In the last little while since starting to read about Samuel Marsden
and his history and the first Christmas Day service I have
become very interested in how these early events in New Zealand
shaped its future and how these early beginnings have
shaped todays Maori/Pakeha relationships and todays
interpretation of the Treaty of Waitingi and how, in my limited opinion,
we are developing, with assistance from the present Government of
New Zealand into a country embracing apartheid.
I wonder how Samuel Marsden
and the Maori of those years would think and feel and react to todays
developments and so called 'progress'.
You are allowed to have different opinions to mine of course!
Russell Clark's reconstruction of Samuel Marsden's Christmas Day service
at Oihi Bay in the Bay of Islands in 1814 is how many New Zealanders
have visualised the first Christmas service in this country.
Clark’s work commemorated the 150th anniversary of the event and
shows Marsden at a makeshift pulpit preaching to a large group of
Maori and Europeans. Ruatara, the Ngāpuhi leader Marsden had met in
Port Jackson (Sydney), translated the service and can be seen to Marsden’s right.
This service marked the beginnings of the Christian mission to New Zealand.
After reading the service, during which the natives stood up and sat down at the signal given by the motion of Korokoro’s switch which was regulated by the movements of the Europeans, it being Christmas Day, I preached from the Second Chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, and tenth verse: “Behold! I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” The Natives told Duaterra [Ruatara] that they could not understand what I meant. He replied that they were not to mind that now for they would understand by and by, and that he would explain my meaning as far as he could. When I had done preaching, he informed them what I had been talking about. Duaterra [Ruatara] was very much pleased that he had been able to make all the necessary preparations for the performance of Divine service in so short a time, and we felt much obliged to him for his attention. He was extremely anxious to convince us that he would do everything for us that lay in his power and that the good of his country was his principal consideration. In this manner the Gospel has been introduced into New Zealand; and I fervently pray that the glory of it may never depart from its inhabitants, till time shall be no more.
When the service was over we returned on board, much gratified with the reception we had met with, and we could not but feel the strongest persuasion that the time was at hand when the Glory of the Lord would be revealed to these poor benighted heathens and that those who were to remain on the island had strong reason to believe that their labours would be crowned and blessed with success. In the evening I administered the Holy Sacrament on board the Active in remembrance of our Saviour’s birth and what He had done and suffered for us.