• Weekly Reflections Father Paul Wk 09 Term 4

    7 December, 2017

    I have a wonderful story from 203 years ago which has links to our College. The name Marsden is upon many lips each day at ASC. We have a boarding House with that name. It is named after the first Australian born Bishop – Samuel Marsden born just ‘down the road’ at O’Connell who, after an education across the seas in England returned in 1869 to be the first Bishop of Bathurst. It was he, along with Rev Thomas Smith and others who began All Saints’ College in 1874. But let’s go back further…Bishop Marsden’s grandfather was none other than the Rev’d Samuel Marsden, the second Chaplain to the Colony. He arrived in 1794 to replace the first chaplain, Richard Johnson.

    I want to focus on this Marsden – 1765-1838. He had a family, two of whom died and he was attentive to the indigenous population. Because of his knowledge of farming practices, he became quite affluent, but is better known as the Magistrate who was called the ‘flogging parson’. His affluence was put to good use as he was from the group of English evangelicals who wanted to bring the Christian message not only to this country but to the south pacific. To cut a long story short, through his wealth, Marsden purchased a sailing brig named the 'Active'. This stretched his finances but he had purchased it and manned it with the express purpose of bringing the message of Christ to New Zealand.

    I refer to a book published last year by David Pettett, who in the course of his research has found and read all of Marsden’s 135 extant sermons. Marsden and his family employed a Maori housekeeper named Ruatara. Such was the goodwill that when Marsden returned to England for a few months with his family he asked Ruatara to accompany them. During these years Marsden learnt Maori. There was a very divisive incident in the Bay of Islands which involved European maritime explorers and because of the animosity the Maoris killed and ate – yes ate the explorers. Marsden wanted to put forward a hand of reconciliation and friendship but this was to take five years. Marsden decided to anchor near where this act of barbarism had taken place, in the Bay of Islands in northern NZ. He chose the bay of Rangihoua to arrive and address the once warring tribes. Marsden’s now longtime friend and the crew landed and prepared an acre of grassland with overturned canoes as seats ready for the next day.

    Morgan, Jack: Oihi Bay, Christmas Day 1814; Samuel Marsden preaching the first sermon to the Māoris. [Auckland, Weekly News, 1964]

    On December 25 1814, Marsden came ashore and from a platform spoke on a verse which we hear each Christmas – Luke 2:10. ‘Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy'. Yes, it was a Christmas sermon and the first explanation of the message of Christ to the Maoris. This is a well-known and documented historical fact. 

    But there is more, David Pettett in his book proposes that Marsden addressed the natives who were listening IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE. That is why this act is part of Maori folk history.

    Marsden was to visit New Zealand at least 7 more times. He is known there, with great affection as the Apostle to the Maoris. Coincidentally one of our former Heads of College, Mrs Jenny Williams went from ASC in 2008 to Samuel Marsden College in Wellington, in the North Island. The Rev’d Samuel Marsden died in the Rectory at Windsor in 1838.

    Wishing you another deeply significant Christmas.
    Father Paul.


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