The church in New Zealand’s North Island is a tranquil, family-run sanctuary, a place where people come together for an hour-long service and where the parish priest’s favourite song plays in the background.
“When the music is on, it feels like the whole family is there, and it’s so beautiful,” says Reverend James Cairns, who runs the parish.
“It’s a peaceful place to come and talk and feel loved.”
The church is located in the small, pastoral village of Lake Cottesloe in the Waikato region.
Cairn’s parish, however, is not the only one offering a pastoral presence to its members.
“I love that there are people from all over the country and around the world coming to church and meeting each other,” says Cairnes.
They come from all walks of life and have a wonderful sense of community.” “
The people we have here, they’re just like us.
They come from all walks of life and have a wonderful sense of community.”
The community has long held a place in the hearts of the Waiteri people, a group of indigenous Maori people from the north-west of New Zealand.
“They are one of the most remarkable communities in the world,” says David Waugh, a Waiterite elder from Waikatipu who has been a priest for about 25 years.
I’ve also had the opportunity to visit and talk to people from other communities who are also involved in the church.” “
In my experience, I’ve seen people come from far away to see the church.
I’ve also had the opportunity to visit and talk to people from other communities who are also involved in the church.”
The Waiterites are a unique group, with a deep history of living in harmony with nature.
The tribe was founded in 1788 and still retains a strong sense of traditional values.
“We are a very spiritual people and we do our best to honour our traditions,” says Waugh.
In addition to worship services, the church has been providing pastoral care to its parishioners since it opened its doors in 2007. “
But we also have to be aware that we live in a world where technology is affecting our relationship with the earth, so it’s important that we have this kind of connection with nature as well.”
In addition to worship services, the church has been providing pastoral care to its parishioners since it opened its doors in 2007.
“Our aim is to give people the strength to live a life of faith, to live for the land, and to do the things that will make the world better for everyone,” says John Stapleton, the pastor of the church, who has also worked as a teacher.
“This is something that we’re proud to be involved in, and I believe it’s really a good thing to do.”
Cairnis says that the church is also in the midst of a major revamp, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
“What we’re doing is rebuilding the church and building a more vibrant church,” he says.
“Everything is going in the right direction, we’re moving the parish to a bigger, modern building, and we’re working on making it a place that people can come and worship together.”
For those who can’t make it to the church for its services, a community meeting place is also being established in the nearby village of Stow.
“If we can find a place to host people, it’s a great place to be,” says Staplette.
“You can walk up and down the hill and have coffee and eat a sandwich.”
The priest’s church is just one example of a growing number of spiritual, community-based services offering a welcome home to those seeking a spiritual and healing connection to the land.
The Waiti people have long known of the benefits of meeting in nature, but many others are also coming to see what that can mean for the environment.
“A lot of people who live in New York City and Los Angeles, they don’t go to church, they go to museums,” says Gwynn, the Waiteite elder.
They don’t realise that this is something we have been doing for millennia.” “
People don’t know about it in the way they used to.
They don’t realise that this is something we have been doing for millennia.”
The Reverend says the Waittiri community has a deep connection with the land and is aware of the challenges faced by the Maori community.
“For many Maori, the idea of being a land-based community is something they’ve never experienced before,” he said.
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And we have a responsibility as a people to save our land.”
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