Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Worship in Te Reo is a heart thing

Jade Hohaia reflects on how she felt when she realised her church was not going to embrace Te Reo Māori or Te Ao Māori in worship or in life.

Jade Hohaia  |  25 Nov 2020

I’m re-posting this post again. I took it down because, well, It’s a heart issue for me, it’s a tender topic & I had to check my heart first. But know this, I love the Lord, His church & my church - Im sharing simply because I know this is a national conversation to be had.This is my original story...condensed.

Yesterday in my church I heard some not so great comments being made about the use of te reo Māori, after the worship leader offered a brief mihi to God, to the Māori King and to the church.It didn't offend me, but I felt pouri to hear it.

My husband is a te reo Māori worship song writer, but he says “the church isn’t ready.” I think to myself, the Christian church has been in this land for 206 years - when will it be ready?On top of this, a few weeks ago he had invited a colleague to church. She came once but never returned.

When he asked why, she said “it’s just not me, I just don’t feel like its a safe space for me to be me, to be Māori.”This is the context for my pātai.What are we doing to create safe spaces for Māori and the reo in our churches? Is there a ‘glass ceiling’ in your church where the reo is capped?

How much Māori is too much? What are we doing to mirimiri (massage) the culture so that the reo can flourish in our congregations?If te reo Māori was a person, would she be well received in our churches in Aotearoa?

WHY are so many people afraid of te reo? WHY are so many offended by its use within the church? I know the tide is turning...but it feels like we have such a long way to go...What happened yesterday in my own church grieves me.

Because while I am mature in my faith enough to have grace, confront the culture (in love) and journey with the leadership in transformative solutions, if I happened to be someone else who had randomly just walked in off the street & heard and sensed what I did, I would probably have left mid-service, never to come back...I have many Māori Christian friends who don’t go to church for this very reason.

Perhaps it contributes to the reason as to why there are so few Māori in the pews today. There are a tonne of people outside of the church in Aotearoa that are anti-things-Māori, we as a church must have a different response. And I don’t believe it’s the job of the Māori that are in the church to shoulder the issue!That is the anguish for me. I long to see Aotearoa healed and set free! The whenua & her people. Yes, all people and all languages matter to God, but te reo Māori has a very special place in the context of THIS LAND.

And tangata whenua have a special part to play in advancing God’s Kingdom in THIS part of the world.

The broken Christian story in the nation has been most devestating & disheartening for Māori. God wants to rectify this. To restore it.

I long to see our churches in Aotearoa

1) embracing mana whenua

2) seeing Māori in church leadership positions to have decision-making influence, to drive cultural transformation & to exercise spiritual mandate specific to tribal regions

3) a place, platform and the development of a plan for the reo to be valued 4) time, space and energy given for intentional wānanga for people to grow in knowledge & understanding about Te Tiriti and bi-cultural kaupapa.

Heoi anō, that’s my story, my heart, my thoughts.

I will finish off by saying this, A dear friend and mentor of mine once said this:“Jade, I laid my hand on a Samoan man’s stomach tumour and prayed in English, nothing happened, but when I prayed in Māori my hand slowly went down as the tumour dissolved right before my eyes. The reo is a powerful weapon for the Lord. The very sound of it, the vibration, the release of it is a powerful thing.” - Uncle Monte Ohia.

I hope and I pray that one day te reo Māori (the reo embodied) can walk into a haahi, find a place to sit, to be, to belong and to hear the sound of her own reo being spoken back to her. For Te Rongopai (the gospel) to be shared with her. For indeed, when that day comes and she stands to karanga, kōrero, haka & waiata (alive & full of Wairua Tapu), when that day comes, all of hell will shudder, long standing disputes will be settled, territory will be relinquished, chains will come loose and prodigals will come home.

Na, ko te Ariki, ko te Wairua ia; ko te wahi i noho ai te Wairua o te Ariki, kei reira te tikanga herekore.