On the night of the 18th of February 2011 students of St John’s theological college sat down in Owae Marae at Waitara and began a journey together than delved into the depths of cultural, spiritual and historical realities. Since then, we have been asked to reflect on this time and this essay is a report on the group discussion that came out of that. Within it, due to size constraints, a select number of issues, feelings and realities reported as being experienced that night will be addressed with reference to cultural identity, conceptions and ideals. These will be explored, primarily, through the events of the Karakia, the Korero and from there, the subject matter with which these dealt.
Before looking further at these events and subjects in depth, it is important that a greater sense of the occasion is given and the particular focus of our group discussion, and so this report, is identified. The scope of our discussion lay, broadly, within three key events. The first of these was the Karakia, or prayers, led by the Tangata Whenua and a local priest, which brought us, as a community, back together after free time following dinner. Immediately after this was a presentation and Korero by Bishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki, and Archdeacon Tiki Tuturangi Raumati. Both speakers explored the history of the Taranaki, specifically the land wars of the late nineteenth century and the settler/Maori relations that led up to and resulted from that time, as well as the Anglican Church’s involvement in it. These presentations then led into our third key area, which centered on the discussion of the ways the Church is now, and could in the future address its own history, both in Taranaki and globally. The focus of our group discussion, as was the case with the Korero at the Marae, ended with the ringing of the bell for supper late that evening.
The first event within the evening at Owae Marae discussed by our group was the ‘Karakia’, or prayers. It became clear that, from a Maori perspective, this action in itself was of huge cultural importance as it reflected upon the tradition of Maori speakers acknowledging Atua, or God, before beginning their korero. This is a viewpoint reinforced by Father Henare Tate in his article ‘Stepping into Maori Spirituality where he addresses this act as part of ‘Tika’, or right practice/relationship . Through this act, it was discussed in our group, we were joined through our ‘whanaungatanga’, or shared lineage to Atua, creating a greater sense of community and fellowship for the korero that was to follow. This ‘uniting’ through prayer is similarly reflected in the words preceding Family Prayer in ‘A New Zealand Prayer Book, He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa ’, which gives reference to the way in which Pakeha have traditionally understood this action.
Following the Karakia that evening, Bishop Richardson began a presentation on the history of the area in which we were staying. This korero, or talk,...