Arorangi Cook Islands Christian Church

CICC Church - Historic building in Arorangi, district of Puaikura

During the early days of Christianity, which arrived on Rarotonga in 1823, the people of Arorangi and their chief, Tinomana Ariki, travelled to the village of Avarua for church services. They walked to Avarua on Friday and returned to their village on Monday. This continued for several weeks and then it was decided the people of Arorangi (along with the people of the Takitumu village) would live in Avarua rather than travel ever weekend. This was decided so that they could continue to receive instruction from the two Tahitian missionaries, Papehia and Tiberio. The people of Arorangi remained in Avarua for four years.

At the end of 1828 it was decided that a church would be set up at Arorangi so that Tinomana and his people could return to their village. The missionaries encouraged the people to create a new settlement on the coast rather than allow them to go back to their former stronghold in the mountains at Maungaroa. Despite this the first church building, which was made from timber and thatch, was located inland under the mountain known as Maungaroa, the original home of the traditional chief Tinomana Ariki.

This church was destroyed by a cyclone, as was the next one. The third one, also a timber building, was in a rundown state by 1844 that it was resolved that a stone one would be built in its place. The fourth church was built and completed in 1849. Named Ziona (Zion), the Christian meaning of which is "God's spiritual kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem", was built by Tinomana Enuarurutini Ariki and his tribe, with some assistance by Rev. William Gill of the London Missionary Society (now the Cook Islands Christian Church). This building was constructed from timber, coral rubble and limestone mortar which is obtained from burnt coral. The building took twelve months to complete. It measured 60 feet by 50 feet; the walls were 30 inches thick and 24 feet high. In the 1970s the floor of the church was changed from timber to concrete.

In the 1980s due to an increase in worshippers attending church a second floor was constructed at the back half of the building to seat 300 plus parishioners. Funds to meet the cost for this construction was by pledge effort of the four main Taperes of this village; Ruaau, Akaoa, Betela, Rutaki each raising and contributing NZD$10,000.00. The plan for this new floor was architected, supervised and constructed by Tahitian builder Mr Ora Mati. All known builders in the village from all denomination came together to help, bringing along their modern building tools and skilled labourers taking only 1 week to complete the additional seating project. The building later underwent a major renovation in 2009 costing nearly NZD$100,000.00 which was raised again through pledges by the Arorangi community and those living in New Zealand and Australia.

Papehia, full name Papehia Teato, is buried in the centre of the church graveyard, near the road, between a tall pillar monument (with a crown on it) and a shorter pillar monument honouring the memory of Rev. John Williams, the pioneering LMS missionary of the South Pacific. In addition a black granite monument, located close to the front of the church building was erected in 1974 by his descendants, commemorating Papehia's missionary work in the Cook Islands. Papehia married the eldest daughter of Tinomana Ariki, Te Vaerua o te rangi. They had eight children.

The main building, known as the Mission House, underwent major renovations between 2008-09 and was officially re-opened on Gospel Day 26th October 2009.

At the rear of the church, in unmarked graves, you will find buried, early Christian converts of the Tinomana tribe. Throughout the cemetery you can also find many graves of strong deacons and assistant pastors who served the Arorangi Cook Islands Christian church community, most are descendants of Tinomana and Papehia. Two recent prominent Tinomana Ariki title holders are also buried here they being Tinomana Tepai and Tinomana Napa as well as a chief of Mitiaro, Tou Ariki.

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