21 June 2021
CHRISTIAN HERITAGE in PAPATOETOE
The New Year has started with our hosting the opening of the Papatoetoe district 150th year celebrations on January first.
The wedding of one of our elders, David Wyllie to Janine Hall, was enjoyed by everyone as Janine and David generously invited the parish, along with their families and friends, to the wedding at St Johns.
We welcome our new intern from the school of ministry, Nathan Pedro and his wife Elisapeta and their 2 year old son Paulo on February 5th.
All these are new beginnings for which we give thanks and ask for God's blessing.
We also have looked back as the Papatoetoe historic society will take historic walks through the cemetery this year as part of the new heritage trail in Papatoetoe.
It is important for a community to occasionally stop and see where they have come from and look at our communal identity together. Everyone who lives, works and worships here is part of that community, no matter how long or how short a time they have been here. For our context forms us and is part of our identity.
One of the first things that new immigrants do when going to a new place is to try to make it like where they have come from, then gradually the new place changes them and something new is born.
The first travellers to this land were familiar with the sea and tended to settle by the shore. Wakas were the familiar form of transport and our region was important and still is because it is strategically placed, giving access by portages to two great harbours and the east and west coasts of the land. Everyone who wanted to travel north or south by land had to go through Papatoetoe. They still do. So we do not live in a quiet backwater but a place which must always be changing because it is where people travel. Today, we are the southern gateway to the airport.
The Fencibles, men with army service, and their families settled in Otahuhu in 1847 and they built a stone bridge across the Tamaki estuary just down the road and by doing this the Papatoetoe area was opened up
European -Irish and Scottish - settlers brought horses and carts. The landscape began changing to look like Britain. Fenced paddocks, green grass and neat farmhouses. Tracks were no longer adequate, roads became essential to travel to the markets and for military use.
By the time The Rev John Macky arrived from Ireland in August 1854 to come to this parish, there was a bridge over the river and Samuel Baird had bought land on the southern side of the river. The Great South Road formed Papatoetoe. It was built for military use, then farmers settled and the roads were used for taking the produce to market or to the river. What is now known as Hunter's corner was an important intersection for the East Tamaki road and Great South Road.
The building and serving of the local community by the Christian churches is woven into the foundations of the district. Schools were established by the churches. For example the Otara School was established by the Otara Presbyterian church, [now St Johns]. In 1856, the congregation employed the school master and later accepted Government subsidies and came under the education department. . The school grew and shifted to St George St in 1884 to become what is now known as Papatoetoe Central school.
South Auckland's first subscription library was established by the congregation at St John's Presbyterian Church, Otara [Papatoetoe] on 27 Dec 1857. "In effect South Auckland's first 'public library', this is housed in a bookcase in one corner of the church" We still have some of those old books judging by some left behind !
Many of the things the early settlers did are now taken for granted, their origins in the Christian church forgotten as the functions are, rightly, now carried out by local and central government. We can reflect on this as we move into the changes of the future.
We need to be a continuing and loving community being witnesses of Christ's life here and now, and in keeping that vision asking prayerfully "Where is God leading us to love our neighbour and bring life to those around us? What do we discard and what do we keep as we travel on?"
May God bless you with love and the strength to love others.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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