A blustery spring afternoon on 28 October 2017 provided the backdrop for a spectacular service to mark the consecration of the completed Holy Trinity Cathedral and to fulfil the vision of Bishop Selwyn who, 174 years earlier, had hoped for a future cathedral “of spacious dimensions standing on an area where it would be seen to advantage.”
When he wrote those words, Selwyn could not have foreseen the unique complex of buildings that would be built on his site, nor the splendid service of dedication celebrating not only the completion of the Cathedral but also the special nature of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. What played out, though, was a joyous manifestation of what he had started.
Fittingly too, for such a significant moment in the Diocese’s history, the service was an event on an epic scale. The Three Tikanga Church was manifested in procession, song and liturgical action marking a moment of history in the making. At the core of the service were the familiar elements of Anglican worship – dedication, the Offertory, reading of the Gospel and prayers, and Communion – but the framework was enriched by much which was special to the afternoon.
The formal entry to the Great West Door was heralded by the sound of the conch shell and a waiata from the Auckland Anglican Māori Choir. At the Great West Door, Bishop Ross marked the threshold with his pastoral staff and sprinkled it with holy water, before being presented with a petition by Dean Anne asking him to consecrate the Cathedral.
A mihi by Bishop Kito and waiata welcomed all to the service before a procession and ritual that wove together movement, music and prayer acknowledging the significance of all three Tikanga to this place of worship. Vibrantly theatrical, the action was also rich in metaphorical power.
It began with the dedication of the font by Archbishop Winston and the blessing of the water, as the Cathedral Choir sang the Gloria. The Prayer of Consecration provided the next focus, with Dean Anne unveiling a consecration marker near the font for it to be sprinkled with holy water and anointed with holy chrism.
Before the readings, the lectern was blessed by Bishop Kito. The Gospel Procession followed. It was a colourful, exuberant event with the youth of the Diocese of Polynesia carrying in the Gospel Book aloft as if on an oceangoing canoe. Amid a clatter of percussive sound, the Ofa Kihe Laumalie Maonioni Choir sang a work specially composed for the day. The Gospel was read in te reo Māori by the Rev’d Kerry Davis, Deacon from Holy Sepulchre Church, and was celebrated by an inspiring rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in Tongan.
"Everyone there was conscious of having been part of something very special:
a celebration not just of one man’s vision, but of many"
In his sermon, Archbishop Philip Richardson spoke of his personal connections with the Cathedral as well as what the occasion represented – an acknowledgement of all that had been achieved and a challenge for the future. At its end, the Cathedral Choir delivered a resounding rendition of the traditional anthem “I was Glad.” Many of the hymns sung in English were apologetically from this country. The different choral traditions, along with the different languages, brought a sense of inclusion and festivity to the proceedings.
After a Litany of Thanksgiving, Bishop Jim blessed and anointed the altar, which was then ritually covered with altar cloths by women from each of the Tikanga. Post-Communion, during which motets were sung by the three choirs, Bishop Ross signed the Consecration Charter presented to him at the beginning of the service confirming that the Cathedral was indeed consecrated. Bishop Selwyn’s vision was fulfilled.
To a recessional hymn, and a splendid organ flourish by organist Philip Smith, the altar party, clergy, guests and choirs processed out into the spring afternoon. Final prayers were delivered outside in the forecourt, marking an end to what was an extraordinary and moving event. Everyone there was conscious of having been part of something very special: a celebration not just of one man’s vision, but of many; the working-out of history to deliver a building and a service of dedication very different from what Selwyn might have imagined; and demonstration of how well diversity can be woven together to form a singular experience.
Other special moments? The sheer number of Diocesan clergy forming the first of the three processions into the cathedral. The presence of leaders from other religious traditions. The impeccably-mannered and helpful school students who acted as ushers. The gorgeous order of service, so lavishly illustrated and informative. And among the many former and visiting Deans, Canons, Bishops and Archbishops were the Bishop of Lichfield acknowledging the links of his diocese with Selwyn, and Archdeacon Jo Kelly-Moore back from Canterbury. From the blaze of colour of the many vestments and the variety of traditional Pacific clothing, to the thrill of hearing so many languages and musical traditions mingling in processions and liturgical activity, it was an unforgettable occasion. Happy, but with a deep underlying significance, it was rooted in Anglican tradition while also belonging to the future.
It was a day to celebrate the vision and work of many over a long period – at last the Cathedral was finished!
The challenge now is for all of us to shape its mission as we look ahead!