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People have lived on this site for some 400 years.

Its importance along with the tupuna (ancestors) buried here makes this a sacred precinct.


Beautifully situated beside Lake Rotorua and between the Whare Tupuna (ancestral Meeting House) of Tamatekapua and The Soldier's Cemetery, Muruika, a church has stood on this site at Ohinemutu since 1885.

The first St Faith's was called Te Hahi o Te Whakapono - The Church of the Faith and the second dedicated on the same site in 1914 was called St Faith's Anglican Church.

In 1967 the east and west wall extensions were added to the then single central structure together with the Margaret Martin etched window of Christ in the eastern extension or Galilee Chapel.

St Faith's is a Heritage New Zealand listed building, a tribute to the commitment of parishioners, clergy and supporters of its wonderful bicultural heritage and their interpretation of an inclusive Gospel.

Te Arawa people have lived on this land for hundreds of years - during that time they have survived geothermal disturbances and devastating invasions.


Once the site of a heavily fortified Ngāti Whakaue pā, the peninsula known as Muruika was a burial ground for ancestors.


The restless earth reminds us of the fragility of life on this land. Around 200 years ago much of this area disappeared under the waters of Lake Rotorua. The image shows the last remaining palisades of the ‘sunken pā’, sometime around 1890: the carved pou remained visible up until the 1960s.


This ancient history and the knowledge of dead buried here, contribute to the on-going sacredness of the area and is one of the reasons the church stands today on sanctified land.

The church we now call St Faith’s has graced this site for over 130 years.




1885: Te Hāhi o Te Whakapono - The Church of the Faith

The first St Faith’s Church was the first Christian church in Rotorua. In 1880 an area of land named Waikareao within Muruika Pā was gifted by Ngāti Whakaue for the building of a church, and tohūnga Tūhoto Āriki was called to perform rites to remove the tapu. Extensive fund-raising followed and by 1885 plans, which took cues from Anglo-Norman style, were drawn up by G. Cummings. A tender by D. Lundon of £390 was accepted, and on 15 March 1885, the small kauri church was consecrated by Dr E. C. Stuart, Bishop of Waiapu.


1914: St Faith’s Church

War in Europe was only a few months away when the second St Faith’s Church was dedicated in April 1914 by Bishop of Waiapu William Sedgwick, assisted by St Faith’s vicar Reverend Rewi Wikiriwhi. The new church, with its Gothic detailing and Victorian filigree ironwork on the tower, was designed by architect E La Trobe Hill. In keeping with other buildings in Rotorua at the time, the exterior is Elizabethan in style, but the interior, due to the efforts of Reverend F. A. Bennett, is richly Māori, adorned with fine carvings, tukutuku panels, tāniko and kowhaiwhai. The first church was moved to the east of the site, where it served as a Sunday school and hall - until it collapsed in a storm in 1936.


1967: St Faith’s Church extensions 

The 1960s were a time of expansion for the pastorate of St Faith’s, taking over in December 1964 part of the parochial district of St Luke’s and drawing congregations from a much wider area. The church, which had served its community for 50 years, was enlarged under the direction of Reverend Manuhuia Bennett, and later Reverend N. T. Te Hau, and with the effort of committedparishioners such as historian Don Stafford. The new east and west chapels were designed by architect G. Lane of Cambridge. The church was re-dedicated by the Archbishop N. A. Lesser 136 years after the arrival of the arrival of the Gospel in Rotorua.

Below: Sunken palisades posts on the west side of Muruika Pa, Ohinemutu around 1990.

Rotorua Museum

The first church stands to the right of the second St Faith's, dedicated in 1914

Rotorua Museum

In response to a request by Ngāti Whakaue chief Hamuera Pango, Reverend Henry Williams and Thomas Chapman visited Ōhinemutu in 1831.


The first Christian service was held here on 30 October 1831. The pou haki, flagpole, which stands beside our church, is a tribute to the Māori and Pakeha missionaries who brought Te Rongopai – The Gospel, to Rotorua.

Ihāia Te Ahu (c.1823 – 1895)

Ka koa te hunga hohou rongo: ka huaina rātou he tamariki nā te Atua.

Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the children of God.

Matthew 5: 9


The story of Christianity in Rotorua and the building of the first Christian church in Rotorua are closely linked to the story of a remarkable man named Ihāia Te Ahu. Born around 1823 into Te Uri Taniwha hapu of the Ngāpuhi tribe, he grew up at Kerikeri in the home of lay missionaries Thomas Chapman and his wife Anne.


When the Chapmans moved to Rotorua in 1835 to found the first mission station here, Ihāia went with them. By 1845 he was Chapman’s leading teacher entrusted with conducting Sunday services when the missionary was absent.


When the Chapmans moved to Maketū in 1846, Ihāia and his whānau went with them.

In 1857 he began preparing for ordination, first with Reverend A. N. Brown of Tauranga, and in 1858, at St Stephen’s School, Auckland.  Ihāia was ordained deacon by Bishop William Williams on 3 November 1861.


Ihāia Te Ahu was appointed the first vicar of the Ōhinemutu pastorate in 1882.  He perservered during the disheartening period following the Land Wars, when some Māori were disillusioned by the behavior of the ‘Christian’ soldiers. One of his key tasks was to start a drive to build a church, a project that came to fruition with the consecration of Te Hāhi o Te Whakapono, The Church of the Faith, at Ōhinemutu on 15 March 1885.


Ihāia, who served the Arawa people for over 50 years, became known as the ‘hero of missionary effort’ in Rotorua, much loved by the people, who admired his simple way of life, humility and devotion. He is remembered in this often-sung waiata:

Kaore te aroha ki te kororia tapu

E waewae ake ana i te ara kuiti!

Nau mai, e hine ka haere tāua ī

Ki a Ihāia kia mōnitatia ī

Kia huihui tātou ko he nohoanga nui i,

Kia hopukia iho te kupu a te Atua ī

Kia awhi tāua ki a Ihu Karaiti i,

Kia murua te hara i taku tinana nei!

How much I love the holy glory

That clears the narrow path!

Come, my daughter, and we will go

To be ministered to by Ihaia!

We will meet together and long remain,

We will grasp the word of the Lord

And embrace Jesus Christ,

And my sins will be forgiven!

Ihāia left Ōhinemutu in 1889, and after serving briefly at St Stephen’s College, Auckland, retired to Kaikohe where he died on 7 July 1895.












Bishop Frederick Augustus Bennett. Rotorua Museum


Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa

The story of the Māori Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand can be traced through stories of its leaders. This timeline of four Bishops who served at St Faith’s Church during their careers gives a glimpse of key events in their remarkable lives.

Frederick Augustus Bennett (1871 – 1950)

Born at Ōhinemutu in 1871, Frederick Augustus Bennett’s early education brought him into contact with missionaries Seymour and Ellen Spencer. Schooling in Nelson at Bishop’s School fostered his remarkable talent for oratory and music; commitment to the church saw him ordained a deacon in 1896, and a priest in 1897. He moved to Rotorua as superintendent of the Māori Mission in 1905 and in order to raise funds for church buildings, established a Māori concert party. He became well-known as an able missioner in the diocese.  After many years of appeal and negotiation, General Synod ordained Frederick Augustus Bennett as the first Bishop of Aotearoa (under the auspices of the Bishop of Waiapu) in Waiapu Cathedral, a position he held for 22 years. He died in 1950 and is buried beneath the Sanctuary of this church.

Pai rawa, e te pononga pai, e te pononga pono

‘Well done thou good and faithful servant…’  Matthew 25 : 23


‘One of the most deeply emotional experiences of my life in New Zealand was spent within these walls when the first Bishop of Aotearoa was laid to rest in the presence of a vast concourse of friends.’

Archbishop Norman, writing to support a building appeal in 1965, describes the funeral service of Bishop Frederick Augustus Bennett


Wiremu Netana Panapa (1898 – 1970)

The second Bishop of Aotearoa, Wiremu Netana Panapa, was born in 1898 in Ahikiwi, North Auckland. He obtained a licentiate in theology from St John’s College, Auckland, becoming the first Māori graduate. Ordained deacon in 1921, he became a priest in 1923. His distinguished career included service as the first chaplain of 28 Māori Battalion during World War II. Following the war he addressed pressing issues within the Anglican Church including the role of Māori and women, and problems caused by urbanisation. In 1944 he was appointed Vicar of Ōhinemutu Māori District and in 1951, following the death of Bishop F. A. Bennett, he was ordained as the second Suffragan Bishop of Aotearoa. For Panapa the idea of a Māori Anglican Church with its own leadership, theology and worship was a natural outcome of the growth of any Christian community. He retired from the position in 1968 and died in 1970.


Manuhuia Augustus Bennett (1916  - 2001)

Manuhuia Augustus Bennett was one of 19 children of the first Bishop of Aotearoa, F. A. Bennett. Born in Rotorua in 1916, he was brought up in Hawkes’ Bay. A science graduate from Victoria University, he opted instead for the Anglican ministry and became a chaplain to 28 Māori Battalion during World War II. Ordained the third Suffragan Bishop of Aotearoa in 1968, he became a brave spokesperson on many social issues. He retired in 1981. ‘Bishop Manu Bennett was a passionate yet conciliatory voice for Māoridom at a time Māori set out to challenge their role as benign, second-class citizens in New Zealand society. As Anglican Bishop of Aotearoa from 1968 to 1981, he promoted Māori language, education and culture while urging Pakeha to cut ties with Mother England and forge a distinct New Zealand identity.’

Geoff Cumming, Obituary: Manu Bennett, NZ Herald, 22 December 2001.

Bishop Manuhuia Bennett died in 2001.


Te Whakahuihui Vercoe (1928 – 2007)

Te Whakahuihui Vercoe was born in 1928 in Tōrere, near Opotiki. He studied theology at College House, University of Canterbury, and was ordained a priest in 1952. He became politically active, supporting the ‘No Māori No Tour’ movement in the 1960s. After a career in the New Zealand Army from 1960, and service as Vicar of St Faith’s from 1976 to 1978, he was consecrated as Bishop of Aotearoa at Houmaitawhiti Marae, Rotoiti, Rotorua in 1981, following the formation of the Bishopric of Aotearoa in 1978. ‘In a history-making ceremony the marae became a cathedral for the day so that the consecration service became a unique blend of Māori and European tradition…It was the first time that the Bishop of Aotearoa has been consecrated a bishop in his own right – formerly the post was under the Bishop of Waiapu.  Three thousand people attended...’

The Daily Post, 4 April 1981

Bishop Te Whakahuihui Vercoe died in 2007.


Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa today

Much has changed in the organisation of the Anglican Church of New Zealand. The 1992 Constitution provides for three partners to order their affairs within their own cultural context - the only one of its kind in the world. Tikanga Pakeha comprises seven Dioceses, Tikanga Māori comprises five Hui Amorangi, and Tikanga Pacifica encompasses Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands.


Ngarahu Kātene (1940-

The Right Reverend Ngarahu Katene is the Bishop of Te Manawa o Te Wheke, the large diocese reaching from the Bombay Hills south of Auckland to Taumaranui in the south - which includes the parish of St Faith’s. Born in 1940 of Te Arawa and Raukawa descent, he started his full-time ministry in 1990 at the age of 50. Ordained a priest in 1993, he served at St Faith’s Church until 1994, when he moved to Sydney to serve at Te Wairua Tapu, the Māori Anglican Church in Redfern, Sydney. He returned to New Zealand and was ordained as Bishop at Te Papaiōuru Marae, Ōhinemutu, Rotorua on 14 of October 2006. He is the first elected Bishop of this Diocese.

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