My dear Brethren,
It is a cause for much thankfulness that we are permitted to meet together for this our third Session, in times of peculiar trouble and disquiet. Our numbers to day are not equal to those of our last Synod, but considering the state of the country, they are sufficient to give us an assurance, that a lively interest continues to be taken in this part of our constitution, which in more favourable times will expand and be productive of good.
The native Church in New Zealand is at this period like a vessel tossed by the violence of the storm. One part after another of our gear has given way, some of our sails are shattered, our rigging is strained, and our ship is leaky; but Christ is with us in the vessel, and we have the assurance that, all power is given to Him, in heaven and in earth, and that He is with his disciples even unto the end of the world. He is watching over the troubles, which are now pressing upon us, and will not suffer His Church to be brought to desolation.
I have first to notice a departure from the arrangement made at our last Synod, that our next meeting should be held at Tauranga. You are all aware of the painful circumstances, which have made this change necessary; that an unhappy war is now raging at Waikato, and that the natives of Tauranga have become involved in this contest.
This disquiet has extended to various parts of the diocese, particularly to the Bay of Plenty and to Waiapu; but there are other districts which have wisely kept aloof from this contest. Those tribes are desiring to live in peace and quietness. But still the effect of war, though at a distance, is to produce excitement. Among the tribes which have been drawn into this contest, the attention to religious duties is well nigh suspended, while others, who have not taken part in it, become careless and lukewarm under the distracting influence of reports from the seat of war. As members of the Church of Christ, it is our privilege to pray, that God, who alone can order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, will so direct and overrule the events, which are now passing, that they may tend to the establishment of a lasting peace among us, and to the ultimate growth of true religion.
I proceed to mention in order, the different localities of this Diocese, and will endeavour to describe the present state of each.page 30
Tauranga lies at the western boundary, and the people of that place have a long established connexion with Ngatihaua, and the rest of Waikato. It is not a matter of surprise therefore, that they should at once unite their fortunes with those of Tamihana Te Waharoa. They did this at the commencement of hostilities, and a large proportion of the men went at once to Waikato, and in the month of July, information was received at Tauranga, from which it appeared to be necessary that, the English families should at once remove to Auckland. The Central School had been proceeding with much satisfaction. The numbers were gradually increasing, and there was a growing confidence on the part of the natives. But all had now to be given up, and possibly may not be renewed. The Rev. C. Baker is still in Auckland; the Rev. E. B. Clarke has removed to Turanga, but the Ven. Archdeacon Brown has returned to Tauranga, to watch the issue of events. The whole district is in a state of confusion, which is the necessary consequence of war, and nothing remains but to wait for openings of usefulness, which God may place before him. On the 22nd. of January a body of troops was landed at Tauranga, to co-operate with the General at Waikato, and it is impossible to know how these movements may influence the future.
At Maketu and at Rotorua the natives are quiet, and the Rev. S. M. Spencer, and the Rev. Ihaia Te Ahu are able to continue their work.
The Rev. C. S. Volkner reported some months ago that, the natives of Opotiki had determined to take no part in the war, and were quietly following their ordinary vocations. A good boarded church had been completed, and the benefit was beginning to be felt. It has been lately reported that a large number have been induced to join the natives of Waikato.
At Waiapu there is a division of feeling. About two years ago, a small party of dissatisfied persons, without any grievance to complain of, and having no natural connexion with the western part of the island, opened a communication with the king party at Waikato, and in August last a body of 45 went over to join in the contest. Since that time a few have returned, accompanied by some emissaries from Waikato; their object being to promote a hostile feeling, and now another party, amounting in all to 70 have left for the seat of war. The king party has shown a very hostile feeling towards those natives who do not join with them. There is consequently a great declension in religious feeling; and as it is observed in land that is impoverished, that ill weeds will freely grow, so has it been with those natives. As the party was returning from Waikato, they were followed by a Romish priest from Opotiki, who has been endeavouring to attach himself to them, and to implant his noxious doctrines among them.
The inner part of Wairoa has united with the natives of the interior at Ruatahuna, and it is said that they have made up a page 31large contingent for Waikato. But all the [gap — reason: illegible]ter part of Wairoa, with the tribes living on the coast both north and south, have refused to join this movement. The Rev. James Hamlin has again returned to that district, and now, in his advancing years, he has the satisfaction of having his former pupil, the Rev. Tamihana Huata, as his fellow labourer in the work. A substantial boarded church has been erected near the mouth of the river at the cost of the natives, which was opened for Divine service in June last.
Trinity church at Turanga, which had been, long in progress, was opened on the 19th. of April of last year. There was a large gathering on the occasion from various parts of the Diocese, and also from Ahuriri and Waikato. It was a glorious sight to witness about 1400 persons within the building, while many were left outside for want of room. Many doubtless were only formal worshippers, but there were also many of the children of God, who worship Him in spirit and in truth. A collection was made on this occasion for the endowment of the Bishoprick which amounted to £332.
An important meeting followed, which occupied two days. There was on the part of many a wish to deliberate about the position of the native tribes. They had serious forebodings that evil was at hand. The question was how it should be met. Those belonging to the king party proposed that all should be united under a maori king, but the opinion which prevailed in the meeting was, that the only practical bond of union is that, which is under Christ as our head. It is the Gospel, to which the christian has to look as the cure of all evils. It is under its influence that the day is coming, when they shall beat their swords into p oughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
While most of the Central Schools have been of late suspended, that at Turanga has met with no hindrance. The number resident is about 120, and it is hoped that, by God's blessing, its operations may continue to prosper.
The sums collected during the year for local endowment amount to £211. 17. 6, which together with the collection for the Bishoprick Endowment Fund, gives a total of £543. 18. 9. The Committee of the Church Missionary Society, in its desire to promote the establishment of the Native Church, has with great liberality given another donation of £500, out of a portion of its Jubilee Fund, which was long ago appropriated to this object. This is in addition to £450 given last year. At the same time it was stated that this is the last grant from that quarter.
Another sum of £25 has been presented by the Juvenile Missionary Association of Campbell Street, Hobart Town, through the hands of F. H. Piesse Esq. towards the support of native clergymen.page 32
A general statement of the Endowment Fund will be laid before the Synod by the Standing Committee.
A Resolution was passed at the last Synod, recognizing the district of Tokomaru as a parish. On October 4th. Matiaha Pahewa was admitted to Deacons orders, and was soon after located at that place.
There are other districts in this Diocese very desirous of having ministers of their own, and the only reason for delay is, that the endowment fund has not been completed. It is a good sign when this wish is found to exist, and we look for an increase of it, when it may please God that peace shall be restored to us. Let us pray that our troubles may speedily be brought to an end. We look to Him who holdeth all things in the hollow of his hand, who, if He speak to the troubled sea, will cause that there shall be a great calm.
And while we are anxious for the welfare of the native church, let us remember our neighbours of the Melanesian Islands. God has promised that those who water others shall be watered also themselves. That work goes on and prospers; let us continue to share in it, though it may be to a small degree, that we and they may be blessed together.
We now proceed with the business which may come before us. It is the work of God, upon which we are employed, and we cannot doubt that in the end it will prosper, for the Lord of Hosts is with us, and the God of Jacob is our refuge.