Samuel Marsden's first service

Samuel Marsden's first service

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

Clark’s work commemorated the 150th anniversary of the event and shows Marsden at a makeshift pulpit preaching to a large group of Maori and Europeans. Ruatara, the Ngāpuhi leader Marsden had met in Port Jackson (Sydney), translated the service and 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 or, indeed, the first preaching of the gospel in New Zealand?

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 Saint Jean Baptiste was a Dominican priest, Paul-Antoine de Villefeix. While no records survive, it seems highly likely that such an important Catholic festival would have been marked with a mass. In the absence of hard evidence, New Zealand’s English colonial traditions have favoured Marsden’s claim to fame.

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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