Letters from New Zealand 1857-1911
Christchurch, October 20th
Now for my last few months in Westland, a very busy and somewhat trying time, occupied in visiting every church centre, and taking farewell of the people and the congregations. This meant special services and social Meetings, and the personal visitation of scores of families; business meetings with churchwardens and vestries, so that everything connected with Church finance should be in good order for my successor. It is a great satisfaction to me to be able to leave everything for him, so that he will have churches and buildings almost entirely free of debt, and parochial work well organized.
All this business of farewell culminated in Hokitika; special services in All Saints on my last Sunday; with a great gathering of school children, teachers, and parents, in the afternoon. Valuable gifts were presented by the Day and Sunday School, and an address from them, of which I am tempted to quote a few of its simple and touching words: "We assure you we love our Church and School, and shall never forget your kindliness and patience in teaching us the Word of Truth, and the happy hours you have spent with us in our amusements and pleasures." On Monday evening the church was crowded for an informal service, followed by a farewell, every church in the district having sent a deputation from its congregation, to present an address. Amongst them there were nine Maories from the Church of St. Paul at Arahura, whose address in Maori was translated, for those present, by Mr. Greenwood, the native Commissioner, as I give it;page 190
"Go forth in the ways of the Gospel, and in Peace.
Thou who was't called to take the oversight of the Pakehas and Maories in Westland.
Although thou art going afar off to another place, thou wilt not be forgotten by us.
For thou hast gone in and out amongst us for so long.
And now abideth Faith, Hope and Charity;
But the greatest of these is Charity."
Then came the presentation of an illuminated address, containing signatures of the church officers of every church in the Archdeaconry, and amongst many words of kindest sympathy, some which I can never forget, such as: "our deep sense of the value of your efforts for the religious education of our children; … you have won the attachment of the young, the love of the poor, and the affection and respect of all." After the meeting an adjournment was made to the Town Hall, which was crowded to the doors. The Mayor of Hokitika was in the chair; an address from the citizens of Hokitika, and on behalf of the whole district of Westland, was presented, with especial reference to work done in the Hospital, and for the Benevolent and Literary Societies. Together with these there was a large sum of money, part of it to be expended in silver plate. You can understand my difficulty in replying, and bidding them good-bye.
That night, as a very early start by coach in the morning was necessary, my choir boys came to the house, to sleep on the floor as best they could, so as to be ready at 5 a.m. to convoy me and my luggage to the coach. There were many people in the street; a lovely spring morning, and as I got up on to the box seat, their farewell cheers startled the horses and page 191sent them off at a furious gallop. At the outskirts of the town the driver steadied his team, and, seeing a man running towards us by a side track, through the trees, said: "I will pull them up; that's Bill—he wants to say good-bye; he couldn't be there last night." He came up, gripped my hand, and, with scant breath, said, "God be with you; I've been praying for you at the Throne of Grace." "He means that," was the driver's comment.
I have been in Christchurch, resting, and preparing for my new work in South Canterbury, probably quite unlike my past experience. "How do you feel about it?" said a friend. "You've had a great time of it over there," pointing to the mountain ranges. "Somehow," I replied, "as if the romance of life was past."
H. W. H.