A number of significant people in the history of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia are remembered individually in the Calendar, but there are many others, who by their faithful service and enthusiastic support, shaped the church that we have inherited. It began with those in the Church Missionary Society (CMS), whose work among Maori laid the foundations of Christianity among many of the tribes. That work lasted beyond 1840, although hindered by the wars of the 1860s. We must particularly remember the missionaries’ wives, who toiled and laboured often in extremely difficult positions alongside them. Maori themselves were vigorous evangelists among their own people, some giving their lives for their faith.
The inclusion of the Pacific Islands in the church goes right back to Bishop Selwyn’s time. Although the Anglican Church in Melanesia became a separate province in 1974, the association with the Diocese of Polynesia (founded in 1925, but with a long historical prelude) remains an important component of the church’s life.
The next major development were those who helped the formation of the church in the new settler colonies. People intent on establishing their familiar church in a new land, but without the English connection with the state. A focus as always was The Book of Common Prayer,(Te Rawiri). Along with that went the hymns and music of the Church of England.
The following generation was dominated by the work of establishing parishes and churches. Parishioners raised funds to erect buildings, mostly in the familiar Gothic revival style, they also provided equipment for the many activities of the church. An emerging significant movement was the Mothers’ Union, a product of the late 19th century concern for purity and godliness. It gave women a status otherwise denied them in the decision making processes of the time.
World War I, the Great Depression and World War II dominated the early part of the 20th century. A growing social concern was reflected in the work of the city missions in the major centres. Church youth benefited from important developments in Bible classes and in youth groups, a significant feature of many western countries from the 1920s on.
The post-war era saw a need to build a uniquely New Zealand (NZ) church, heeding the emerging strong voice of the Maori church, and the Pacific island peoples, addressing issues of cultural diversity. reflected in the church’s name: “The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia”. The charismatic movement brought a signifigant rivival though the 60's-70's. Jesus continues to nurture his Church through the sometimes difficult eddies of time, including now a presence globally online.
The Church no longer led by missionaries, sends missionaires of its own overseas. Through the decades the NZ Church has developed a distinctive style of its own among the churches of the Anglican Communion. We acknowledge today all those faithful witnesses gone before us, who gave, prayer, resources, faithful service, and sometimes their lives for Christ, and aided in the establishment of the Church.