Samuel Marsden's first sermon

Samuel Marsden's first sermon

Russell Clark’s painting of Samuel Marsden preaching on Christmas Day 1814 at Hohi (Oihi) Bay in the Bay of Islands is how many New Zealanders have visualised the first Christmas church service in this country.

Clark’s work – painted to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the event – shows Marsden preaching from a makeshift pulpit to a large group of Māori and Europeans. Ruatara, the Ngāpuhi leader Marsden had met in Port Jackson (Sydney), translated the sermon. He can be seen to Marsden’s right. This service marked the beginnings of the Christian mission to New Zealand, but was it the first Christmas service in the country?

On Christmas Day 1769, the French explorer Jean François Marie de Surville and his crew were in Doubtless Bay in the Far North. On board the St Jean Baptiste was a Dominican priest, Father Paul-Antoine de Villefeix. While no records of the event survive, it seems very likely that such an important Catholic festival would have been marked by a Mass on board the ship. But in the absence of hard evidence, New Zealand’s English colonial traditions have favoured Marsden’s claim to this first.

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Posted: 05 May 2014

Hi John - you would need to order this from the Alexander Turnbull Library, part of the National Library of NZ: Regards, Jamie Mackay

John Dekker

Posted: 03 May 2014

Pastor John Dekker, Kaiwaka Family Church, (multiracial small village church). Could you please email a printable copy of this amazing painting for reproduction for inside our church building? If at all possible, this would be greatly appreciated. We would be happy also to give a donation. Thank you so much. Blessings, John D.


Posted: 05 Mar 2009

i can see alot of hard work has gone into constructing this