I was involved in organising a praise and worship seminar held at Westgate Baptist Church in October 2018. Dave Garratt, Bruce McGrail, Cliff Edmeades, Sheree Harkness and many others spoke at the seminar. One of the themes to come out of the meeting was the need and desire to incorporate more te reo Māori in our worship, along with karakia, pōwhiri, and the use of poi, etc.

 In 2019 the New Zealand Government launched the $12.2 million Te Ahu o te Reo Māori programme. This pilot programme aims to get teachers and school support staff to speak more te reo in the classroom, from early learning level through to secondary schools. Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis was quoted as saying, “This is part of nation-building...Te reo Māori, in fact, Māori tikanga and culture is an important part of who we are as New Zealanders and Te Ahu o te Reo is an important part of that kaupapa.”1

So, my question is: what is the church doing in the area of te reo and Māori tikanga? Surely, we are the place for restitution, restoration and renewal... and revival! Some churches may be already embracing te reo, but are we as a wider group being deliberate in our intentions to embrace our heritage? I believe the church has fallen behind in its acceptance of both te reo and sign language. (Did you know that, although it is the most commonly language spoken in New Zealand, English is not recognised in law as our official language? Te reo Māori and New Zealand sign language are our only two official languages.)2

Songs are such a simple way to demystify the Māori language and get people singing in New Zealand’s native and official language. So, with that said

  • do you want to join me and others in discussing ideas of how to encourage the use of more te reo in our worship?
  • are you willing to share your experiences of walking this journey?
  • do you have some knowledge of te reo or Māori tikanga and history that could help Christian songwriters and musicians? And indeed anyone interested in karakia, pōwhiri or any other aspect of incorporation.
  • do you want to collaborate on writing worship songs incorporating Māori language?

I am not a professional musician; all I have is five loaves and two fish... but the Lord can turn any offering we give into a feast for 5,000. Let’s make a plan!

Reflection: Andrew Graham

Andrew grew up in Blockhouse Bay and attended Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church, was married at Valley Road Baptist Church and has led worship at various churches, including more recently at Westgate Baptist Church. He travelled to the USA in the 1990s and started a music ministry (Dovesong Ministries) and continues to help churches and small groups journey deeper through praise, worship and creative ministries.

You can contact Andrew here.

Ko Anaru toku ingoa.

Ko Ngati Kereama toku hapu.

Ko Maungakiekie toku maunga.

Ko Manukau toku moana.

Ko Captain James Cook toku waka.

Ko Koterana toku iwi.

Ko Edinburgh toku marae.


  1. www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/112035496/government-launches-122m-programme-to-bolster-te-reo-mori-in-classrooms.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_New_Zealand.

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