I am at our General Synod. Most of what happened today has been ‘in Committee’, which means that the discussion cannot be reported or blogged.
I have been carried along through the trials of today by reflecting on General Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui’s little trip / hikoi out to Oihi and Rangihoua. We went there to visit the site where Samuel Marsden landed and first formally preached a sermon in English in Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1814. (I hesitate to say that it was the first time the Gospel was ‘preached’ since some through their words and actions had preached enough of the Gospel that Ruatara felt confident enough to invite Marsden and other missionaries to set up a little settlement under Rangihoua Pa.)
It was chance to see the new building, the Gathering Place, at the top of the walkway down to Oihi and the Marsden Memorial Cross. The building, is named Rore Kaahu – meaning an soaring eagle – since the roof structure is likened to an eagle in flight. (See the first photo)
The worship we had in the building was fabulous and then many of us made the best of the beautiful weather and ventured down to the beach and the Marsden Cross.
It was a wonderful day. Dolphins in the bay, sunshine, relaxed and happy faces.
For me the most remarkable feature of the day came as we were taking our leave of the site and Rore Kaahu. I think I heard one of the best sermons I have heard in years. It came not as a sermon but in a poroporoaki –a formal farewell speech that Maori traditionally make as a group leaves a place. It was offered by the great Ngati Porou orator/ priest / all time funny guy The Reverend Canon Morehu Te Maro.
Matua Morehu began his speech by taking off his leather cowboy hat to reveal his shock of white hair and instantly the hilarity began. He simply observed that the building called Rore Kaahu has no doors and he made some jokes about how it would solve some problems with his church back home if they could embrace the same idea. He also pointed out that a church with no doors has the advantage of allowing people to go in at anytime. He got us to give a fulsome “Amen” on his proposal for his church back home, figuring that his idea would be unlikely to get an “Amen” at home but he could use our support to make his idea happen. (I should record for his benefit, he “put” his motion, and it is was carried unanimously with gales of laughter.)
He then talked about the walk down to the Marsden Cross – people whispered, “he is nearly ninety.” This little narrative was sprinkled with lots of self-deprecating humour. He spoke about the cross being too big get his arms around, and he had to make do with all he could grasp.
Lastly he thanked us for allowing him to stand and speak and for listening to him talk all about himself. more hoots of laughter.
When I spoke with Matua Morehu today (photo below) he laughed that I thought the sermon was so fantastic. Essentially he denied my accusation that it was a truly great sermon and he even denied that he had said anything at all – I guess because he knows, that it is the Holy Spirit, soaring like an eagle, that actually carries the Word and this is not something the preacher really does.
But I deny that the sermon was all about him. He spoke about us all and for us all. The prophet made us all laugh and enjoy the idea of a church that has no doors. The pastor made me cry a little inside about our resistance to really having such a church and, great leader that he is, he got us to go with him anyway. The teacher threw into the gales of laughter the truth that our faith is too big and too wonderful for us to fully grasp. And then, the leader suggested it was time for us to farewell where we had been and move on.