Asian community churches
Most Christian denominations found in New Zealand have been introduced by migrants, and new forms of Christianity continue to appear as new migrant communities develop. Some of the more recent migrants to New Zealand have been from countries where Christianity is not the dominant religion, for example China, South Korea and India. However, a large proportion of those migrants are members of Christian faiths and have contributed to the diversity of the Christian church in New Zealand. Some have joined existing churches, while others have formed their own churches.
Small groups of Chinese migrants have lived and worshipped in New Zealand since the mid-19th century. The New Zealand Chinese Anglican Mission Church was founded in 1907, in Frederick Street, Wellington. Branches were later formed in Ōtaki, Levin, Palmerston North, Dannevirke and northern Hawke’s Bay, where Chinese worked mainly as market gardeners. An Anglican Chinese community centre opened in Thorndon, Wellington, in 1969.
From the 1980s growing numbers of Chinese migrants to New Zealand led to the formation of new churches in most main centres. Christchurch Chinese Church was formed in 1989, and had services in Mandarin and English. In 1997 it began holding Cantonese and English services, and from 2007 it offered English-only services, for New Zealanders of Chinese origin who spoke little or no Chinese, and for those of other origins.
The great majority of Koreans who have migrated to New Zealand are Christians and regular churchgoers. The support of a local church is often very important to Korean migrants settling in New Zealand.
Most major Christian churches, including Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Catholics, offer services with Korean ministers and in the Korean language. In addition, centres with relatively large Korean populations have churches specifically for Koreans. These include the New Zealand Onnuri Church in Birkenhead, Auckland, and the Christchurch Korean Presbyterian Church. This opened in 1988, and was the first Korean church in the South Island. In the 2010s it offered Korean language lessons and a variety of social as well as church services.
Internet Christian communities
Almost all Christian denominations in New Zealand, and many individual churches, have websites for communicating with their congregations and recruiting new members. Some have gone further and developed internet-based Christian communities. These carry out many of the activities of traditional churches – collective worship, discussion, support, preaching and evangelising – through computer-based communications.
In some cases the online church exists alongside the physical church. It serves those church members who are unwilling or unable to attend their local religious community, perhaps because they are housebound and unable to reach a physical church. There are also internet Christian communities that have no physical equivalent. Both types of online church are generally accessible to worshippers from throughout the world, and growing numbers of New Zealand Christians choose to practise this form of religious observance.
Anglican Cathedral of Second Life
In 2007 the Reverend Mark Brown, an Anglican priest who was then CEO of the Bible Society of New Zealand, set up a ‘virtual’ Anglican cathedral. It is based in Second Life, an international virtual online community accessed through the internet, which had several million members in 2010. Some 400 of those, from more than 20 nations, regularly attended services at the online cathedral. For some, this was the only church service they attended. They did so for convenience and to worship with a worldwide congregation.
Bishop Tom Brown of the Anglican diocese of Wellington is one of two bishops who support the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life, and he has preached in it on occasion. He says, ‘It was felt that Second Life was a new frontier where the church needed to be represented and able to offer Christian and Anglican pastoral and spiritual support.’1
Online Christian communities have attracted criticism from people who question the value of a faith community whose members do not come into actual contact with each other.