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

Hikoi to Kingitanga

This Sunday, the General Synod broke its mould. There was no cathedral service – instead there was a hikoi, to an ecumenical service in the heart of another world.
• Thousands turn out to Kingitanga 160th anniversary

Words: Lloyd Ashton. Pictures: Julanne Clarke-Morris.   |  07 May 2018  |

Sometimes just being together is better than talking intently about being together.

That's why, at 5am on Sunday morning, three busloads of sleepy General Synod members trundled out of New Plymouth, bound for an al fresco church service in Ngaruawahia, almost four hours away.

Then, as soon as that church service and the subsequent formalities were over, the General Synod members piled back into the coaches for the return journey to New Plymouth.

So what was all that about?

Well, today was the culmination of four days of celebrations to mark the 160th anniversary of the Kingitanga – which is the original, and still the pre-eminent Maori sovereignty movement.

And whereas Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pakeha committed themselves in 2014 to meeting together in full conference mode, every two years – this year, they decided to scrap that wananga, and go to Turangawaewae instead.

There was a compelling reason to do so. Last Saturday, of course, Archbishop Don Tamihere was installed at Manutuke marae as Pihopa o Aotearoa.

And for the first time ever the Maori King, Kingi Tuheitia made the effort to be at that installation. So there was no way Archbishop Don was not going to return the favour. He was going to be at the church service that celebrates that Kingitanga milestone, General Synod or not.

And when he suggested to the General Synod Standing Committee (GSSC) that might be an authentic wananga for the entire General Synod – in all its three tikanga glory – to make, GSSC jumped at the idea.

So that's why the General Synod members were on the bus at 5am this morning.


Their reward, in part, for their early rising was to hear Archbishop Don preach the kauwhau at that 160th ecumenical service.

He began his sermon with the first words of John's Gospel: "In the beginning" – and he mused upon the power and majesty of God's written and spoken Word, with which He ushered creation into existence, and with which Jesus resisted the temptations of Satan: "It is written. It is written. It is written."

Archbishop Don spoke of the Logos, or how "words make worlds" – and of the importance of 'hovering' in the divine creative act:

And the Spirit of the Lord hovered upon the face of the deep.

And God said: "let there be light.

In the beginning, the Word of God was there.

"Before God spoke," said Archbishop Don, "before He uttered a word, He hovered upon the face of the deep. You can tell people who don't hover before they speak."


In the view of the Rev Ngira Simmonds, who is the Anglican chaplain to the Kingitanga, there was "huge respect" shown today not only for the gesture by the General Synod to hikoi to Turangawaewae – but, and in particular, for the office of Te Pihopa o Aotearoa, and for the person holding it.

After the church service, the meeting flowed into a mihimihi with rangatira and leaders from Te Ao Maori paying their respects to the Kingitanga.

And to a man, they extended, explored, and rolled on their tongues in Maori oratory the words of Don's kauwhau.

Rahui Papa, who is Kingi Tuheitia's spokesman, dwelled on it. Te Kahautu Maxwell, who is both a Whakatohea rangatira, and leader in the Ringatu church, referred to Don as "my Archbishop." Other leaders, from different hahi, referred to the Pihopatanga as "Te Hahi Matua" – the first church.

Later, after the buses had begun trundling back to New Plymouth, the King and his invited guests went down to the river to watch the regatta - and this year, some 160 waka of all shapes and sizes, paddled past Turangawaewae.

Normally, the king reviews that flotilla, from a barge tethered to the river bank.

This year, he rode in one of those waka taua.

And the place of high honour, on that barge?

This Sunday, he gave that over to the new Pihopa o Aotearoa.


Here's an excerpt from Archbishop Don's sermon, where he talks about another beginning – the day in 1858 when Wiremu Tamihana came forward to crown the first Maori King, Potatau Te Wherowhero "not with a crown formed by the hands of men…

"Not a crown made of silver, not a crown made of gold – and not a crown made of that most precious material, pounamu.

"But a crown in the form of a Holy Bible.

"To be crowned with the Word of God... is a beautiful thing. And a powerful thing.

"To be given the gift of the Word of God is a gift beyond our imagining.

"Because words create worlds.

"Words shape destiny. Words can heal. Words can unite.  Words can change the lives of our whanau, our hapu, and our iwi.

"We must be careful before we speak.

"We must hover on the face of the waters.

"But when we do such a thing, we know that when we speak, we will not be speaking heat - we will be speaking light.

"Where else in the world is a king crowned with the Word of God?

"Queen Elizabeth, when she was crowned as Queen – she was handed the Word of God, and she held it in her hands.

"She was told that this object is of the greatest value from this world.

"She was told: 'Let its law lead you. Let its gospel guide you. Let it be the thing that defines your monarchy."

"And while it was placed in her hands – it was not the crown upon her head.


"And te whanau, if there's a message from this gospel for all of us, it's this…

"You need to watch your mouth.

"You need to be careful what you say.

"Because your words, like the Word of God, are powerful. 

"If speaking is the primary creative instrument of the God who created all the universe, and we are made in His image – then that same creative potential is within us all.

"When you speak, you can create – and you can bring light.

"But only if you speak the right words."