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Christianity and community : aspects of religious life and attitudes in the Wanganui-Manawatu region, 1870-1885 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
At the turn of the twentieth century, Andre Siegfried, a visiting observer, commented that 'No tradition has remained so strong in New Zealand as the religious one'. This, he felt, was decisively proved by the newspapers in which 'every New Zealand editor must be able on occasion to take up his good theological pen and discuss in a leading article transubstantiation, the rights of the established church, or the legality of ritualism'.1 1 Andre Siegfried, Democracy in New Zealand, (London, 1914 [2nd edition, 1982]), p.310. These comments could have equally applied twenty or thirty years earlier, for similar conditions existed at that time. A century from then, however, the place of ecclesiastical news occupies a much less prominent place in most newspapers. The weekly activities of the churches are seldom a subject of note, and issues of religious interest are more likely to occupy space in the correspondence pages than in reporting of public life. Topics addressed more frequently concern morality than church life, and the aptitude of the editor's theological pen has noticeably diminished. Similarly, in ihe writing of New Zealand history, the historian's pen has often run dry when it comes to appreciating what Laurie Barber terms 'the religious dimension in New Zealand's history'.2 2 L.H. Barber, 'The Religious Dimension in New Zealand's History', in Religion in New Zealand Society, (eds) Brian Colless and Peter Donovan (Palmerston North, 1980), pp.15-29. In 1994, Jane Simpson commented that 'The standard general histories of New Zealand written from the late 1950s have dismissed religion altogether, restricted the consideration of its impact to the missionary period, or trivialised its influence'.3 3 Jane Simpson, 'Women, Religion and Society in New Zealand: A Literature Revie', Journal of Religious History, vol.18 no.2 (1994), pl98. This pattern has been evident in other influential works in our historiography.