by JENNY McPHEE
More than 5000 believers across the city of Christchurch filled Horncastle Arena for Festival 200. The Festival celebrated the invitation in 1814 by Nga Puhi Chief Ruataha of Rangihaua Pa, to Reverend Samuel Marsden to share the Christian Christmas message, for the first time, on New Zealand soil .
Christians gathered to celebrate 200 years since December 25th 1814 at Oihi Bay, when Rev Marsden first read Luke 2 ‘ Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy’.
There was an air of expectation and excitement as people chatted and filed into their seats. If Christian Unity began with Ecumenical Church meetings, it was achieved in one night in Christchurch. People focused on Jesus and allowed the Holy Spirit to lead. Denominations faded, cultures and music blended into one voice of praise. Special “Youth Tickets” were available to book a separate place in the stadium to enable the young people to worship together. If a certain volume was expected from their section, it materialised as a quiet and powerful praise reflecting the awe of the occasion .
The evenings music was led by Grace Vineyard Pastor, Sam Harvey and Communicator Cindy Raukere. Cindy has travelled to many nations to encourage people to understand their true value and the gift of themselves. Her beautiful rendering of our National Anthem in both Maori and English, forms part of her album “Karakia”
From kapa haka led by first national qualifiers Nga Manu a Tane, to corporate prayer by believers from all over the city, and the story of the Kendall missionaries, as told in period costume by direct descendant, Laurel Rose Gregory, the night was a shared opportunity to celebrate and tell the story of our nation and our faith.
Festival 200 gave an opportunity for the churches to gather together in worship and thanksgiving. It was hosted by Te Raranga a city-wide expression of church unity which was birthed out of the earthquakes.What became clear in the aftermath of the quakes was a need to create a network of groups serving the city to allow new initiatives to emerge to promote communication and collaboration between groups. Permission was sought and granted by local Maori Leaders, to use the term Te Raranga , which was used to describe the weaving together of individuals, groups, and churches for the glory of God. While each strand retains its individuality and integrity, something stronger is created. The intention was to weave together what God was already doing within networks and denominations. Operating across different networks Te Raranga has developed strong relationships though the Churches Forum and The Neighbourhood Project with Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostal, Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Independents and network churches.
While unable to attend the Festival 200 due to duties outside Christchurch, both Catholic Bishop Barry Jones and Anglican Bishop Victoria Mathews were very supportive of “Invitation 200” and continue to have a strong relationship with Te Raranga.