Feast of Frederick Augustus Bennett (May 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of New Zealand

Image in the Public Domain

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FREDERICK AUGUSTUS BENNETT (NOVEMBER 15, 1871-SEPTEMBER 16, 1950)

First Maori Anglican Bishop in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Also known as Ngati Whakaue

Bishop Frederick Augustus Bennett/Ngati Whakaue comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia.

Bennett, born in Ohinemutu, Lake Rotorua, on November 15, 1871, had a dual heritage.  His father was Thomas Jackson Bennett, an Irish immigrant and a storekeeper.  Our saint’s mother was Raiha Ratete (also known as Eliza Rogers), a Maori.

Bennett grew up in the Anglican Church.  He, a pupil at Native Schools, became the secretary of the temperance society at Lake Tarawera when he was 14 years old.  Our saint, further educated at the cathedral school in Nelson then at Nelson College, sang in the choir at the cathedral and taught Sunday School.

Bennett became a clergyman.  He, a lay reader at Putiki, Wanganui, starting in 1893, raised funds for a school at that place.  In late 1895 he returned to Nelson to continue his studies.  Our saint became a deacon in 1896 then a priest the following year.  His first assignment was an assistant at All Saints’ Church, Nelson.  He organized the choral singing there.  Our saint also built a church in Motueka and a school at Whangarae Bay, Croisilles Harbour.  He also became active in the Te Aute College Students’ Association (forerunner of the Young Maori Party) in the 1890s, for the spiritual, physical, social, and intellectual condition of his people concerned him.

Bennett married twice and had nineteen children.  His first wife, from May 11, 1899, to August 1909, was Hana Te Unuhi Mere Paaka, also known as Hannah Mary Park.  The couple had three sons and two daughters.  Hana died in August 1909.  Our saint married Arihia Rangioue Pakiha on December 14, 1911.  They had fourteen children lived to adulthood.

Bennett and Hana served in Bell Block, Taranaki, until 1905.  Our saint raised funds for a mission center and opened the first native school in the area.  He also cooperated with Minister of Native Affairs James Carroll to pass the Licensing Acts Amendment Act (1904), to ban the sale of alcohol to Maori for consumption away from licensed areas.  The time Bennett devoted to this effort displeased his superiors in the diocese.  He resigned.

Bennett served as the superintendent of the Maori mission, Roturua, from 1905 to 1917.  His territory extended from Roturua to Taupo to Tokaanu, all on the North Island.  Our saint raised funds for the construction of church buildings and recruited ministerial students.  Bennett also resisted official violations of indigenous rights.  He defended the right of student Manihera Tumatahi to fish (without getting fined) on Manihera Tumatahi’s parents’ property in 1907.  Who owned the lake bed?  Eventually, in 1922, the government of New Zealand agreed to pay Maori owners an annuity, and placed the Arawa District Trust Board in charge of the funds.  Bennett served in Hawke’s Bay from 1917 to 1928.  His mission area extended from Waipatu to Nuhaka, also on the North Island.  Our saint, a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Waiapu, published many Maori-language periodicals and pamphlets.

T. W. Ratana (1873-1939) posed a challenge to Anglican missionary work among the Maori.  In 1918, during the global Spanish Influenza pandemic, Ratana, a faith healer and political activist, confronted Western imperialist arrogance.  The Anglican Church supported Ratana until 1925, when he founded the Ratana Established Church of New Zealand (Te Haahi Ratana).  The Anglican Church responded to Ratana by installiing Bennett as the first Maori bishop, in 1928.

Bennett was the First Bishop of Aotearoa, an assistant to the Bishop of Waiapu. On December 2, 1928, our saint assumed his new duties.  He, unlike other bishops, had no territorial jurisdiction.  He did not even have the right to minister in all dioceses in New Zealand, for some bishops preferred to keep their Maori missions in-house.

Bishop Bennett remained faithful and busy.  He continued to combat alcoholism in the Maori population.  Our saint also participated in the translation of the Bible into Maori, preached at Westminster Abbey during the Lambeth Conference of 1948, and attended the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches (1948).

Our saint died at home, in Kohupatiki, Hawke’s Bay, on September 16, 1950.  He was 80 years old.

A son, Manuhuia Augustus Bennett (1916-2001), served as the Third Bishop of Aotearoa from 1968 to 1981.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

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Living God, in the fullness of time, the mantle of your Holy Spirit

clothed Frederick Augustus Bennett as a father in your whanau,

to lead the Maori people by preaching your word, rebuking error, and teaching with unfailing patience;

grant us the same spirit of power, love, and self-control,

that we may do what pleases you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or

Blessed are you, God of all mana and authority, in Frederick, the first Maori bishop;

for it is your will that every race will have its part to direct the church.  Amen.

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Psalm 101 or 122

2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Matthew 9:35-38

–The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia

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