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Methodists bear witness at wet Waitangi Day

By Paul Titus

The spirit of Waitangi Day was drenched but not dampened at its birthplace this year. On a day punctuated with torrential rainfall, visitors to Waitangi experienced a mix of celebration, controversy, church services, and children’s activities.

And, in the tradition of their presence at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Methodists were part of the action at the event’s 167th anniversary.

Te Taha Maori tumuaki Rev Diana Tana helped lead both the dawn prayer service at Te Tii, the lower marae, and the ecumenical liturgy of worship later in the morning on the upper marae. Trinity College students were also on hand as part of their orientation programme for the new academic year.

Diana says despite the rain there was a good feeling at Waitangi. Whereas the media coverage of the event always highlights the protestors, the day holds much more than that and is a real family event.

“The protestors were there though I believe they were well-organised. They are just really trying to make the public aware of the importance our people place on the Treaty. The ecumenical service also went well. It was good to have Methodist, Anglicans, and Catholics worshipping together,” Diana says.

Along with Taha Maori staff Keita Hotere and Lana Lazarus, Diana gave a presentation to the Trinity College students who visited Waitangi. Diana says they tried to convey to the students the experience and meaning of Waitangi as well as factual information about what the Treaty means for Maori, Pakeha, and the people of Northland.

This was the second year Trinity students began the school year with a pilgrimage to Waitangi. Along with the session of consciousness raising and social analysis with Taha Maori, they listened to the discussions at the open forum on the lower marae, took the ferry across the Bay of Islands to visit Russell, and attended the dawn prayers.

Trinity College principal Rev Mary Caygill says because Waitangi Day falls at the beginning of the year, it provides an excellent opportunity for students to do something together before classes begin. It is also an ideal way to gain exposure to the legacy Waitangi carries for the nation and the churches.

“Many Methodist students do not have a comprehensive sense of Methodist history in this land. Our students come from different ethnic backgrounds. Some have only experienced one or two parishes and some have limited experiences of Methodism.

“Waitangi is the perfect place to share early Methodist history with them and provide a background of the bicultural history of the Church. Hearing from Diana, Lana, and Keita they can gain a sense of being in a Connexional church,” Mary says.