Bishop Frederick Bennett had seven sons that served in the armed forces during the Second World War. Four sons - Charles, Albert, Tiwha and Manu served with the 28th Māori Battalion.
Bishop Bennett delivers a stunning example of oratory in his sermon at the opening of the centennial house Tama te Kapua. Reinforcements to the Māori Battalion which had been trained at Ōhaewai and other places in the North Auckland area was strongly represented at the opening ceremony. Along with their comrades they were at the forefront of peoples minds and remembered in the Bishop's sermon on the day.
E nga iwi e pae nei tena koutou katoa
Tenei kei te tiro ake ki te ahua o nga mahi o tenei ra
Me nga kapua e whakapouri iho nei
Ko ta tatau whaikorero me tuku pea hei te reo pakeha, kia poto ai
I roto i enei ra ki taku nei matakitaki ake
Kua mohio katoa tatau i te reo pakeha
A, ko a tatau tamariki kua kore ke i mohio ki te reo Maori – etahi ra o ratau
We shortened our proceedings slightly. I have asked the permission of my Maori friends to speak in the English language only because most of our Maori people, if not all of them today are familiar with the English language as well as the Maori and it would shorten by a few minutes our proceedings if I speak only in the English language.
We are met together my dear friends and people in the midst of all this festivity to set aside just about half an hour of our time to re-minister our thoughts to the spiritual realms and to think of those who have made the great sacrifice for each of us here.
The sacrifice made for us in the Great War – the last Great War. The sacrifices made for us in this war, and when you realize that in the last war about 350 of the crème of our Maori people made their supreme sacrifice. And when you realize also that in this war, already – I was informed this morning – from Honorable Mr Paikea, that close upon 300 probably have also made the sacrifice in this war. You’ll realize what we all owe as a country and as a Dominion for the heroism, courage, self sacrifice of our Maori brethren.
And it’s because of a great carved meeting house such as Tama te Kapua which stands behind me here, and because of the festivities connected with this tribal meeting house that we bow our heads in silence presently and lift our hearts and souls to the spiritual realms to think of those who have gone beyond the veil.
I’m sure there is no necessity for me to speak about the heroism of our Maori people and Im sure that there is no necessity for me to appeal like my own Maori young people here to step in and kill the beast. Close the ranks boys, close the ranks of those not only who are fighting the physical battles but those who are leading you in the political life, in the church life, in educational life and in many other spheres of Maori activity.
Look upon these leaders today some of them sitting before you now, others responsible for the organization of this great hui. They are getting towards the eventide of life, their days ahead of them are but a few. They have spent the greater time of their life and who is to step in and take their position in the days to come but you young men and you young women.
The honour and the prestige of the Maori race depends upon you. You are to uphold the honour of the Maori people in the years to come and when we think about the battle that’s being fought for us today don’t forget that you and I – everyone of us here are also soldiers together in our greater battles still. The spiritual battles where you and I are to be soldiers for Jesus Christ to do all we possibly can to extend his kingdom in every part of the world.
And if you want an illustration of what one means by loyalty I don’t think I can find anything more suitable than what happened a way back in the dark ages somewhere about the period when your Maori ancestors, our Maori ancestors, were coming over from Hawaiki to New Zealand here.
Somewhere about 700 years ago or 800 years ago there lived a king in France – King Louis IX and this man was supposed to be a wonderful example of patrotism. On the day that he was to be married he had a ring made and upon that ring there were three words, he was a Frenchman remember, so he had on that ring France the name of his country – oh rather God the name of the one he worshiped, France the name of his country and Margaret the name of his wife. And he said, "On that ring that I now carry, the whole of my life is centered. All my loyalty is towards my God, towards my country and towards my home. Outside of these three things I have no real interest in life".
And I pass that on to you all here. Are you looking for an example of real loyalty? Be loyal then to your God first of all. If righteousness that exalts a nation, it builds a nation that lives the life that God would have us live, the life carved out by him hopeful in the niche that he has prepared. That is the nation that God will bless and God will prosper.
I then think of your country. While you headed up Te Awahou this morning, some of our old chiefs speaking to us there, saying that our Maori people have gone forth to uphold the honor of our King – not compulsorily but merely as volunteers. They have gone forth and many of them have already given up their lives for their country.
Old Richard Seddon that wonderful old premier of this country, he was very fond – I’ve heard him several times - referring to this country as ‘God’s own country’. And what a suitable term that is for New Zealand isn’t it. I don’t know whether we are truly elated or not or too tired to think about our country as God’s own country when we consider all the sins around us. But still there it is a wonderful country, yes a country worth dying for but a country worth living for too.
And you and I have to live so as to raise the honor, the prestige of our country to the very highest pinnacle, that is possible. And then lastly Margaret the name of his wife something symbolic – symbolical of the family life, the home life of the people
And today surely there’s a tremendous demand for loyalty toward our own homes. Where the family life is pure, where the family life is striving to reach the highest ideals like the ancient ‘Britishers', those of the old country whose home we are told was like a old castle. Well that's the kind of home that we want to develop in the days to come. A home that is pure, a home that is holy, a home where the atmosphere is such that our children growing up may grow in the fear of God and love for their fellow creatures.
Ah then, may I just say to our young Maori soldiers here, how grateful we are to you all for coming down and to your officers. And how glad we are to see you here. I heard from one fo the officers who came back from the war, who spent three years there. After seeing what you are doing way away up at Ohaeawai, at that miltary camp, he said to me one day - "you know the material that you have in New Zealand is just as good, if not even better than the material you've already sent to the Middle East". There boys is a tremendous place for you, and I congratulate you that you are reaching such high ideals. Once more I say to you, remember those who have made the great sacrifice for you and for me to. Do your utmost to carry the honour of your Maori people as well as New Zealand. And then strive by every means possible to set an example to all those that may surround you.
May Gods blessing rest upon you all
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Frederick Augustus Bennett. S P Andrew Ltd :Portrait negatives. Ref: 1/1-018699-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22642293