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Tamaki rohe carries Weteriana tradition into modern urban life

By Paul Titus

The Tamaki rohe plays a unique role in the life of Te Hahi Weteriana. Encompassing greater Auckland, it is Te Taha Maori’s only fully urban district. And because the Methodist Church has offices in the city, a number of Tamaki rohe’s members serve on important Connexional boards and committees.

The physical heart of Tamaki rohe is its community centre and housing complex Whakatuora Centre. Tucked behind a dignified old parsonages on busy Massey Road in Mangere, Whakatuora is not only used for Sunday morning karakia (prayer service) but throughout the week for meetings and workshops by church members and other groups.

The Tamaki rohe is unique too because Auckland is home to Maori from many regions. This means there is no single iwi affiliation within the rohe. Many, but by no means all, of the Te Taha Maori members in Auckland have ties to the Northland area, where Methodism first established a presence in New Zealand.

Tamaki rohe members stated that there are more than 30 marae in the Auckland area and each was established for a different purpose. Some were established by particular iwi, others have close affiliation with particular churches, and others were established as urban community centres. Marae have been the traditional focal places for Weteriana ministry, witness and service to people and communities.

In territorial terms, the southern part of greater Auckland is Tainui, while the northern part of the region is Ngati Whatua. There are three Tainui marae in the Mangere area – Te Puea Memorial marae, Pukaki marae, and Makaurau marae and all have Methodist connections.

Tamaki rohe’s Liaison person Gillian Laird says there are three minita-a-iwi (lay ministers) in the Tamaki rohe – Jim Rauwhero, Kiri Haretuku, and Sonny Livingston. They are called upon to lead the ceremonies for baptisms and weddings, to unveil headstones, bless houses and buildings, and make pastoral visits.

Like all minita-a-iwi their service is purely voluntary. Sonny does his church work on top of his job as a High School teacher, while Kiri and Jim are retired. In recent years Jim has spent time in hospital chaplaincy with the Maori unit at Middlemore Hospital.

Kiri says much of the work the Minita-a-iwi do is outside of the church setting. “Many people still prefer to have their christenings in their own home. They like to have a gathering in their home and put on a big kai afterwards, so that is where we go” she says.

Auntie Kiri became a minita-a-iwi in 1998. Before that she served for nearly 10 years as the caretaker of Whakatuora, and some of the younger people remember going to Sunday school in her garage when Whakatuora was under construction.

A number of the younger members of Tamaki rohe are in training to be Kai Karakia (worship leaders) under the leadership of Tumuaki Diana Tana, who also lives in Auckland.

Gillian says “We have Sunday morning karakia at Whakatuora twice a month and if our Minita-a-iwi are busy elsewhere then our Kai Karakia in training may take the karakia.”

A number of Tamaki rohe young people are already well versed in the history, structure and workings of the Methodist Church and wider ecumenical movements through their involvement on various church bodies.

“Te Taha Maori has encouraged and nurtured their youth in these matters and for this we acknowledge many of those who have been instrumental in laying these foundations people such as Joy and Rua Rakena, Te Rua Winiata, Maru Toki, Morehu Te Whare, Huia Martin, Betty Hunapo, Donna Richards, Rau and Ripia Rountree and many others.”

Lana Lazarus, for example, is employed by Te Taha Maori as administrative manager and she is also co-convenor of the Methodist Church’s Council of Conference. Lana also serves as a member of the Wesley College Trust Board and the Methodist Mission and Ecumenical committee. Lana served for seven years on the Communications Advisory Group of the World Council of Churches and she is also a member of Te Taha Maori’s decision making body Hui Poari.

Similarly Gillian is a member of Council of Conference and the Presidential Review Group that is currently examining the way the Methodist Church of NZ’s president and vice president are selected and serve. Gillian is also a member of the PAC Distribution Group and is a member of the Te Runanga Whakawhanaunga I Nga Hahi o Aotearoa the (‘National’ Maori Council of Churches) that includes Weteriana, Mihinare, Te Aka Puaho and Katorika.