Ngā Whare Karakia - St Clements Māori Anglican Church

Nov. 29, 2018, 7:34 p.m.

Ahipara is 14 km west of Kaitaia at the beginning of Te Oneroa-ā-Tōhē, Ninety Mile Beach. With Tauroa Peninsula to the west and the Herekino Forest is the east. Ahipara is situated in the rohe pōtae or tribal area of the people of Te Rarawa.

It was only in the mid 1800’s that the first European Missionaries came to the area and began to convert the local tangata whenua to Christianity. Māori people maintain that missionaries often shared the bible with one hand and encouraged the church and government of the time to steal Māori land with the other hand.

The Māori Anglican church in Ahipara stands as a testament to the courage and strength of kuia and kaumātua, tribal elders and haukāinga leaders to maintain a Māori world view while incorporating aspects of Christianity into their customs.

The church in Ahipara is named St Clements or Hato Keremeneta. It’s located on a historical pā site called Pukemiro. The church was built by tūpuna Inoka Tutangiora, Rapata Wharawhara, Kihirini Te Morenga and Te Rarawa kaumātua Mehana Nehemia Te Rau under the guidance of Richard Matthews the son of Joseph Matthews in 1874. Mehana Nehemia Te Rau later renamed himself Keremeneta as a tribute to the building of the churched. The local Māori community supported their tūpuna and the early missionaries complete the build.

The church building is the orignal structure but was renovated in the 1960s and continues to represents iwi and Māori language interests through its Māori services.

Surrounding the church is the urupā, a private Māori cemetery gazetted through the Māori Land Court for the purpose of burying members of the local hapū. The elaborate headstones of tribal members attract interest from art scholars, universities and students.

The church is closely linked to Roma Marae which is only 200 meters down the road. In the opposite direction, and on the other side of the ancestral mountain, Whangatauatia, is the Korou Kore marae which has tribal affiliations to both Te Aupōuri and Te Rarawa.

The church committee says maintaining Ahipara’s oldest building is a huge job for the Māori and it is currently in in a state of disrepair. The church committee has embarked on a crowdfunding exercise to raise money to revive and restore the building and ensure it’s ongoing survival.

The 1950s through to the 1970s saw the government relocate many Māori families from their tribal origins to the urban centers throughout New Zealand and the church committee would like to see a church restoration project reconnect members of Te Rarawa with identity and culture. 

To donate money to the restoration process, please follow the link: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/historical-church-restoration-project-st-clements

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