Since Mary broke her alabaster box of spikenard, very costly, who can compute the rich gifts that women have brought to the feet of our Lord? It is a story of all the Christian centuries, so that it ought not to be necessary now to remind ourselves that 'the Church of Christ consists of men and women, created as responsible persons to glorify God, and to do His will'; but as Dr Visser t' Hooft, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches points out, 'this truth, accepted in theory, is too often ignored in practice'.
His words have point for me since it was my privilege to pause at Kaeo, on the Whangaroa Harbour, and to take a friend of a sister communion into the Methodist Memorial Church. We found the door on the latch, and the interior lovingly tended. With some pride, I pointed out the two fine plaques-one on either side of a memorial window, above the communion-table.
The first read:
'To the glory of God, and in sacred and reverent memory of the undermentioned Wesleyan Methodist Pioneer Missionaries to the Maoris.'
Then followed a stirring roll of twenty-six names.
The other read:
'To the glory of God, and in sacred and reverent memory of the undermentioned Wesleyan Methodist Maori Ministers'-and there followed a roll of Maori names.
'But where,' asked my friend with some point, within the silence of that place of remembrance, 'where is the plaque to the Missionary women?' And I had to own, to the shame of the whole Church, that there was no such plaque.
Since then, some of us have tried to make good that lack; today in our Memorial Church, there stands a chaste baptismal font-fashioned, we think, to represent more closely than a plaque could do, the spirit and interest of those women. On a silver strip affixed are these words: 'Their richest gifts they offered gladly.'
It was my privilege to be the speaker at the service of dedication in November 1955. And now, I want to fill out what, for lack of time and knowledge, I was only able to hint at on that occasion. But slight as the reference was, there were few of us who were not charmed by those pioneer women- Mrs Leigh and Mrs Turner, 'The Ladies of Wesleydale'- and challenged by their love and courage.