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Christchurch 8053

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August 2010

Do justice to their memory in bronze

By Rev Donald Phillipps

If ever we needed reminding of the importance of the Wesleyan Mission Station at Mangungu, Hokianga, it was provided by the spectacle of more than 1000 people gathered to celebrate the 170th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty there on February 13th 1840. More signatures were gained for the Treaty at that time and place than anywhere else in New Zealand, including Waitangi itself.

Near where the marquee was set up in which those celebrations were conducted there stands a granite cross, erected by the Church in 1927 to mark the centenary of the beginning of the Mission in New Zealand in 1922. Among the engravings on the cross is a list of those who served as missionaries on that site from 1827 until the Mission was closed 30 years later. It and it's a roll call of the famous, so far as our Church history is concerned.

An effort is underway to add Gideon Smales’ name to
the plaquecommemorating those who served at
Mangungu Mission Station.

But in 1927 the Church had a somewhat stricter view of which names should be included and which excluded. Only those who 'died in the work', to use a saying still common in those days, were inscribed on the granite. Three men who also spent time there as missionaries were omitted. One of these, Charles Creed must have been left out simply through an oversight, because he did die in the work, though in New South Wales.

Two others, William White and Gideon Smales were, to all intents and purposes, lost to the memory, probable because they both resigned from ministry. During the years in which they did serve, however, they made their mark, and they deserve better from us. So far as William White was concerned this omission was corrected in the 1960s when a new bronze plaque with his name added was placed over the former record.

The attention of the Wesley Historical Society was drawn to the anomaly of Gideon Smales' omission some time ago, and the Society decided to take the matter up. This is not as simple as it sounds because the NZ Historical Places Trust now manages the site and regards Mangungu as a national treasure. It must grant permission for changes of any sort to structures or artefacts. It did eventually grant permission, noting there has already been a change to the 1927 monument.

Bronze plaques of such a size (about one metre square) are expensive things, and the best quote available for a new plaque, installed, runs to approximately $3000. That's quite a sum, among all the other claims on the Church's funds. Fortunately the Gideon Smales (St John) Church Trust has offered $500, and the Wesley Historical Society is considering a like amount.

It is a matter of justice that the Church honour all those who served it, for longer or shorter periods, in this formative stage in its history. With the addition of the names of Charles Creed and Gideon Smales, there will be, on this historic site, a true record of the men, who, with their wives, began such a great work.

If you are encouraged to offer financial support for the project please remit your contribution to the Methodist Church Office, P.O.Box 931, Christchurch – identifying its purpose with the word 'Mangungu'.

How good it would be to have a new plaque in place for the next Treaty Day at Mangungu, 13th February 2011.