glass windows at the rear of the church came from Whangamata and the window above the altar from the Talisman Hotel in Katikati. The clear cut windows came from St Enoch’s Church in Tauranga and the others from the Anglican Church at Maungatapu. The doors are from the Catholic Church at Maketu.

A feature ofthe church is the commemoration of the acts of chivalry displayed at the nearby site of the Battle of Gate Pa. Prior to the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864, rules of battle were established by Chief Rawiri Pukirake and recorded by a mission student, Henare Taratoa:

“If Thine Enemy Hunger, Feed Him If He Thirst, Give Him Drink”. (Romans Ch.12, V.20)

This verse from the scriptures headed the chivalrous and humane rules of conduct for the Battle of Gate Pa and were to be obeyed by both parties. They were rigidly and honourably adhered to by the Ngaiteranginui tribe during the battle. The four basic rules were:

  1. If wounded or captured whole, and butt end of musket or hilt of sword be turned to me, he will be saved.
  2. Any Pakeha, being a soldier and travelling unarmed will be captured and handed over to the direction of the law.
  3. The soldier who flees in fear to the house of the priest even though carrying arms will be saved.
  4. The unarmed Pakehas, women and children, will be spared.

 The mural at the rear of the church, produced by Ioan Moore, illustrates the above verse and also symbolises the coming together of the two races, Maori and Pakeha, through Christianity. The Takarangi, a Maori symbol, signifies the embryo of the expanding spiral, while the rays radiating from it symbolise the light of understanding.

This mural was unveiled by the Honourable H Lapwood, Minister of Tourism, on 28 August 1977. The small organ at the rear ofthe church was used by the Rev. C. Volkner, beheaded by the Hauhau. He would heave the organ onto his pack horse’s back, taking it with him from church to church.  

The church was rebuilt with the generous assistance of the Tauranga Womens Division of Federated Farmers.

The Village church was dedicated on this site on Saturday, 16 October 1976, by ministers and priests of every denomination, to be used as an interdenominational place of worship. Today the church is the popular and romantic setting for weddings where hundreds of couples over recent years have exchanged their vows.

 This page was archived at Perma cc March 2017 

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