Friday, 26 December 2014

Marking New Zealand History... Marsden Cross

 Marsden Cross at Oihi Bay, Bay Of Islands... It is a large
Celtic stone... With the following inscription...

 Where the 1st Christian service in New Zealand
was preached on Christmas Day 1814...

 The people, mostly Maori... Gathered to listen...

 The cross in the wilderness... Was unveiled at Rangihoua, Oihi
in March 1907.  The cross was designed by the Rev’d Philip Walsh 
who was archdeacon of Waimate from1901 to 1912. 
Walsh was a noted amateur artist and architectural draftsman who
 designed several churches. The cross cost £223. 

Marsden Cross not only marks the area where the congregation
gathered on Christmas Day 1814 to take part in worship but
also the land where the first missionary settlement was erected.
The first missionary houses and school room were located on this site.

Marsden Cross is a significant site for the annual commemoration 
of the arrival of Marsden and the first missionaries with Ruatara 
and other Māori in December 1814 and the conduct of worship
on Christmas Day. The site is also a place of pilgrimage
throughout the year by people who are interested not only in the early
 Christian beginnings at this place but in New Zealand history. 
The setting of Marsden Cross at Oihi Bay is one of serenity and
great beauty. Historically the place is charged with memories of the
warm beginnings which took place here in the early interaction of
Māori and Pākehā. These beginnings at Oihi were the starting point
for Pākehā daily engagement with Māori and eventually led on to
the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi in
1840 and the birth of New Zealand as a nation.

Marsden Cross has been in the news lately as 2014 was the bi-centenary
of Samuel Marsden's first sermon with Ruatara in Oihi,
Bay of Islands...A civic ceremony was held on 21st December,
attended by the Governor-General, local kaumatua (elders)
and church leaders and the nation. On Christmas morning
a service was held round the cross.

Samuel Marsden, an amazing man... Read about his life here 

 His account of Christmas Day 1814...An excerpt from his journal...

"Duaterra (Ruatara) passed the remaining part of the day in preparing for the Sabbath. He enclosed about half an acre of land with a fence, erected a pulpit and reading-desk in the centre, and covered the whole, either with black native cloth, or some duck which he had brought with him from Port Jackson. He also procured some bottoms of old canoes and fixed them up as seats on each side of the pulpit for the Europeans to sit upon; intending to have Divine service performed there the next day.  These  preparations he made of his own accord; and in the evening informed me that everything was ready for Divine service. I was much pleased with this singular mark of his attention. The reading-desk was about three feet from the ground and the pulpit about six feet. The black cloth covered the top of the pulpit and hung over the sides. The bottom of the pulpit as well as the reading-desk was part of a canoe. The whole was becoming and had a solemn appearance. He had also erected a flag-staff on the highest hill in the village, which had a very commanding view.

On Sunday morning (December 25th) when I was upon deck I saw the English flag flying, which was a pleasing sight in New Zealand. I considered it as a signal for the dawn of civilization, liberty, and religion in that dark and benighted land. I never viewed the British colours with more gratification, and flattered myself they would never be removed till the natives of that land enjoyed all the happiness of British subjects.

About ten o'clock we prepared to go ashore to publish the glad tidings of the Gospel for the first time. I was under no apprehensions for the safety of the vessel, and therefore ordered all on board to go on shore to attend Divine service, except the master and one man. When we landed we found Korokoro, Duaterra (Ruatara), Shunghee (Hongi Hika) dressed in regimentals which Governor Macquarie had given them, with their men drawn up ready to march into the enclosure to attend Divine service. They had their swords by their sides and a switch in their hands. We entered the enclosure and were placed in the seats on each side of the pulpit. Korokoro marched his men on and placed them on my right hand in the rear of the Europeans and Duaterra (Ruatara) placed his men on the left. The inhabitants of the town, with the women and children and a number of other chiefs, formed a circle round the whole. A very solemn silence prevailed - the sight was truly impressive. I got up and began the service with the singing of the Old Hundred Psalm, and felt my very soul melt within me when I viewed my congregation and considered the state they were in"...

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