Unsung Methodist Personalities: Biographies from the history of New Zealand Methodism by Donald Phillipps

One in Spirit - Ratana and Weteriana

In his sermon at the ecumenical service at Waitangi this year, New Zealand Baptist Churches national leader Rev Craig Vernall paid a fine tribute to the spiritual leadership of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, which began in the years immediately after World War I.
 
A few days later, Trinity College students on their journey of discovery into Maori spirituality and the mission history at Whangaroa and Hokianga, visited the Ratana place of worship at Te Kao, on the road from Kaitaia to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga). There they had the privilege of hearing about the history of the Ratana Church from the local apotoro (apostle).
 
What may have surprised the students was to learn of the strong links that existed between TW Ratana and the Methodist Church, particularly when AJ Seamer was Home and Maori Missions superintendent.
 
At that time Rev Hapeta Renata was the Methodist Maori minister at Kaeo. Hapeta had been born at Waitetiki, Mongonui in 1866, the son of Renata Te Ngahuru and Mere Te Arahinganoa (nee Reone) of Ngapuhi.
 
Hapeta was educated at Peria and St Stephen’s College, and received on trial at the 1900 Conference. He served his probation at Kaeo from 1900 to 1915, and then returned there after a year at Raglan, 1915-1916. He was superintendent at Kaeo from 1908 onwards. His last year in the Methodist ministry was spent at Taheke, Hokianga, 1925-1926.
 
When Ratana’s mission started to develop, Arthur Seamer encouraged some of his home missionaries to work with Ratana. Since Seamer had himself been the minister at Kaeo when Hapeta was there, they would doubtless have worked closely together. It is even possible to imagine that Seamer’s knowledge of te reo and his commitment to working among Maori had been influenced by Hapeta, who was more than 10 years his senior in age. 
Hapeta became involved in Ratana’s work from the time of the 1919 influenza epidemic. After the trauma of World War I and then the high mortality of the influenza epidemic, people were looking for a faith to sustain them in their sufferings, both mental and physical.
 
For some mainstream churches, the emergence of a Maori spiritual leader engaging in faith-healing was something of a challenge but there was no real opposition so long as that support did not affect the Maori continuing as members of the traditional churches. It was Ratana’s healing ministry that attracted the interest of Hapeta Renata. 
 
Increasingly he worked personally with Ratana, becoming one of his leaders. When the Ratana Church was formally instituted, he was appointed one of the first apotoro. Arthur Seamer was also active at Ratana’s side at this time, to the point that he offered help to devise the new church’s constitution.
Hapeta doubtless had a hand in this significant task. All this led to his decision to voluntarily retire from the Methodist ministry during 1926 and to throw in his lot with Ratana. 
 
Later he helped Ratana write the Blue Book that is still used as a hymnal today. Hapeta and TW Ratana were both evangelists and revivalists, though Hapeta had no wish to be involved in the more political aspects of the Ratana Movement, as it developed in the period around 1930.
Nor was he committed to the building of the Romanesque style temples of the Ratana Church, such as that at Te Kao. Hapeta was, however, concerned about the issues surrounding land settlement, and was one of the original investigators of the ‘surplus lands’ in the Far North
 
He was nearly 90 when he died on July 7th 1955 at Omaunu, Kaeo. His wife, Harata Piake Riwhi, whom he had married in 1888, predeceased him by many years. She died in 1937. His life bears witness to a common cause, the ‘oneness of spirit’ that Weteriana and Ratana share.
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Hapeta Renata

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Last updated on 30 September 2020, 6:00 PM