Member Church feature: Congregational Union of New Zealand (CUNZ)

by CWM

Date: October 12, 2019

Brief history

The history of the Congregational Union of New Zealand (CUNZ) started in 1842 when a Mr. Jonas Woodward commenced services in his home in Wellington, New Zealand. The first Congregational Church at Auckland was formed in 1851, followed by churches in Dunedin in 1862 and Christchurch in 1864. Many other churches sprang up all around New Zealand during this period of time, in main city centres as well as many small settlements from Kawhai in the North to Invercargill in the South.  Being independent, the churches were formed whenever there were a few believers. In 1863, the Auckland Congregational Union and Mission were formed to serve the needs of the northern Churches. Similarly, the Congregational Union and Mission of South New Zealand was created in Dunedin to serve the southern churches. One year later, both Unions were united in Wellington, where The Congregational Union of New Zealand held its first meeting.

Never large in numbers, Congregationalists in New Zealand have nevertheless always had an influence well out of proportion to their numbers. Kate Sheppard the well-known activist for Women’s Rights (whose image is on NZ $10 note) was a member of Trinity Congregational Church in Christchurch. In 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the vote – despite claims that families would be abandoned and the economy destroyed. Ms. Sheppard was vindicated when 65% of New Zealand women took the chance to vote in their first general election.

Vision and Mission

With a great legacy of Congregational believers dating back to the Reformation times, the CUNZ is a small group of 14 Congregational Churches and Union Churches. Each church is autonomous with Christ as the Head of the church. There is no hierarchy or head office as each church is responsible to run itself under the Lordship of Jesus Christ through His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Union Churches are differing combinations of Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican and Christian Churches of NZ.

Most of the Congregational Churches are in the Auckland region, and are mainly Pacific Islanders. Two are in Wellington, one being a Union Church; the other Union church is in Raglan; all in the North Island. One Congregational Church is in Christchurch, in the South Island.

Because the Churches cover many nationalities and cultures, we have enjoyed a richness in our expression of faith, which is firmly based on the divine authority of the Bible. We’re a happy bunch of people distinguished by a great variety of individual views but a common love for the Local Church, and above all the Lord Jesus Christ. Once every two months, the Auckland churches gather together for a lively combined service where each contributes.

Mission Programmes/ministries of the Church

Massey Congregational Church has started a Community Pacific Garden.

Te Atatu Congregational Church has a Community Coffee Shop

Massey Congregational Church Youth Group sings at community based groups such as Council, Education, Living Wage and Health.

The Village Trust partners with the Massey Congregation to deliver a Pacific Power Up programme on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

Cambridge Terrace Congregational Church corresponds with New Tribes Mission.

Looking to the future

New Zealand has a stable government led by prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Pressing issues include climate change, a high abortion rate, a high suicide rate among young people, a high percentage of Maori people in prison and the increase in earthquakes in recent years. Some of our church buildings were damaged in the Christchurch and Wellington earthquakes.

Most of our churches are in the Auckland area – a city of 1.5 million people.  There has been a major housing crisis, and another major problem in Auckland is traffic congestion.

  • A lady from our Manukau church has a programme, funded by CWM, addressing the suicide problem.
  • The Congregational Union of NZ has not currently tackled the important issue of climate change. In the past, the churches and the Union have contributed funds for specific climatic incidents such as floods or cyclones in the Pacific region.
  • A number of our members regularly visit prisons to bring the good news of the gospel.
  • Our Maungaturoto church runs a successful school, the Otamatea Christian School.

Our Assembly in October 2016 elected new people as our 3 main office bearers:

  • Chairman (National Leader) Tale Hakeagaiki from Wellington
  • General Secretary Mr Peter Eccles from Auckland
  • Treasurer Mrs Tamara Rout from Maungaturoto

Even though each church is independent, the Missions Committee usually make a recommendation to the Standing Committee of the CUNZ about specific missionary projects. Tavalu Tavalu and Peter Eccles are both members of the Missions Committee.


Mission Stories shared by General Secretary Mr Peter Eccles at 2017 Members’ Mission Forum (Pacific Region)

Sundays with CWM (Walking with God), 2016, p. 56

(CWM Prayer Book 4th quarter, 2014, p. 31), retrieved in 30 November 2017


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