As part of its bicultural journey, Carey Baptist College has plans for a new centre for Māori learning, to be called Te Whare Oranga.1 It will be a multipurpose space with a key function being that of a marae and whare nui.2 We also expect that it will incorporate a combined office for the Kaihautū of Manatū Iriiri Māori3 and the Kaiārahi-Rangahau Māori of Carey Baptist College. In effect, it will be a new kind of meeting and teaching space for Carey and the Baptist Union, and a marae for our Baptist movement. It is a rare opportunity to develop a place that will alter the way we relate, teach and learn together. 

We have worked collaboratively with a Māori Christian architect4 to develop plans for Te Whare Oranga. We have also been working with a Māori Christian master carver on potential designs for the visual story that will grace the interior and exterior of Te Whare Oranga—the story of tāngata whenua and the coming of the gospel, of tāngata tiriti and the history of Baptists and our theological college. While we do have some funds allocated for this project, we do not have resources for the furnishings and carvings, which are a considerable part of the total cost (see end of article for details).

Some background about Carey’s bicultural journey

In 2013 Carey set the strategic priority of developing a bicultural focus in our leadership training, for the benefit of all cultures. At the time, the college had no Māori staff and no Māori courses, and an influx of Māori students had highlighted how ill-equipped we were to train them to minister in their community contexts. These students, wanting to be equipped for leadership as Māori, for and to Māori, provided much of the initial motivation for change. We turned to these students and their whānau and to Manatū Iriiri Māori for guidance. With their advice and consistent support, we began the bicultural journey.

Carey’s applied theology approach added further motivation for exploring biculturalism, bringing as it did a sharper focus on outworking the gospel in the local context. For example, examining the history of the gospel in Aotearoa highlighted the central role Christians played in the Treaty of Waitangi, causing us to seriously consider the implications for our contemporary Christian context. In particular, we asked what were our obligations to the treaty as Christians, as a Baptist movement and as a college? What then were our obligations to Māori generally and to our Māori students in particular?

Why is this journey important?

In attempting to answer these questions, we came to see the journey as an important expression of the Christian gospel in Aotearoa, for several reasons. Firstly, in light of our commitments under the treaty, we see this journey as a movement towards justice for Māori. Unfortunately, in New Zealand, for more than 170 years, one of the partners has been unjustly treated, oppressed and not able to flourish. Our biculturalism at Carey aims to redress the balance and allow Māori to flourish alongside all others at Carey.

Secondly, we see this journey as a witness to the reconciling power of the gospel of Christ, by which people of different cultures can learn, live and worship together without one culture assimilating the others.

Thirdly, we see this journey as a way to learn how to serve our Māori students and their communities better—for the benefit of all cultures. As we understand it, biculturalism benefits all people of every culture. It is a partnership between tāngata whenua (Māori, the people of the land) and tāngata tiriti (all other people who have a legitimate claim to be here because of the treaty). In Carey’s Te Ao Māori class,5 Alistair Reese described the partnership as being like a Christian marriage. In marriage, the partners love each other and work for the good of the other. As a result the whole family, and indeed the wider community, benefits. This is the type of biculturalism we seek at Carey.

Rather than biculturalism being seen as a destination, it is a journey, the goal of which is to travel well together. It is primarily about establishing, widening and deepening the relationships between tāngata whenua and tāngata tiriti at Carey.

Where are we at now in the journey?

In four years there have been many changes at Carey. We now have Māori on staff and as adjunct lecturers. Te Ao Māori is a compulsory class and Te Reo Māori is also taught on campus. We start each semester with a pōwhiri, and students and staff have learned a range of prayers and songs and can introduce themselves in te reo Māori. In this environment, our Māori students have flourished. In 2017, we had the best academic results for Māori since we started keeping records. It is still early days and we’re encouraged but want to ensure we keep the momentum going.

How can the wider Baptist movement contribute to Te Whare Oranga?

We would value financial support towards this project. Would you, for example, consider sponsoring a portion of the carver’s time to complete this work? It is highly-skilled, labour-intensive work that will take the best part of a year, and we need to ensure our Christian brother is compensated for his time and expertise. We are also looking for some very practical contributions to the Te Whare Oranga project. We would appreciate donations of old native timber planks for the interior design and native hardwood logs for the exterior carvings.

If you are able to donate native timber or contribute financially, please contact Carey Baptist College: Ph 09 525 4017 or email the reception.

Finally, we covet your prayers and ask that you would seek God on our behalf. Please pray that God will lead and guide each step of this development and that in it, he would be constantly honoured and glorified.

Story: Dr Sandy Kerr (Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa

Sandy is Kaiārahi-Rangahau Māori (Māori Research Guide) at Carey Baptist College.

References:

  1. Te Whare Oranga means the House of Wellbeing and Eternal Life. Oranga is the Māori name for the area where Carey is located. Oranga has multiple meanings including abundant life, holistic wellbeing, health.
  2. Meeting places that together form the focal points of community engagement, operating by Māori philosophies and values.
  3. Baptist Māori Ministries.
  4. Hutana Design Ltd.
  5. The class is open to anyone. In 2018 Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) will be taught on Monday afternoons and by distance.