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Quaker Faith & Practice in Aotearoa/New Zealand


This book is offered as a source of inspiration, information and understanding of Quaker thought and experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand. It has been compiled from contributions sent by Friends from all over the country and consists of both contemporary writing and extracts from our various archives and collections since the arrival of the first Quaker settlers, about 1835, until 2003.
Hundreds of contributions were received. There followed a process of reading and selection which involved Friends in every Meeting forming small Consideration Groups. These groups read through the material submitted, and commented for the guidance of the committee set up by Yearly Meeting to oversee the project and bring it to completion.
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Te Hähi Tühauwiri, does not formulate creeds, doctrines or dogma; rather Quakers try to live the revelation that something of the divine, ‘that of God’, is within every person. Knowledge of this presence came to George Fox in the middle of the seventeenth century, when, in the religious turmoil of the time, he had sought in vain for spiritual enlightenment and guidance from theologians and well-known preachers. In near despair, he came to feel the certainty of an inward presence assuring him that ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’ Inspired by this, George Fox founded a movement that did not rely on priests, preachers, liturgy, physical sacraments or sacred buildings.
Ever since, Quakers have sought to listen, individually and in group worship, for the inner voice of God to lead them in new lives and a different form of worship. This book illustrates the experience of Friends as they have attempted to follow these leadings in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The early Quaker settlers came from Britain and although Quaker immigrants also came from other countries too – such as Ireland, the Netherlands and the United States – until 1964 the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in New Zealand was part of British Quakerism under the aegis of London Yearly Meeting. The British book ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ is used by Friends in Aotearoa New Zealand as it contains accounts of the experiences of Quakers from the beginning of Quakerism, but a need has increasingly been felt to compile, in addition, our own book. ‘Quaker Faith and Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand’ is therefore complementary to the ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ of Britain Yearly Meeting, and reflects the life and thought of Friends in this country up to this time. (Our ‘Quaker Handbook’ was published by Yearly Meeting in 2000).
We are seekers, but we are also the holders of some precious discoveries. As each generation grows, we must find the Light for ourselves, and interpret it. We can then hand on to future generations this history of lives lived faithfully, insights gained, at times painfully, but above all our vision of the truth which will, again and again, grow and change. This volume therefore, can never be complete, but is our first attempt to gather together these threads.
Through the process of reading and reflection we have struggled for our authentic voice growing out of the colonial experience, influenced by the indigenous culture and the natural world. This book is one sign that we now have our own Quaker stories. We acknowledge the rich historical framework of our European Quaker heritage on which we are now weaving our own spiritual cloth, as richly coloured as the pohutukawa in bloom, as bright and clear as the light on the moana Pacific. Invisible among these threads are those Friends who did not leave behind a written legacy but whose lives also sustained the developing identity of Quakers in Aotearoa New Zealand.
We hope that you will find within these pages help on the spiritual journey, and new insights, along with knowledge and appreciation of the many Friends who have contributed to Quakerism in this land.
Committee of Oversight for the Faith and Practice Project:

  • Nigel Brooke
  • Sandra Jones
  • Phoebe Macdiarmid
  • Phyllis Short
  • Sue Stover

1.01 The first Quaker to see these islands was Sydney Parkinson, the natural historian and artist who travelled with James Cook throughout the South Pacific in the 1770s. After his death, his brother Stanfield wrote of him:
I have heard many of the surviving companions of this amiable young man dwell with pleasure on the relation of his singular simplicity of conduct, his sincere regard for truth, his ardent thirst after knowledge, his indefatigable industry to obtain it and his generous disposition in freely communicating, with the most friendly participation, to others, that information which perhaps none but himself could have obtained.
1.02 It may be of minor historical interest to Friends that William Trusted, who came from a long line of Quakers in England, was the first Quaker settler in Aotearoa New Zealand. He lived in the Hokianga from 1836. However, for the hapu Te Hikutu (the tail of Maui’s fish) of Whirinaki, Hokianga, it is a living truth to this day, for they count themselves William Trusted’s descendants. William Trusted and his partner Pikare had an only child, Betsy or Peti, who married Kamariera Morunga of Whirinaki, and they had 17 children. Their descendants in this generation decided to honour their ancestor William Trusted by placing a bronze plaque in his memory, in the wall inside the old Symonds St. cemetery (in Auckland) where he was buried. The unveiling was on 4 January 1998 and Friends were specially invited.
In the 1960s the Quaker connection with Te Hikutu was reinforced when Young Friends and others held several workcamps (organized mainly by the Knight family) at Whirinaki in the Hokianga. They repaired and painted an old Methodist church, cleared scrub, and built a piggery to enable the local people to use the skim milk from their herds, as only the butterfat went to the factory, the skim being poured into a stream! Remember that this was a very depressed area at that time. The workcampers stayed on a marae on the land of a descendant of William Trusted, Wehi Morunga, and family. None of this has been forgotten by Te Hikutu.
Phyllis Short 1998
1.03 With his son Charles, Daniel Wheeler spent several months in the Bay of Islands in 1836-37, in the course of his missionary journeys in the South Seas, which lasted over three years. He was well received by the Anglican missionaries, with whom he stayed. In his copious diary is this account:
Twelfth Month, 11th. (First-day) Since the last Sixth day morning, way has opened in the minds of those about us, in a remarkable manner, as if the ever-blessed Master had directed our steps to a place, where He himself intended to come, in his own appointed time, in condescending mercy to a poor way-worn, unprofitable servant. It was now proposed by William Williams, that I should attend their place of public worship. He said, ‘if you have a word for the people, I will interpret for you’. This was more than I had looked for, or dared to hope, but a few days ago. Although not exactly accordant with my own views, yet I have of late, I think, learned to be willing almost to become all things that would lead to an opening for me to proclaim to others the glad tidings of salvation, through a Saviour’s love. We sat on one side of the congregation, on a low form, attracting the attention of many, by retaining our seats, while all, but ourselves, stood, or knelt, as occasion required. When all was gone through, William Williams threw aside his surplice, and fetched me to the appointed spot, where we stood together in silence. I had largely to testify of the love of God, as it is in Christ Jesus, and to turn the attention of the people to the light of His unspeakable gift, which shineth in every heart. The countenances of some of these dear people spoke louder than words, their brokenness could not be hid; to such, the message of everlasting love flowed freely, and I humbly trust, was as a shower upon the thirsty soil. It was an open and relieving season: it was the Lord’s doing, and, I believe, marvellous in the eyes of some present. There were several European families, besides those of artizans, attached one way or other to the mission; which, with the boys school and the natives of the surrounding neighbourhood, formed a considerable body of the people : but the praise was His alone, who wrought the work. In the afternoon we attended the meeting again, but my lips were closed up: it afterwards appeared that some were looking for words, and were disappointed.
1.04 We would entreat those who may establish themselves in newly settled countries to reflect upon the responsibility which attaches to them when they are the neighbours of uncivilised and heathen tribes. It is an awful but indisputable fact, that most settlements of this description, besides dispossessing the natives of their land without equivalent, have hitherto been productive of incalculable injury to the moral and physical condition of the native races; which have been thereby more or less reduced in numbers, and in some instances completely exterminated.
Earnestly, therefore, do we desire that all those under our name, who may emigrate to such settlements, may be careful neither directly nor indirectly to inflict injury upon the natives, but that they may, on the contrary, in their whole conduct, exhibit the practical character of that religion which breathes ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men’.
From Advices and Queries of London Yearly Meeting 1840
1.05 Frederick Tuckett came from a prominent Quaker family near Bristol. In 1841 he came to Nelson as the NZ Company’s principal civil engineer and surveyor for the intended settlement there. He saw at once that the site was unsuitable, with very little arable land nearby. He criticised the Company for receiving money under false pretences as there was not enough land for all purchasers. This put him at loggerheads with Captain Arthur Wakefield, the settlement’s leader. Tuckett was one of the party who went to survey land in the Wairau Valley in 1843, where he refused to bear arms when they were attacked by Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata. Wakefield, Cotterell and others were killed, but he escaped. Tuckett was appointed as resident agent in Nelson in Wakefield’s place, but his high-handed manner and quick temper alienated many people. He hated the continuing warlike atmosphere in relation to the Maori, and planned to return to Britain in 1844. However, he was offered a further appointment with the NZ Company, as principal surveyor and agent for the projected New Edinburgh settlement. He accepted on condition that he should have a completely free hand in selecting the site. He spent two months travelling by sea and on foot, from Port Cooper (Lyttelton), the Company’s choice, to Bluff and Stewart Island. He was described as ‘of stalwart frame, great endurance and an excellent pedestrian’. His journal shows his great care in assessing all the natural features of each place for their suitability for a settlement. He was determined not to repeat the mistakes that had been made at Nelson. He talked with all the local Maori chiefs about what he was doing, and gained their consent before carrying out his preliminary surveys. Otago harbour impressed him as by far the best site, and in June 1844 he negotiated the purchase of the Otago Block with Tuhawaiki and the other chiefs, for a price he considered fair. In 1846, he left New Zealand for good, but always maintained a close interest in the Nelson settlement, where he had helped establish the first school, and was active among the small group of Quakers. On leaving, he gave the Lutheran congregation his house, and the school his books and the rents from some property. He never ceased to speak out about the robbery of the Colonists & of the Natives by the New Zealand Company, and ‘the folly and shortsightedness of the company’s attempted system of selling land by lottery.’ A letter written by him in 1844 from Otakou to Dr Hodgkinson in America includes this extract: ‘I consider that your visit to America has fully compensated you in that you have arrived at a decided opinion (that America was unfit for settlement by Britons). I like decision, and that men should embrace error heartily, rather than hold the truth in doubt or apathy, and consider it of universal application that he who doubteth is damned if he acts, because he acts not in faith’.
Christina Gibb (2003)
1.06 In 1842, John Sylvanus Cotterell (1819-1843) a young surveyor, arrived in the Nelson area intending to settle there. Less than 18 months later, he had died - among those killed in the Wairau dispute. A newspaper in his hometown of Bath, England published the following tribute:
We have it on the best authority that he took no part in the affray, except as an unarmed peacemaker; that during the whole of his sojourn in New Zealand, he was on the best terms with the natives; and the very last letter received from him mentions the pleasure he experienced in having acquired sufficient of the native language to be enabled to converse with the ‘Maories’ on religious subjects. In Mr. Sylvanus Cotterell the New Zealanders have slain one of their best friends. Indeed, we cannot but reflect with feelings of the most distressful character upon the early removal of this young man and by means too painful to contemplate. We last saw him in 1841 at the New Zealand House in London, when on the eve of embarkation for that distant country. He was then in the bloom and pride of manhood - tall, strong, active and robust. In a word, as fine a specimen of a young Englishman as we have ever remembered to have seen. At the time of his death, he wanted only a month of being 24 years of age.
1.07 Thomas Mason came to New Zealand with his wife Jane from York in 1841 at the age of 22. In later years he was prominent both in public life and commercial affairs, and as a major pastoralist. He also created the finest botanical garden in New Zealand. As well as cultivating 100 acres of land in the Hutt Valley, where he and Jane lived for many years, he acquired 12,000 acres of run land in the Hawkes Bay in the 1850s. Because of an error in the survey of the land purchased, the house, woolshed and sheepyards were built on adjacent Maori land. Thomas Mason came to an agreement with the Ngati Kahungunu chief, Kurupo Te Moananui, to pay an annual rent and a sum for timber used. In 1861, on Moananui’s death his former rival, Te Hapuku, of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti assumed ownership and demanded a further 300 pounds for the previous use of the land and seized 2000 sheep. Thomas Mason shifted all his buildings off the Maori land; 1000 more sheep were seized, but in line with his Quaker principles he refused the promptings of other Maori to allow them to take back the sheep from Te Hapuku by force. The Rev. Samuel Williams of Te Aute made an unsuccessful attempt at persuasion and Thomas records ‘I told him (Te Hapuku) that I felt no ill-will whatever. My earnest desire has been that no act or deed of mine may be the occasion of strife’. Te Hapuku ultimately relented and a few months later returned the sheep.
James and Audrey Brodie (1993)
1.08 Fifteen years were spent in London, when it was decided to leave England, as for many years M. Harlock had felt a concern to emigrate to New Zealand, where the prospects in life would be more encouraging. It was a serious undertaking to leave old associations and friends behind and also those who were in religious sympathy with you, to come to a land where our Society had no church organisation. But the decision was made to come, and in 1880 Dunedin was reached.
Coming from amongst Friends to a country where Friends were little known, was a great change. Owing to M. Harlock’s strong belief in the principles of Friends, she could not feel comfortable in attending other places of worship, so it was arranged to hold a meeting every First Day evening. Since 1886, a meeting has been regularly held on First Day morning, which has proved of much blessing.
Testimony to the life of Mary Harlock 1819-1893
1.09 During the 1800s Quakers arrived as individuals and as family groups - many of them farmers. When Thomas and Ann Fletcher Jackson immigrated with their family of sons, they brought with them rudimentary medicines - a gift from their English Quaker meeting - which benefited both Maori and Pakeha near Whangarei where they initially settled. The Jacksons’ grand-daughter Ruby Dowsett wrote that despite tremendous poverty, Ann started a rural school, and how after years of Friendly isolation, she felt called to travel amongst New Zealand Quakers.
In some cases she would travel 150 miles on horseback to see two or three Friends who lived in lonely places. Travelling in those days was never easy and often the roads were almost impassable. To get to Auckland to attend Meeting was quite a business, involving a long drive over country roads and then some hours in a small coastal steamer.
The time came when Thomas and Ann Jackson decided to sell ‘Home Farm’, because Friends wanted them to live in Auckland so that they could be at Meeting for Worship each Sunday and help Friends there in all sorts of ways. Ann looked forward to her new life in the city. Did she look back and sometimes remember an entry in her diary sixteen years earlier in 1883? It was a time when life was very hard for the pioneers in the North. This is what Ann’s diary says: ‘Our cows are dry and not likely to be milking until November. My heart aches when I think of the children being without milk or butter. Dry bread and water is their only fare for the evening. This evening, when my eldest son came home from a hard day’s work I only had dry bread and weak tea to offer him.’
And she tells us that she wept. If she looked back she would surely thank God that she and the whole family had had the courage to keep on even when it was terribly hard going, for the remaining years were years of happy service to Friends throughout New Zealand.
1.10 A deputation of Quakers of the Society of Friends waited on the Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Ward) to-day in reference to the provision of the Internal Defence Bill. The Friends had already petitioned the House entering a conscientious and religious objection to compulsory military training.
Mr. Thos. Wright said they wished the Government to understand that they were with it in every way. It was in no factious spirit that they came forward - they simply desired it to be known that taking part in war was against the spirit of Christ, as far as their religious principles were concerned. They thanked the Prime Minister for including the conscience clause, and were prepared to undertake civil duties as long as they had no connection with war.
Correspondent, Auckland Star 1909
1.11 One Friend spoke of it being seven years since he had been in a Friends Meeting. Another 32 years since in any Friends Meeting, not even in a cottage. Alfred Quertier told us how his Quakerism was well known in his district in the extreme south. A few visits had been paid by ministering Friends and he had always put together a good company of neighbours to meet such, but it was 57 years since being in a regular Friends Meeting.
General Conference of Friends 1910
1.12 It has been stated that the training in our schools is physical not military; but this is contrary to fact. Whether the school be primary or secondary, military movements and the use of the rifle form an essential part of the instruction, and this in spite of the insistence by authorities on physical culture, that military drill is of little value in bodily development. We are entirely at one with the Government in desiring to raise the moral, mental and physical standard of the youth of the country; but to do this, radical measures must be adopted. The system of physical and other training should be carried on long after the primary school age.
It is pitiful that, whilst the older countries are feeling the intolerable burden of their war expenditure and are seeking to lessen it by treaties of International friendship, in this new land our Government is making such pacific relationships very difficult for the future, in that during their most impressionable years the spirit of racial suspicion and fear is being implanted in our boys. If preparation for war is felt to be necessary, it is worse than folly to lay its burden on the children. Far better, surely, to teach them, as all past history proves, that only righteousness really exalts a nation; and that do as they would that men should do to them, would lessen strife, both amongst individuals and nations.
Annual Meeting of the Society of Friends in New Zealand 1912
1.13 All efforts in the cause of peace lay near his heart and from 1912 onwards, during the years of practical protest by New Zealand Friends against the compulsory military training of boys and conscription under the Defence Act, Egerton Gill shared in many attendances before Magistrates on behalf of conscientious objectors, whether members of our own Society or of other shades of conviction, and was ever ready with sympathy and advice. His office was several times searched by the authorities and he was twice fined for peace publications - then legally seditious.
Testimony to the life of Egerton Gill 1878-1937
1.14 Adherence to the teachings of Christ should raise His followers to a plane where the boundaries of nationality do not exist, but where all who profess His name, to whatever nation they belong, have only one interest to serve - the promotion of the building of the City of God. With that supreme claim to our loyalty, the claim of no lesser loyalty can conflict - neither loyalty to family, nor friends, nor state.
General Meeting of the Society of Friends in New Zealand 1915