Modelling peace and reconciliation
Ray Sheldrake of the King’s Christian Network tells Wynsley Wrigley about the “Whitby juxtaposition”, outlined in an online Christian presentation created as a conciliatory attempt to link Whitby and Tairawhiti, as New Zealand prepares to mark the first meeting of two peoples in Turanga, 250 years ago.
Gisborne is often branded as First to see the Light.
Tairawhiti means the coast upon which the sun shines across the water.
Whitby, the seaside town in North Yorkshire in the UK, is where James Cook learned to sail. It was once known — back in 663AD — as The Bay of Light.
“Could there ever have been a more prophetic name or statement given to a first meeting (1769),’’ says Ray Sheldrake.
“The Endeavour came out of — and to — a place of light”
He is aware of many such similarities between Tairawhiti and Whitby.
Mr Sheldrake, working with other Christians from Team Gisborne for the King’s Christian Network (KCN), have produced a website called the Untold Backstory of Easter.
It lists many similarities between the two centres, which he describes as “an amazing juxtaposition’’.
Mr Sheldrake said October would see Turanga-Gisborne as “the focus of our nation” as the first meeting of Maori and European, 250 years ago, was commemorated.
The commemoration could be controversial.
“We wanted to find a way — a Christian way — to model peace and reconciliation,’’ said Mr Sheldrake .
“So with the help of ‘Mr. Google’ we stumbled across a little known fact, a unique opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ.
“To this end we now have a 23-page PDF booklet online for anyone to download free.”
Mr Sheldake said the Whitby juxtaposition between light and darkness’ started 1356 years ago, in 663AD.
That was when Abbess Hild, representing King Oswy of Northumbria, hosted the Whitby Synod, a gathering of Celtic and Roman Christians who would debate whether to adopt the lunar or solar calendar regarding Easter’s date.
The King would make the final decision.
His calendar decision, establishing when Easter is celebrated, has been adhered to ever since by Christians in New Zealand and around the world.
The website goes on to cover Whitby juxtapositions of light and darkness including:
The Cross, Passover, Whitby Abbey, Caedmon, steam trains, Rigg Mill, Queen Victoria, Jet the Gemstone, Te Kuri o Paoa, Young Nick’s Head, The Black Dog and Dracula.
Mr Sheldrake said two of the above “juxtapositions” involved links with Gisborne pastors.
Dracula is included because author Bram Stoker based many elements of his classic novel from Whitby such as the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
Joining the dotsStoker visited Whitby in 1890.
The opening narrative tells of Whitby tourist spots including Rig Mill.
“Rig Mill just happens to be home and birthplace to the great- grandfather of Gisborne’s (retired) Anglican minister Stephen Donald,’’ said Mr Sheldrake.
“It is hard to imagine that juxtaposed with the dark tale of Count Dracula and Whitby, would come one with a message of light, the very opposite of such darkness.
“Some 200 years later, a great grandson would be born on the other side of the globe, in Tolaga Bay, one who would become a Minister of the Gospel of Light.”
Mr Sheldrake had asked who built the original Endeavour that came to Gisborne.
“You may be surprised to know that Pastor Bruce Whitley’s maternal great grandparent was Thomas Fishburn.”
It was Fishburn Shipbuilders who built the vessel, which later became Endeavour.
The company also built two other famous Cook vessels — the Resolution and the Adventure.
Two dogs are in the “Whitby juxtaposition”, says Mr Sheldrake.
One is in the Dracula story.
Dracula is shipwrecked off the Yorkshire coast and comes ashore in the guise of a black dog (a dog was one of the many forms into which a vampire could transform itself) and wreaks havoc on the town.
“And there the dog disappeared, into the darkness.
“So Dracula arrived in the Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby and the fact is, he’s never left.”
(The Dracula Experience is a tourist attraction in Whitby, which also hosts an annual Bram Stoker international film festival.)
Young Nick’s Head, as it was named by Captain Cook, is known to Maori as Te Kuri-a-Paoa meaning the Dog of Paoa.
Paoa was the captain of the Horouta waka.
He lost his dog in the Turanganui-a Kiwa/Poverty Bay area and legend has it that the dog is still there waiting for his master to return.
“It is said if you look towards the white cliffs at dawn they resemble the outline of a dog in a crouching position.”
On the KCN website, “we have juxtaposed Paoa’s missing dog with Dracula’s Black Dog”
“Both disappeared, one light, one dark.’’
Mr Sheldrake said the purpose of the website was to display positive rather than negative links between Whitby and Turanga-Gisborne, to show that “God has always been quietly working behind the scene displacing darkness with light’’.
“I invite you to download the website on https://kcn.nz/kcn-noticeboard/true-untold-backstory-of-easter.”