If today was a 'normal' Anzac Day Rahu Katene would have been leading the Awahou marae's commemoration service, he's done so for years. With Covid-19 cancelling traditional observances, he made his own dawn driveway salute to the Kiwi soldiers who fought so valiantly at Gallipoli and the servicemen and women who followed them. Rahu Katene is a man of the cloth not of the military. This is how that came to be.
It was not preordained that Rahu Katene would become a bishop – as he puts it "it just happened".
His was a quantum leap from "ordinary Kiwi joker" in the grease-stained overalls he wore for 35 years as an A grade mechanic with New Zealand Road Services (NZRS), to the church leader he's become.
His sights were never set on the purple vestments and towering mitre that are now his formal wear as Te Pīhopatanga O Te Manawa O Te Wheke.
The translation for the impressive title is bishop of the Māori Anglican Church's northern diocese, Rotorua included.
Brought up an Anglican (he admits not being a regular churchgoer) it wasn't until the late Whakahuihui Vercoe, then vicar of St Faith's, Ohinemutu, asked him if he'd like a ride to Napier "to see the place" that the priesthood entered his life.
"I'd never been there so said 'yeah okay'. Kaumatua Hapi Winiata and Toby Kameta were in the car too. Whakahuihui took us to a hui about the new structure for an independent Māori church. Before we knew it the three of us were the first candidates being trained as kai karakia [lay preachers]."
Rahu didn't come into the role completely cold. By then he was on the St Faith's vestry, joining the church when his Road Services job brought him back to where his life began – well almost.
His birthplace was rural Horohoro where his dad milked cows.
Rahu's was a home birth with his father the midwife. Cue his dad's theory of how his son came to be blessed with his resounding tenor voice.
"When I came out my grandmother grabbed a razor blade to cut the cord and badly sliced her finger, Dad got such a fright he dropped me on the floor. I bellowed so loudly he said 'that boy's going to be a good singer'. I guess I was lucky enough for that prophesy to come true."
Rahu's also great on the guitar.
"We had this old one hanging on the wall, it only had three strings but I played with it a lot as a kid and just kinda picked up how I thought it should sound."
Farm life was interrupted when his whānau's milking shed burned down.
"Dad gave Māori Affairs the land to look after and became a labourer."
At Horohoro Native School Rahu was in the top half of the academic ratings but at Rotorua High School (now Boys' High) a shock was in store; he was relegated to the industrial stream.
"Most boys stayed a couple of years then got apprenticeships, five of us went back the third year. When the principal called out the names for all the classes we were left sitting there, then put back in the 4th form.
"I started taking longs [trousers] to school so I could look for an apprenticeship."
Road Services signed him up.
In 1961 he married his late first wife, Kay Morgan, who worked in NZRS' front office however theirs wasn't a workplace romance, that began at a Ritz Hall ball.
The following year Rahu was appointed NZRS's head mechanic in Whakatāne.
"When we arrived the Catholic priest visited, I said I was an Anglican, on the way out he met the Anglican vicar coming in telling him 'he's one of yours'.
"Although I was a mechanic I didn't have a car so the vicar would pick us up a couple of times a month to go to church."
When the Whakatāne depot closed Rahu declined a transfer to Ōpōtiki, preferring to bring his growing family home.
"We had a railway house on The Reservation [Ford Block]. I built this tandem bike for the kids, the older boys pedalled it, the younger ones sat in front directing them, one day it simply disappeared."
The Ford Block was where he made the decision to serve the church.
Those commitments and his job rubbed along well until he was transferred to Lumsden.
"I'd never been to the South Island but my wife's mother came from there. It was amazing, you've just got to see Milford Sound in all its climatic conditions.
"The only Māori they knew were shearers who worked hard, drank hard. The guy who ran the shop used to count the number of kids following me to church when I was coaching in the rugby season."
The Katenes were Lumsdenites for four years, their youngest child was born there.
His next posting was to Hamilton as NZRS garage supervisor. It was a move that returned him to the clerical fold.
"I got involved in Hemi Taupu, the Māori church at Frankton, was given ministry training then ordained a deacon in 1983 in the Hamilton cathedral."
Life as an RNZS employee was a peripatetic one, in 1986 he was back in Rotorua as garage supervisor. His Horohoro iwi embraced him as their marae priest and he relieved in Taupō.
These were the years the government was big into corporatisation. In 1989 Rahu locked the door on the workshop he knew so well. Being five years shy of 40 years of continuous service he missed out on the State's contribution to his superannuation.
At the prompting of Bishop Manu Bennett he joined Māori Affairs.
"He said go there until the St Faith's vicar's position becomes available. Māori Affairs called me a consultant, my job was to take everybody to tangi."
His St Faith's tenure began in 1990, lasting until he was appointed chaplain at Sydney's Māori mission, Te Wairua Tapu.
"I had a wonderful time there ... heaps of memories."
Next stop Ngaruawahia where he became an Archdeacon and where his wife became terminally ill.
Home again, he was ordained bishop at Tametakapua wharenui (meeting house) in 2006.
The previous year he'd remarried his present wife, Kamana Solomon, an old friend from Sydney. Her husband had died two years before Kay.
"We were drawn to each other, I truly believe in chemistry between people."
Quiz this unconventional bishop with a giggle that parallels Billy T James' on the role the church plays in the contemporary world and he's adamant it's essential.
"Particularly to emphasise the value of the Ten Commandments, they're absolutely necessary for our wellbeing, there's such a loss of respect these days that the church can restore."
Ngarahu (Rahu) Katene
Born: Horohoro, 1940
Education: Horohoro Native School, Rotorua High School
Family: Wives the late Kay Katene, now married to Kamana, five sons, daughter, six mokopuna (grandchildren)
Interests: Family, gardening. "I used to enjoy golf but there's no time now." Rugby. Played for Rotoiti and Waikite seniors and was in BOP Māori team's curtainraiser for the 1956 Springboks-Wellington match. Crosswords "to stop me getting Alzheimer's".
On lockdown: "Every Sunday I'm taking a service on Zoom for the Pihopatanga. If today was a normal Anzac Day I'd been leading the Awahou service, it's become a kind of tradition, and a lot of my whānau were in the Māori Battalion."
On his life: "It's been full and fulfilling."
Personal philosophy: "Don't open your mouth only to prove yourself a fool."
A life highlight: Meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace on his wife's birthday. "When I said I was from Rotorua she immediately replied 'oh, I've stayed at Lake Rotoiti it was lovely.'