Today, the lockdown children’s ministry response what began as ‘Tamariki Time’ has seeded ‘Te Aka’ an Aotearoa-wide Mihinare (Māori Anglican) education resource plan, designed to support whānau with faith formation and Christian life delivered through Te Reo Māori and digital media.
Back in 2020 when Sophie Anania first presented ‘Tamariki Time’ Wednesday podcasts with husband Rev Wiremu Anania behind the camera at their home in Paengaroa, they set out to offer care and connection for church whānau in Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke - the Māori Anglican Church in the central North Island.
With Bishop Ngarahu Katene’s backing, they offered a lectionary-based Sunday video programme of child and youth-friendly waiata himene (hymns), inoi (prayer), stories, join-in crafts and activites all designed to educate young believers and connect families.
As her Hui Amorangi’s Kaiwhakamana Rangatahi (Youth Enabler), and as a trained primary school teacher and specialist in Māori medium education, Te Reo Māori was at the heart of Sophie Anania’s Tamariki Time vision, especially for children accustomed to learning in full immersion Māori medium schools.
“We realised that if we wanted to share our faith with these children, we needed to offer every part of our Christian education, from waiata (songs) to karaipiture (biblical readings) in their own language.”
At first the Anania whānau set out to livestream with their own young children joining in the podcast. But their six week-old baby and their three year-old quickly reminded them that life wasn’t about to run smoothly just because a camera was running.
So from then on, as Wiremu managed phones, tripods and cameras, and the baby in a bouncy chair at his feet, Sophie presented a programme of Christ-centred education, fuelled by a desire to share warmth and connection with whānau in lockdown.
“We knew it was not only the stereotype of people on their own who might be struggling in lockdown.”
“There were also young teenagers angry to be stuck at home, or parents struggling to work or homeschool children at home all day.”
“We wanted to offer Christ’s light in a time of darkness, and keep up the whakawhanaungatanga (building relationships) that people were missing.”
As the weeks went on, Tamariki Time team became more interactive, with rangatahi not only recording and sending in waiata, prayers and scripture readings, but adding in holy week and Easter activities, Anzac day snaps at dawn, birthday and mother’s day shout outs, TikTok dance challenges (which at one point included Bishop Ngarahu Katene and his ministry team) and even a whakapakari tinana workout led by young people from Ngaruawahia.
“Each week we asked whānau, ‘What do you want to see?’ We started out aiming Tamariki Time towards primary aged children, but we found it was the older tamariki who were sending in fun ideas and advice on what would work best.”
That also led to the ‘Manawa ki te kainga’ segment where families sent in digital stories from their whenua as they walked their maunga, visited their awa, or biked around their rohe.
When Level 4 lockdown lifted, the Anania whānau went on the road to film a ‘Toku Turangawaewae’ segment where the family shared the story of their faith and whānau origins at Oihi in the far North.
It was only when schools reopened in May 2020, that Sophie and the Manawa o Te Wheke team realised that time was up for Tamariki Time.
“The sole focus of Tamariki Time was around us being together. So now we could meet in person that need was gone, and that meant we needed to find a new way for this ministry to go.”
So once again the Manawa o Te Wheke team asked the people what they wanted, and this time from further afield. The answer came back: Mihinare kaupapa (Anglican character), Te Reo Māori and fun content.
Now a year on from the first 2020 lockdown and after months of meetings, hui, study, planning and consultation, a broader whānau ministry plan for the whole country is taking shape in the newly formed ‘Te Aka’ ministry resource hub and media network, which you can read about here.