Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pasifika Churches in South Auckland

The church forms an important part of the life of many Pasifika communities. Over recent decades the streetscapes in many parts of South Auckland have been enhanced by the addition of large new churches serving Pacific Island congregations.

Some of these churches make striking architectural statements. For instance, in the Ormiston Road Tongan Methodist Church, architect George Moala used both traditional Tongan forms and traditional materials such as coconut fibre. Expert Tongan craftsmen were brought in to help with the work. The church was opened in June 1990.

Ref: Footprints 03324, interior, Tongan Methodist Church, Otara, 1990, photograph reproduced by permission of Fairfax Media, South Auckland Research Centre
Almost all of the mainstream and many of the smaller denominations are represented by thriving Pacific Island congregations. Some South Auckland churches hold their Sunday services in 3 or 4 different languages.

Ref: Footprints 03313, New home for church, Otara, 1990, photograph reproduced by permission of Fairfax Media, South Auckland Research Centre
Some people may find the names of some denominations unfamiliar, as exemplified by the photograph below:

Ref: Footprints 01634, Ekelesia F’apototoga Kerisiano Amerika Samoa (Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa)  Wiri, 1985, photograph reproduced by permission of Fairfax Media, South Auckland Research Centre
At least two national churches run their affairs in full partnership with their Pacific Island members. Since 1992 the Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand has had 3 equal partners: Tikanga Pakeha, Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pasefika. In July 2013 the Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church (PIPC) of New Zealand became an autonomous and equal partner within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Another kind of partnership has been demonstrated by the Manukau Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church. In 1992 this bought the buildings of the former Orphan Home (aka St John’s) in Wyllie Road, Papatoetoe. The church has since established an auditorium and built a manse in the grounds, but otherwise left the old heritage buildings intact.

Ref: Footprints 02142, Former Orphan Home, Papatoetoe, 2005, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Papatoetoe Historical Society, South Auckland Research Centre
Want to find out more about our Pasifika churches? There are occasional articles in the local press, and some congregations maintain their own websites. Unfortunately, few have yet had time to publish their stories. One exception comes from 'Mangere: the History of the Mangere Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church: The First 35 Years' (2007), which can be accessed through Auckland Libraries.

Author: Bruce Ringer, South Auckland Research Centre

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