All Saints, All Souls or All Parihaka? Connecting Allhallowtide to Aotearoa

The following is essentially the sermon I gave at St George’s Anglican Church, Tauranga Moana, 5 November 2017

We have just had the observance of the Allhallowtide triduum from 31st of October to the 2nd of November. Those three days are individually known as All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Our church sets this time aside to thank God for the lives and deaths of all of His saints.

It bears some similarity to the Māori observance of Matariki in late June each year. Matariki in Tauranga Moana is the start of preparation of garden beds and seedlings for summer, signalled by the rising of Pleiades above the horizon at dawn. In mythological terms, it is also the time when all those who have passed on in the last year are gathered to the stars.

A time to remember and give thanks for those who have passed on. But whilst Matariki has gained increased prominence and interest in the last decade, All Saints Day and All Souls Day struggle to garner any attention as they are sandwiched between the celebration of Halloween and Guy Fawkes.

On one side Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is an old Christian celebration probably borrowed from an old European pagan celebration. It’s history is immense and contextual, but in Europe it marked the end of summer. As a whānau we haven’t observed Halloween, but the peer pressure on tamariki is immense now.

What’s not to love? Costumes, lollies and chocolate. The last thing they want to hear is boring historical context that the costumes were to confuse the spirits who arose to steal away the souls of the living, and the lollies a sacrifice to appease the hungry spirits.

On the other side, Guy Fawkes; the unfortunate bomber in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot who failed to blow up the Parliament and the King with his Catholic conspirators. So essentially an opportunity each year to make a mockery of the Papists. In celebration of the continued glorious reign of our monarch, between 200-300 New Zealanders put in ACC claims for injuries as a result of Guy Fawkes’ Day.

An important opportunity for reflection and contemplation, drowned out by advertising and fireworks. We shouldn’t be surprised of course; what relevance a European festival placed at the end of their summer in Aotearoa New Zealand when our attention has turned away from winter to the hope of summer. We need to ensure our church calendar speaks to who we are here if that calendar is to be a genuine rhythm for the people of faith who live here.

This is the opportunity presented to us in the story of Parihaka. A reflection on the suffering, death and eternal reward of followers of Christ that happened here in Aotearoa New Zealand and has been part of shaping our understanding of non-violence, faith and tāngata whenua.

We can start by returning to our reading today from Revelation 7:

‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;

for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Parihaka shelters beneath Taranaki maunga, facing the Tasman sea. Today it is a small settlement of whare and ruins on windswept plains. The Parihaka of the nineteenth century was something else all together.

After 1864, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, rangatira who had experience the growing war between the Crown and tangata whenua in Taranaki, grew in conviction that the path of war would lead to the loss of all for the Taranaki tribes. They sought a new path of unity, peace and restoration and took that vision inland to Parihaka in 1866. It was there they lead the Taranaki people in building a self-sustaining community of extensive gardens, modern architecture, careful town planning and regular community meetings.

Both men were missionary trained. Te Whiti had learnt and become a teacher under the tutelege of Reverend Johann Riemenschneider, a Reformed Protestant here with the Lutheran mission. In the 1860s Te Whiti and Tohu renegotiated the European church knowledge with their matauranga Māori and connected afresh with a God who joined them and their people in the trials and abuses of that era; the two men of deep faith called on Māori to forgo violence and division, a religious resistance to colonisation and Crown violence. Subsequently, people of many tribes came and joined them.

Much of Taranaki had been confiscated following the Taranaki wars. However the lands between the Waingongoro and Hangaatahua rivers were not included in the original confiscation, so Tohu and Te Whiti had every expectation those lands on which Parihaka was founded would be retained.

However, the Crown was deeply worried by their example of independence, and many members of Parliament were determined to end the community at Parihaka. So in 1879 their surveyors came and marked out the land for Pākehā farms and roading. The response of the people of Te Whiti and Tohu was non-violent resistance, beginning with ploughing at Okurukuru.

Every day the men would leave the pā, pull up the survey pegs, cut down the fences and plough their land anew. Every day those men would be arrested. Every day other men would come and take their place. It was in 1880 that the arrested men began to be transported away from Taranaki, to Wellington, to Christchurch, to Dunedin and to Hokitika where they were forced labour building the streets and foundations of the settlements. Men would be released, return to Parihaka and arrested again. Men from Parihaka were imprisoned without trial for the next 18 years, the last being released in 1898. Yet when the day came that all men had been arrested, the women continued their work.

Frustrated, the hawks in our Parliament prevailed and plans were drawn up to wipe Parihaka from the face of the earth. On the Fifth of November 1881, led by Native Affairs Minister Bryce, a contingent of 1,500 constabulary marched from their camp above the pā, arranged cannons on the small hill Pūrepo, and rode on horses towards Toroanui, where the people were meeting in the centre of the village.

As they entered, the children sung in welcome on the road, holding the raukura out before them. Forcing their way past, the constabulary rode in to be greeted by women with freshly baked bread for their guests. They found Te Whiti and Tohu exhorting their people to stand strong in their commitment to non-violence and to expect their hopes of peace to be realised. The two rangatira were arrested. For the next two weeks Parihaka was occupied. The constabulary evicted people from other tribes, tore down the houses and burnt them, destroyed the crops and chopped down the trees. They raped and assaulted the women left in the pā.

 

‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;

for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

It is difficult to find hope in the story of the sacking of Parihaka. The people who returned lived in make shift houses, many were arrested multiple times, the trauma and abuse led to divisions between the whānau of Tohu and Te Whiti. Parihaka is a heavy place to visit; to me it is a place for tears.

In our Aotearoa church, a connection between All Saints and All Souls and Parihaka brings reason and hope to this horror. Their suffering and death in Parihaka have inspired resistance overseas, notably the movement led by Mahtma Gandhi. Their suffering and death in Parihaka have inspired courageous leadership here in Aotearoa New Zealand, for example Andrew Judd, an ex-mayor of New Plymouth. Their suffering and death in Parihaka have inspired the courage to strive for peace; Parihaka is a central narrative in non-violence movements.

A church that wishes to be truly indigenous will form observances on the basis of the experiences of the whenua and its people, not attempt to supplant those experiences with exotic material.

So this year, as we mourn, contemplate and give thanks for those of people of faith who have gone before us, remember remember the Fifth of November. As a church, were we to commit to All Saints and All Souls being tied to Parihaka day, we transport Allhallowtide from Europe to the windswept plains of Taranaki, a narrative borne of pain in this land of Aotearoa, our own shattered fragment of the cross for us to contemplate right here.

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