Archbishop David Moxon preached his last sermon in Taranaki yesterday, before leaving to take up his high-ranking job in Rome.
And he couldn’t have picked a more poignant time to do it.
Archbishop David was among the clergy visiting for a ceremony to rehouse important but controversial historical military art to a less conspicuous part of Taranaki Cathedral.
For several years Archbishop Moxon was the bishop of both Taranaki and Waikato, and 20 years ago he raised the issue of moving the 17 hand-painted military coats of arms, or hatchments, from the main area of St Mary's Cathedral to less “in your face” places in the chancel and vestry.
The hatchments, which were painted between 1878 and 1909, honour the colonial soldiers, and the “friendly Maoris” – but they were lopsided in their acknowledgment.
They pay no heed to Maori who resisted the colonial onslaught, and who suffered and died on that account. As a result, many Maori have, till this day, given St Mary’s a wide berth.
Archbishop David was pleased to see the hatchments finally housed in an appropriate part of the church.
"It's a wonderful moment in history, it's a very wise and fair result and it's balanced."
During the service the congregation passed the hatchments from hand to hand to their new location, ending 40 years of discussion about whether symbols of discord and war between Maori and Pakeha should hang on the walls of a church.
Explanatory panels accompanying the hatchments in their new space will tell how Archdeacon Phillip Walsh gave them to the parish as tributes to the fallen British soldiers in the New Zealand land wars.
Dean Jamie Allen said the relocation of the art was one of the most poignant spiritual moments he had experienced, and he had found it difficult to speak.
"It was profoundly moving.
"There was an incredible sense of God in the building."
Dean Jamie Allen said he was thrilled with the number of people who had taken part.
"It was a remarkable turnout from so many parts of the community," he said.
As well as Archbishop Moxon, Archbishop Brown Turei - Te Pihopa o Aotearoa - plus other clergy leaders, iwi representatives and kaumatua, retired servicemen, the Minister of Treaty Settlements Chris Finlayson, Taranaki politicians and other community leaders all attended the service, which lasted about two hours.