Titikaveka Cook Islands Christian Church

Historical building in the district of Takitumu

Named Betela, Bethel in English meaning house of God, this church building was started in 1835 and opened in 1841. It is the third church built for this congregation. The land is called Areika and extends across the road where the hall and minister's house are located. The other two were located at Tepuru and Rangitaku, also within the district. According to Reverend William Gill in his book Gems of the Coral Islands, 1856, this church was built under the supervision of a Mr Cunningham.

The original church building had three gables and a rau'ara (pandanus leaf) thatch roof. In 1884 the building underwent major renovations, whereby the three gables were converted into a large, single one and the roof was replaced with corrugated iron. Markings in the stone work from this major renovation are still visible in the wall behind the pulpit. The building was constructed with hand-sawn blocks of coral which were cut from the an ancient reef that runs along the beach at Titikaveka, parts of which are still visible. The smaller blocks were handed from person to person all the way to the construction site while the larger blocks were transported by raft on the lagoon. The timber used in the interior of the church are from native trees such as toa (ironwood), tamanu (island mahogany) and miro (Pacific rosewood). The rafters and posts are the original timbers used when the church was first built; these were treated by soaking in mud, which acts as a kind of preservative and the timber appears to have fared well over time. The eight pillars inside the church signify the eight ui mataiapo (chiefs) of the village who accepted Christianity into the village.

At the time of the 1884 renovation a dysentery epidemic swept through the congregation resulting in the deaths of over 100 people, including two daughters of the pastor. The dead were buried on the hill overlooking the village. The first pastor to serve here, Taunga from Ngatangiia, served from 1832 to 1840. The first pastor from Titikaveka was Tamuera Terei, the son of the first pastor. He served here from 1871-1882. A monument in the graveyard records the names of Cook Islands missionaries, Anederea (and his wife and two children), Materoa a Nganga (and his wife and two children), Taria a A'a of Aitutaki and Matatuhi, from Ra'ivavae (in French Polynesia), who were martyred in Papua New Guinea in March of 1881.

Teava, an early convert from Titikaveka, became a missionary and went to Samoa in 1832, one of the first locally trained missionaries to leave Rarotonga to spread the Gospel elsewhere in the Pacific. 'Marana ata' on the back of the gateway lintel is the Maori word for Maranatha, an Aramaic phrase occurring in 1 Co 16:22, which means "Our Lord has come".

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