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Maori and Missionary: Early Christian Missions in the South Island of New Zealand

Creed's Report to the London Mission Board for 1849–50

Creed's Report to the London Mission Board for 1849–50

“Dunedin, Otago.
July 13, 1850.

“The natives of Otago require more pastoral supervision than it is in my power to give them. In point of civilisation they are making great advancement…. They require great attention, lest we lose what we have already wrought amongst them. This district is rising in importance and presents claims on our attention of no ordinary character.

“Before the commencement of the New Edinburgh settlement, your missionary had paid his visits to the district, and every succeeding visit only the more fully impressed his mind with the necessity of immediate help in the neighbourhood. Many and incessant are their applications for ministerial duty. Tomorrow is the third Sabbath I have spent in Dunedin on this occasion. The police court so kindly proffered by A. C. Strode, Esq., Police Magistrate, in which the services are held, is crowded with attentive hearers. But how can they be attended to by one missionary?” Mr. Creed then writes page 125 regarding the difficulties of travelling over the Whakaari mountain range, which in winter is covered with snow and is often impassable, and urged a strong plea for an additional ordained minister who could administer all the ordinances of religion. The following pathetic incident is worth mentioning: “We were called upon to witness the last moments of a half-caste girl about fifteen years of age. I administered the Lord's Supper to her on Saturday. She died in peace. She was a Sunday school scholar and sought and found the Saviour.”

In his book, More Maoriland Adventures, Canon J. W. Stack gives an interesting picture of Otakou as he saw it in 1852:

“We got there (Otakou) late in the afternoon, and were received by the chiefs, Taiaroa, Karetai and Topi, and taken to a house close to the beach, where we remained for a few days…. When I looked round on my companions and noted their kindly and friendly behaviour to one another (Tamihana, Te Rauparaha's son, was present), I could not help thinking of the wonderful change that had taken place in the character of the New Zealanders. Twenty-five years before they were deadly enemies, and fought against one another at Kaiapohia…. The change in their attitude towards one another was due to their having embraced Christianity…. They had exchanged the vindictive heathen heart for the Christian heart—‘The new heart’, as the Maoris rightly called it. As we read, sang and prayed together that first night I spent with the Maoris on the shore of the Otago Heads, I realised what a bond of union and fellowship our Christian faith is between men of all ranks and races who accept it, and what transforming power it possesses when it can change ferocious cannibals into gentle and courteous Christians such as the people I was associating with.”

The above quotation shows how real and effective the teaching of Watkin and Creed had been, and how it had changed for good the character of the Maori people.

Early in 1853 Mr. Creed's ministry in Otago terminated and he was appointed to Wellington as a colleague of Mr. Watkin.

When Mr. Creed arrived in Otago he was a comparatively young man, 32 years of age. He had a strong physique and overflowed with energy, but the strain of the work, the constant travelling under difficult conditions, and the privations he endured, exhausted his vitality. Reluctant to leave the work he loved and for which he had given so much, his transference to Wellington was providential for his own sake.

As the time for removal drew near, Mr. Creed reported to London:

“From my past communications you have been informed of the widely dispersed and scattered state of the New Zealanders inhabiting the several districts of which this circuit is composed…. The page 126 natives are now in a transition state from heathenism to semicivilisation. A few are more advanced, but as a people, now is the difficult crisis with them. Will, then, incipient Christianity be able to withstand the insidious attacks of evil, disguised under a thousand forms?”

He continues: “In addition to the trying position in which the natives are placed by the great influx of Europeans to their various localities, there are men who call themselves Europeans and claim the name ‘Christian’ who themselves are deeply sunk in evil practices and most abominable wickedness. These men, reproved by the superior conduct of the New Zealander, strive to induce them to give up their religion, and live as they themselves are living. Not infrequently the seductive glass of grog is given as an additional motive to join them in their sins. This is not a solitary case … men of unsteady character are found in almost every native village…. I am not an alarmist, but wish to view things as they are. Christianity has indeed accomplished wonders amongst this people…. The musket and tomahawk have been laid aside for the spade and reaping hook … war songs have yielded to the songs of Zion, and assemblies for the purpose of worshipping the True God are established. The question is, not whether the Gospel has already been successful, but whether the precious seed sown, the springing plant of Grace, shall be destroyed by evil influences…. How great the work before your missionaries! … A circuit of above three hundred miles in length; running along the whole eastern coast of this island from the Kaikoura mountains to Foveaux Straits; intersected by rivers, harbours, etc., etc., make pastoral oversight extremely difficult.” He pleaded that “the great need was for larger staff of efficient Maori preachers and pastors.” At the same time, “the European settlers make constant appeals for the ordinances of the church.”

Mr. Creed's work was sadly hindered by the size of his charge, which made pastoral oversight difficult. There was not only the lack of additional missionaries, which was serious, but there was also the question of finance. The Wesleyan Mission Board had spent about £380,000 on Maori evangelisation in New Zealand, and then there were the claims of the South Sea Islands, Africa, the West Indies, India, and other fields. England was passing through a trade depression due to the Corn Laws of the forties; the famine and fever in Ireland, and the disturbed state of Europe generally. All this made the financial position of the Mission acute, but notwithstanding all impediments and difficulties, Charles Creed developed the work of his predecessor, and was able to pass on to his successor a well organised circuit. He “endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” His long, toilsome journeys, his having to sleep sometimes on the ground at night with no covering but his overcoat, the lack page 127 of proper food, wore down his iron constitution. He was a true pathfinder, worthy to take his place among the shining ranks of missionary heroes. It must be conceded by all candid minds open to conviction, that Creed and his predecessor, Watkin, paved the way more than has ever been recognised for the Scottish pioneers. The influence of these two missionaries, with their well balanced judgment, made possible the peaceable acquirement of valuable territory for European settlement. Watkin, whose influence with the Maori chiefs was very pronounced, several times prevented blood from being shed. Creed, and later Rev. G. Stannard, who had a forceful influence over Taiaroa, did much to prevent that chief (who was soured and dissatisfied with the land transaction) from attacking the early settlers, even though to attack them would mean disaster to himself.