Sunday, 19 May 2013

My Church Family

Today is Pentecost – the ‘birthday of the Church’ and here is a photo of my wonderful church family [taken July 2011 after a morning service] I love them all so much [sadly a few have died since this photo was taken]


And I have just learned a fabulous new word for family, it’s originally a Maori word, but now accepted as part of “New Zealand English”


Whānau is often translated as ‘family’, but its meaning is more complex. It includes physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions Whānau can be multi-layered, flexible and dynamic. It’s based on a Māori and tribal world view. It is through the whānau that values, histories and traditions from the ancestors are adapted for the contemporary world. Early anthropologists had a common definition of the 18th-century whānau characterised by:

  • a family group usually comprising three generations – an older man, his wife and some or all his descendants and married spouses, or some variant such as brothers, their wives and families [including fostered or adopted children]
  • a domestic group occupying a common set of buildings
  • a social and economic unit responsible for the management of daily domestic life, production and consumption

The original concept also included relationships with family members who had ‘passed on’ – but nowadays people often speak of

whānau ora

That is living whānau – and can represent a group of people all still alive, none deceased – not necessarily related through blood or marriage. These men and women have come together through their common purpose. They may not occupy a common set of buildings, and may represent more than three generations, but they have shared values and beliefs, which determine their lifestyle.

Isn’t that what the church family is meant to be? If I had the time, and a better grasp of theology, I would write a book about

“the Church as Whānau”

I am still having a mental debate about the ‘ora’ – one should not forget the ‘Church Triumphant’ after all! Two final comments

  1. There is a Facebook page for “The whānau Church” – but I haven’t yet found any theology books about the idea [so if you come across one, let me know]
  2. I should have said this earlier – the word whānau is actually pronounced “far now” [and most of you have been reading it as wha-now, haven’t you? I certainly did at first]


  1. LOL! Yes, I was pronouncing it wrong the whole time. What a wonderful word though. Exactly what the church of Christ should be like!

  2. I absolutely love this word and it really describes well a church family. Happy Pentecost x

  3. Now I have to read the whole post again with correct pronunciation!
    Jane x

  4. Brilliant word! We had a lovely Pentecost today too!x


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