Henare Taratoa's challenge to Colonel Greer of 28 March was followed by a letter setting down a code of conduct by which Ngāi Te Rangi would take up arms. Taratoa's stance was one inspired by his strong Christian conviction, a faith shared by many in the Tauranga district by 1864. To defend his people, and independence, was not to forsake a faith in God.
Bible reading and Christian services had been part of life around the Tauranga harbour since the 1830s. Maori who travelled to the Bay of Islands brought knowledge of 'the book' to the region. From early in 1838 Alfred and Charlotte Brown set up home on the Te Papa peninsula in order to spread the Christian gospel as Church Missionary Society teachers. Charlotte Brown died in 1855. By 1864 61-year old Rev Alfred Brown had lived 26 years in Tauranga where he was known by, and knew, most people. The mission station was a common calling-in place for travellers around the harbour and around the coast.
When British troops arrived in Tauranga in late January 1864 they occupied land and buildings at the mission station. This was later to become a matter of dispute between the church and the government.
Soldiers serving on the government side also brought bibles in their kit. Church parades, chaplains, and Christian services were part of army life. When Ensign Nicholl, brought up in the Church of England, was required to escort the Roman Catholic men in the 68th Regiment to service he noted it as a reluctant duty in his journal. When his red prayerbook was stolen from his digs at Otahuhu he was bereft.
Robley, HG, Unknown, circa 1860, Purchased 1916, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Collections Online, Registration number O.014620, http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/406471. Reproduced with permission.
Richard A. Sundt, Whare Karakia: Māori Church Building, Decoration and Ritual in Aotearoa New Zealand 1834-1863, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2010