He Mihi Aroha

Whakawhetai ki a Ihowa; he pai hoki ia, he pumau tonu hoki tana mahi tohu.
— Nga Waiata 118:1

Around 600 people braved heavy rain and the metal roads of Waiomatatini last Saturday to make the trek to Porourangi Whare in the heart of the Waiapu Valley to celebrate the ordination of Don Tamihere as the second bishop of Tairawhiti.

The wairua and theatre of the day, the outpouring of aroha and goodwill and the hard work and service of so many, alongside the sharing of stories and reflections since have been heartwarming and humbling.

It's a wairua of aroha and service that we want to honour and continue to carry forward with us. While words cannot entirely express the extent of our gratitude, we wanted to share the following thanks from Bishop Don to everyone who came, gave, and supported the kaupapa.

I want to thank everyone who made the effort to come out to Porourangi to help celebrate my ordination as bishop. I wasn’t able to catch up with you all but I want you to know just how truly grateful I am that you made the effort to travel so far and brave the elements to share the day with me and our people. I was adamant from the beginning that the day not be about me, some of which is inescapable, but that it be a celebration of our Church, our whakapapa, our beautiful whakapono and our people--us as a whanau. Everyone who turned up made that a reality for me. Thank you.

I want to express my aroha and thanks to all who worked behind the scenes to bring the day to fruition. I want to thank the whānau at Porourangi – all the cooks, all those who served tables and washed dishes, all those who setup and then packed away gear, and especially those who were there on the last day when everyone else had gone. To Aunty Mari, Ripeka, Susan, Kui, Ngarimu, Hone, Charles, Rongopai, Adrian, Isaac, and to all our cousins and tamariki who mopped, cleaned, and carried. E kore e mutu taku mihi aroha ki a koutou e te whanau. No marae in Ngāti Porou could function without people like you.

To all the whanau at each marae that hosted manuhiri, and to all those who transported chairs, tables, machinery, cooking gear and utensils; to all those who helped to shuttle visitors from Ruatoria, across the majestic Kai-inanga hill, and along the autobahns of Kakariki and Waiomatatini to Porourangi; to all those who took part in the powhiri and the service – and especially our kaikaranga, our kaikorero, and our kaitautoko; to the three ordaining bishops on the day, the liturgists, the kaikauwhau, the rest of the house of bishops and clergy, and all the whānau, hapū, iwi, and dignitaries that were represented there: thank you.

I was deeply humbled by all of the aroha & tautoko expressed on the day. I also want to note the extraordinary generosity of those who made special presentations during the service:

Firstly there were the convocation robes that were gifted by Bishop Andrew Hedge and the parishes of the Diocese of Waiapu. I am grateful for the connection that we share with the Diocese of Waiapu and to recieve those gifts in the Waiapu valley where the gospel was first preached in this region was even more special.

Then there was the greenstone pectoral cross that was gifted by Te Aitanga a Hauiti. This beautiful pounamu from the Arahura river, and the beatiful whakaaro behind it. I am humbled by this gift and cherish the connection made here.

Te Rohe o Te Matau a Maui followed with a gift of four stoles. Each stole is uniquely and beautifully made, and will continue to remind me of our hopes and dreams, and a united vision for the future.

A stunning episcopal ring was gifted by Te Rohe o Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, made from New Zealand gold and inset with a pounamu cross, a reminder for which I am grateful that as a bishop I must serve as an instrument of peace and reconciliation.

The cope and mitre, gifts from Te Rohe o Ngati Porou, embody my own whanau and hapu connections to Porourangi and to Kahungunu. They are immediately special to me for the beauty of their simplicity, and being laden with whakapapa and whakapono much like the tipuna they represent. Special thanks to Rob and Cilla Ruha, and to Emma Marino for providing their aroha and expertise in the design of these garments.

The crozier, or bishop’s staff, was a gift from the people of Turanga-Whangara Rohe. It was designed by Derek Lardelli and crafted at Toihoukura, School of Maori Visual Arts, and is a stunning piece of art. I am thankful for such a beautiful symbol and reminder of our Tairawhiti whakapapa as people of Maui Potiki, evoking the story of the fishing up of Te Ika-a-Maui, and Christ’s call to us to be fishers of people.

Later in the service there was space for more personal presentations that left me even more humbled. There were the pectoral crosses gifted by Bishop Peter Atkins, retired bishop of Waiapu (and the bishop who confirmed me when I was 12 years old), and Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley of Waikato. These were special gifts from two wonderful people and I thank them.

Then there was the beautiful korowai gifted by the people of Te Pariha o Tokomaru and Te Hokowhitu-a-Tu. This had added meaning for me as I spent some of my teenage years living in Tokomaru Bay, and still hold great affection for the place and the people.

There was the huge carving presented by Bishop Ngarahu Katene and the people of Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke. This brought tears to my eyes as the meaning of it was explained to me. It weaves so much of my own and my beautiful wife Temukisa’s story and whakapapa together, and speaks so much about the care and friendship that we have received from Bishop Ngarahu, his whānau, and his amorangi.

Then there were the taonga pounamu and the waka huia presented by Bishop Richard Wallace, his family, and Te Hui Amorangi o Te Waipounamu. My wife and each of our children – including our nephew who has been living with us for some years – were each presented with their own taonga. Each taonga had been carved from the exact same pounamu rock as the pectoral cross that was presented by Te Aitanga a Hauiti. The symbolism of this, and the aroha in which each member of my family was acknowledged, speaks volumes in my mind about Bishop Richard and his family. They are beautiful people.

Next were presentations on behalf of Loyola-Marymount University, Los Angeles, and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, led by Dr Daniel Smith-Christopher and Father Michael Cunningham. These friends, including Daniel’s wife Zsa Zsa, made the long trek from LA and stayed with us at Porourangi for several nights, mucking in with the whanau there. It was a joy to share the experience with such close friends.

Without diminishing the other gifts, all of which were special and humbling to receive, there were two gifts that held extra meaning for me. The first was the gift from the whanau of the late Archbishop Brown Turei – from his wife Mihi, and from their children and grandchildren who were present. I removed my mitre as a sign of love and respect for this family, and to show the deep gratitude I had for their support on this day. I wished more than anything that Archbishop Brown could have been there, but it was enough to hold the portrait of him that I had just been gifted. It reminds me still that I must remain a humble and faithful servant, just like he was.

The second gift came from the Tamihere whanau of Mataora – descendants like me of the Rev Aperahama Tataikoko Tamihere who was a priest in Ngati Porou in the early 1900s. Their tipuna, Hekiera Tamihere, was Aperahama’s eldest son. My tipuna Rewiti Tamihere, named after Aperahama’s friend Rev Rewiti Kohere, was the youngest son. It was enough for me that they were already there, making me feel proud to be a part of them. But when they presented their gift, I was completely blown away. What they brought was a bible that belonged to Rev Aperahama Tamihere – a bible that he owned and used when he was a priest. Being a biblical scholar and a priest has been my life’s passion and work so far. This gift means more to me than words can say.

To my "aunties and uncles" who have been constantly there, providing guidance and wise counsel - including Selwyn Parata, Maui Tangohau, Padre Bill Grey, and Rauhuia (Pi) Smith - and to all those who have surrounded us, supported us, prayed for us, and lifted us up with encouragement and kindness. May God bless you and your whanau with life, laughter, and happiness.

Lastly, but definitely not the least, to my beautiful wife, Temukisa, our "kids" Tiana, Dani, Toka, and Ethan; our brothers and sisters, extended whanau and close friends; I know, as it should be, our support for one another as a whanau goes without saying, but I will rightfully and humbly acknowledge it here: thank you.

In all things, We should never forget to give thanks to God, the source of all our blessings. As Ta Apirana said: "ko to wairua ki te Atua, nana nei nga mea katoa." Kia whakamoemititia te Atua, to tatou piringa, to tatou kaha.

No reira, ki a tatou katoa, e hika ma, nei ra te mihi aroha, te mihi nui rawa atu mo taku maringanui ki te tu hei pihopa mo te Tairawhiti. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.