The Diocese of Waiapu celebrated twin birthdays last Sunday – its own 150th, and the 150th anniversary of Christ Church Pukehou, the oldest church in the diocese.
So it was fitting and logical that the diocese began its year of thanksgiving in that wooden Gothic church which was built by Archdeacon Samuel Williams in 1859, and which has since become a symbol of central Hawkes Bay.
Up to 350 people from the length and breadth of the far-flung diocese rolled up on a sweltering Hawkes Bay afternoon for the service – whose high point was the dedication of a new stained-glass window in the south side of the Christ Church nave.
This window, designed and crafted by North Canterbury artist Graham Stewart, takes as its central motif the cross recently carved by the Gisborne artist Andrew Gordon.
This wooden cross, dedicated only last year but already a diocesan icon, evokes flax leaves, the Palm Sunday cross and the promise of new life – which, in the case of the new stained-glass window at Christ Church Pukehou, is also represented by a river, in a diocese that takes its name from a river.
You don’t have to peer too closely at that new window to see other potent images. At the foot of the window are oak leaves and acorns (which speak of the early Pakeha settlers); while aute leaves (from which the nearby Maori boys’ college takes its name) acknowledge the region’s earliest ancestors, who brought that tree from Polynesia.
And in the dynamic graphic style pioneered last century by the Dutch artist M C Escher, the leaves at the foot of the window seem to change with the seasons, ever-so-gradually metamorphosing into the doves that top the window…
Sir Paul Reeves – who came to prominence in this country in 1971 when, at the age of 38, he was chosen as the 10th Bishop of Waiapu – preached the anniversary sermon, and two other bishops co-presided at the Eucharist: Archbishop Brown Turei, the leader of Tikanga Maori and Pihopa o te Tai Rawhiti, the Maori tribal region that includes the Hawkes Bay – and the new, 15th Bishop of Waiapu, the Rt Rev David Rice.
A couple of other bishops were also in attendance. There was Murray Mills, Bishop of Waiapu from 1991 to 2002; and Bishop Bear, who looked suitably splendid in cope, mitre and spectacles, who maintained a dignified silence throughout the proceedings, as bishops are sometimes inclined to do – but about whose Episcopal ordination some trifling questions may remain.
Bishop Bear, in fact, is a suitably attired teddy bear who’ll be travelling around the diocese this year, taking part in children’s programmes. He (we’ll assume that Bishop Bear is a he) will pack a diary in his kitbag, and a record – in words and pictures – of his Episcopal travels and those children’s events will form part of the Waiapu sesquicentennial story.
Bishop Bear was one of a number of gifts presented and blessed during the service, and those gifts will also travel around the diocese for display at anniversary services.
These include a model of Andrew Gordon’s large 2008 carving (the original of which is at Waerenga-a-Hika, near Gisborne, where Bishop William Williams established the Waiapu diocese in 1859); an 1852 edition of the Bible in te reo Maori which had belonged to Kate Williams (William Williams’ daughter) who was killed in Napier’s cathedral when it collapsed during 1931 earthquake; and a silver chalice remade from silver salvaged from the ruins of that fallen cathedral.
About 200 people squeezed into Christ Church Pukehou for the sesquicentennial service, and a further 150 folk watched the relayed proceedings on a TV monitor in the next-door Pukehou Marae.
When the church service was complete, the congregation moved down the road to Te Aute College which Samuel Williams set up in 1854.
A powhiri was held at the college; the Te Aute boys then laid on a rousing haka performance, and the welcome was completed with a hakari, or feast, in the college wharekai.
Last weekend’s events mark the beginning of a year of celebrations and thanksgiving for the diocese, and further events are scheduled throughout the diocese, throughout this year of special celebration.