Souvenir of Waikato Methodism 1867-1942
(By the Rev. M. A. Rugby Pratt, F.R. Hist. S.)
The association of Methodism with the Waikato dates from January, 1825, when the Rev. William White journeyed overland from the Thames and penetrated as far as the source of the Horotiu. This was the name then given to the Waikato above its junction with the Waipa. In other words the Horotiu and Waipa joined to form the Waikato River.
Until the visit of Mr White no European had traversed the old trails of the Maori to lay thereon the pavement of Christian civilisation. In 1825 the Wesleyans were laying extensive plans to evangelise the Waikato Maoris. Their efforts were temporarily frustrated by the Native uprising which ultimately led to the destruction of our mission headquarters at Whangaroa in 1827.
In February, 1834, Mr White again went overland from Hokianga to the Waikato to open mission stations at Ngaruawahia, at Kawhia and either at Honepaka or Haurua. The way for him had been prepared by the influential chief Tarawhati. During this visit a school was established at Mangapouri. Two competent native teachers named Elijah and Abel were left to conduct Divine worship, to exercise temporary supervision and to oversee the erection of dwellings at Ngaruawahia and Tauranganui in the expectation that within a month or six weeks these stations .would be occupied and staffed by accredited resident European Missionaries. During the previous year (1833) the Rev. Joseph Orton of the Missionary Committee in Sydney investigated our work. He took opportunity to make it clear to the Church of England missionaries that the Waikato was properly in possession of the Wesleyan Missionary Society.
While our work in the Waikato was in progress in 1834 a dispute arose out of the appointment of Anglican missionaries to Mangapouri. One need not how rake the ashes of that controversy. Suffice it to say that in the interests of harmony, the Wesleyans withdrew in 1836 but subsequently at the earnest solicitation of the Natives for the return of those who had pioneered the evangel amongst them the field was reoccupied in 1839.
The work was later sadly interrupted by the Maori War. During that dark period of Native rebellion our missionaries sought to exert pacific influences throughout the large and once fruitful Waikato territory in which our Mission had operated. Maori as well as European missionaries kept the flickering torch of Christian influence from utter extinction. Amongst the Europeans of the Waikato the organised work of Methodism dates from the appointment of the Rev. Joseph Berry in 1867. Its progress throughout threequarters of a century represents an achievement for which Methodism may well sing a glad Te Deam.