A Catholic Monthly Magazine

New Zealand’s First Christmas Recalled

The Anglican Church, working with ecumenical partners, is planning extensive 2014 celebrations to mark the bicentenary of the first recorded proclamation of the Christian Gospel held in New Zealand, conducted by Reverend Samuel Marsden at Oihi Bay on 25 December 1814.

Two events  will take place at Rangihoua Heritage Park. The first on 21st December will be the formal commemoration attended by the Governor General who will also officially open the park.



The second on 25th December will be a Christmas Day service marking the bicentennial  of Marsden’s  sermon which occurred on the site where the Marsden Cross now stands.

The Marsden Cross

The Marsden Cross

The Marsden Cross was unveiled at Rangihoua, Oihi, in the Bay of Islands in March 1907 by the Governor General, Lord Plunket. The monument is a large Celtic stone cross with the inscription:

On Christmas Day, 1814
the first Christian Service in N.Z.
was held on this spot
by the Rev. Samuel Marsden.

The accuracy of this description has been questioned as Christian services were held in New Zealand before this date.

It is very likely that Father Paul-Antoine Léonard de Villefeix, a Dominican priest and ship’s chaplain on board Surville’s Saint Jean-Baptiste, conducted Mass on board ship in New Zealand waters in 1769.

London Missionary Society missionaries on their way to Tahiti were in New Zealand waters in 1805.

During the exploratory voyage of Thomas Kendall and William Hall to New Zealand in 1814 Kendall recorded that they had prayers on deck the first Sunday they were in New Zealand. One week later, on 18 June, Kendall read “the prayers of the Church” on board ship.

Thomas Kendall

Thomas Kendall

He commented that “Two or three chiefs were also with us, and the behaviour of the natives during Divine service was very decent and commendable. It was a new thing with them to see our way of worship and to hear of a day of rest from labour, and they seemed to enjoy the idea very much, service was very decent and commendable.”

The organisers of the commemoration have set up a website where you can track their plans as they develop; see

Source: Cathnews www.cathnews.co.nz

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