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Big day about to dawn for Anglicans

For immediate release January 30, 2008

Big day about to dawn for lower North Island Anglicans

February 6 this year will be an unusually big day for Anglicans in the lower North Island.

That day is, of course, Waitangi Day . In a rare coincidence, it falls this year on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the pilgrimage many Anglicans observe through Lent towards Easter.

But as far as Anglicans in these parts are concerned, that’s not all. For them, there’s a trifecta.

Because February 6 is the day Anglicans in the Diocese of Wellington – an area that takes in a substantial swathe of the lower North Island – will begin to celebrate the 150th anniversary of their diocese.

They’ll be doing that in a place that has deep significance for both Maori and Pakeha Anglicans in that territory – Rangiatea , the Otaki church, sometimes dubbed ‘The Maori Cathedral’, the building of which became possible because of the remarkable relationship between the great Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha, and the missionary Octavius Hadfield – who went on, in 1870, to become the second Bishop of Wellington.

There’ll be significant special guests at that February 6 service at Rangiatea, too.
Three Archbishops, for starters. The two who lead the church in New Zealand – plus Archbishop Phillip Aspinall. Archbishop Phillip is the Primate, or overall leader of the Anglican Church in Australia. He is also the Archbishop of the Brisbane, and he has accepted an invitation to preach at the 11am service because of the special relationship between the dioceses of Brisbane and Wellington. They’re companion dioceses.

Then there’s George Fergusson, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand – and he has a remarkable relationship to this place, and to the people of this region. His father, Sir Bernard Fergusson, was Governor General to New Zealand , and in 1966, as a 10 year-old boy known to most Kiwis as Geordie, he was – after a service at Rangiatea – inducted as a chief of Ngati Raukawa at Otaki marae, and given the name which he carries to this day: George Raukawa Fergusson.

His connections to the Diocese of Wellington go back a long way, too: from the age of seven to 12, he went to St Mark’s School in Wellington.
To mark the Diocese’s 150th celebration, he’ll present an offertory bowl to Rangiatea. The bowl, which was carved from timber used in the original church building, had been presented to his father, Sir Bernard, at that Rangiatea service more than 40 years earlier.

The 10th and present Bishop of Wellington, Dr Tom Brown, will of course preside at the February 6th Eucharist at Rangiatea – along with Bishop Muru Walters, who leads Te Pihopatanga o Te Upoko o Te Ika, the Episcopal unit of the Pihopatanga, or Maori Anglican Church, for this tribal region.

Dr Brown (who, on the following day, February 7th, celebrates the 10th anniversary of his election as the Bishop of Wellington) leads an Anglican diocese that is significantly bigger than the one Bishop Octavius Hadfield knew – there are, today, exactly 100 Anglican churches in the area, including St Paul’s Cathedral, on Hill St, as well 13 church-related schools, City Missions and other social service providers.

At regular points throughout the year, members of the diocese will make pilgrimages to sites of significance in the diocese. They’ll be honouring, says Bishop Brown, the mission represented in those places – and reflecting on how they may serve the region in the future:

“Celebrating 150 years as a Diocese is an opportunity to give thanks for what has been – and an opportunity to ready ourselves for the future.”


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