More than 300 people gathered to celebrate the 175th anniversary of German settlement and the establishment of the Lutheran Church in New Zealand in Upper Moutere, near Nelson on the South Island, on 20 and 21 October.
The festival of commemorative events, displays and worship drew 254 registered participants from throughout New Zealand and Australia, and from as far away as Chicago in the United States – many of whom were descendants of the original German settlers. In addition, local people including children served as volunteers, while others from throughout Nelson Province visited the historical display and enjoyed the festive dinner.
The weekend also included the launch of the first New Zealand edition of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, funded by a gift from Whakatane Lutheran Church when it closed. Copies were distributed to those at the anniversary event and the Lutheran Church of New Zealand (LCNZ) hopes to have a copy in every Lutheran home in New Zealand.
The LCNZ’s display highlighted the history of the church which began with four missionaries who came to New Zealand from the North German Mission Society in Bremen in 1843. There were also displays on hops, flax, shipping lists, family stories and genealogies.
Anglican Archdeacon Harvey Ruru, an executive member of the New Zealand Māori Council, opened the celebrations, while other dignitaries who took part included the German Ambassador to New Zealand, Mr Gerhard Thiedemann, and his wife, Dr Marlies Thiedemann. Upper Moutere Lutheran Pastoral Leader Andy Marr was master of ceremonies and LCNZ Bishop Mark Whitfield was among the keynote speakers.
St Paul’s Lutheran Community Church overflowed with worshippers for the Sunday service led by Bishop Whitfield and LCA Bishop John Henderson. The service began with bell ringing and a Māori calling, accompanied by the blowing of the conch shell.
Participants said they were ‘thrilled’ to attend the anniversary celebrations, while others described the event as ‘enjoyable and informative’, ‘superb’ and ‘a magnificent weekend of celebration and thanksgiving’. Looking forward to the 200th anniversary, an organiser has already been found – Grace Werner, a great-great-great-granddaughter of Pastor Heine, the first Lutheran pastor in New Zealand.
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