Whānau, iwi and hāhi accompanied Bishop Richard Wallace on the final stages of his tangihanga with a funeral service at Wairewa Marae and burial at the hillside urupā in Little River.
On Thursday 11 January, Bishop Richard’s funeral service drew both Māori and Pākehā clergy from the North and South Islands, including a large number from his own Hui Amorangi o Te Waipounamu. Chairman of Kāti Māhaki’s Rūnaka o Makaawhio, Paul Madgwick, spoke of Bishop Richard’s years-long commitment to upholding the West Coast Kāi Tahu hapu that he has served as Upoko.
Paul explained how long before Richard Wallace became bishop, he had been the driving force behind the establishment of a marae for the Rūnaka, and for the duration of its construction had travelled miles each week to put in work on the ground.
Paul said that Richard Wallace had a special quality in the way he connected with people that served his iwi well.
“He represented us on every level, from welcoming Governors General or Prime Ministers to ordinary people – he could relate to them all.”
Next to speak was Bishop Richard’s daughter Maria Briggs, who introduced the members of Bishop Richard’s close whānau and acknowledged them each by name, thanking all who had been able to travel to support the whānau, including those from Australia.
Archbishop Philip Richardson spoke of Bishop Richard as not only a fellow bishop, but as a friend and fellow Air Force whānau.
Archbishop Philip reflected on Bishop Richard’s ability to forge his own path, and honoured how he’d respond to both people and powers attempting to put Māori down or leave Māori out.
“I have experienced some of that pain in Rihari...it was never far from the surface. But the power of the love that overlaid that, always, always was there with him, redemptive in every relationship, even in the very personal and close ones.”
Archbishop Don’s kauhau pointed to Bishop Richard’s example of a life lived in service, which saw him constantly choosing to serve his people: through the Armed Forces, through social and economic development, commitment to whānau and spiritual care.
As he had at the Cathedral, Archbishop Don spoke purposefully about the contentious decisions of the new coalition government, the injustices perpetuated on Māori and the example of Māori faith leaders like Bishop Richard in these challenging times.
“Here is Bishop Richard’s last sermon to you: Love one another as I have loved you.”
“So, don’t let your children and your mokopuna go a single day without hearing the words ‘I love you’. And if you’re married...don’t let them go a single day without hearing the words ‘I love you’.
“Don’t let your hapu or your whānau or your iwi know anything less than the power of your aroha. Love can do anything, it is the greatest power in the universe.”
As the funeral service ended, six Air Force personnel bore Bishop Richard’s coffin to the gates of Wairewa marae, as multiple voices sounded in calls of farewell and a haka set him on his final journey to Wairewa urupā.
At the graveside, Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Air Commodore D.J. Hunt read out Bishop Richard’s military biography, and an army bugler played the Last Post before the Odes of Remembrance were followed by a minute of silence.
Bishop Richard’s wife of 55 years and former Air Force medic Mere Wallace then laid red poppies on Bishop Richard’s coffin, alongside all those who had served in the Armed Forces and the military farewell closed with a haka.
Finally Archbishop Don Tamihere and Archbishop Sione Uluilakepa offered final prayers committing Bishop Richard to God’s care as he was laid to rest in the earth of the place he was born.