Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Festival 200 Celebrations

As the member of a relatively small church (100-200 attendees), in a relatively small city, opportunities to worship as part of a larger crowd don't come by very often.   5000 attending a combined inter-church service may not seem that big to some of my overseas readers (I've heard there are some churches that get that number in a normal Sunday morning service), but around here it's something pretty special.

(All photos courtesy of Te Raranga, used with permission)

The occasion was Festival 200, hosted by Te Raranga earlier this month to celebrate 200 years since the first Christian worship service in New Zealand.  On Christmas Day 1814,  Rev Samuel Marsden, at the invitation of the chief, led divine service and preached from Luke 2:10 Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy.

By the 1850's more than 50% of Maori were Christian believers, with the message being spread primarily by the Tangata Whenua (people of the land). Many stories abound of missionaries arriving for the first time at a remote settlement, to find the local tribe were already believers and worshipping.

The organisers of this celebration had a challenging task bringing together different styles and traditions of Christian worship into one gathering, and in my opinion overall did an excellent job.

Young Lady and her two friends seemed a little hesitant at first, but relaxed as the service  progressed, and was dancing on her seat by the final music bracket.  (I wish I'd been able to capture the look on her face, but my phone at the time was being utilised by Young Lady as a torch/glow light for "Joy to the World").

A highlight was the singing  of our National Anthem.  We have an amazing and inspiring anthem, especially when all the versed are sung as a hymn and a prayer, sung by 5,000 from the  heart and with gusto:

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
English translation (Karetu)
O Lord, God,
of all people
Listen to us,
Cherish us
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow.

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.


For more information about the history of Christianity in New Zealand, see