An audience of hundreds was singing, clapping and swaying after children enacted the moment prophet Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana was visited by the Holy Spirit 100 years ago.

Children from Te Kura o Rātana performed a play about TW Rātana's life on the stage at Rātana Marae, near Whanganui, at 11am on Thursday. The church service commemorating the same event was at 2pm.

The play, in te reo Māori, showed Rātana's family harvesting wheat on his farm, and Rātana himself betting at the TAB and going to a horse race.

Children pretend to be jockeys in a horse race, for a play during November 8 celebrations at Rātana Pā. Photo / Stuart Munro Whanganui Chronicle
Children pretend to be jockeys in a horse race, for a play during November 8 celebrations at Rātana Pā. Photo / Stuart Munro Whanganui Chronicle

"He bet on horses, and raised horses as well," descendant and Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe said.

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The farmer was shown taking children to the store at Turakina in his car, and buying them ice cream.

Then, in an event in March 1918, they were fishing at the Whangaehu River mouth when two whales beached there.

"[The whales] came to be significant signs of what was to come," Rurawhe said.

Then, on November 8 at 2pm, the Holy Spirit came to Rātana in a cloud, with angel messengers. In the play the cloud was a cluster of white balloons that bounced around above the stage in the wind.

"It was the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the message that he had for Rātana about what he was to do from that time onwards - which was basically to unite the people under the one true God."

Hundreds watch as children from Te Kura o Rātana perform a play about prophet TW Rātana's life. Photo / Stuart Munro Whanganui Chronicle
Hundreds watch as children from Te Kura o Rātana perform a play about prophet TW Rātana's life. Photo / Stuart Munro Whanganui Chronicle

The celebrations were running to plan, Rurawhe said, with the youth programmes and tent for spiritual discussion especially good.

People from the Ringatu, Salvation Army, Mormon, Anglican, Catholic, Muslim and Kingitanga groups were all talking there.

Thursday was a sitting day in Parliament, with its prayer including Rātana elements as a mark of respect.

Rurawhe and fellow MPs Rino Tirikatene, Nanaia Mahuta and Kelvin Davis stayed on at Rātana for the celebrations.

The gifts Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave the movement on November 7 went down well, Rurawhe said. They refer back to four gifts TW Rātana gave Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage in the 1930s.

Ardern announced funding of $1.9 million to provide infrastructure for a 26- section addition, one long-planned for the Rātana settlement.

"It needs roading, water, sewerage, power and also some work is needed around drainage," Rurawhe said.

A further $1.7 million is promised for later, and the land has potential for 70 sections in total.

Ardern also gave a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi and her own bible.

"She gifted her personal bible, that her mother had given to her. It was a very personal thing for her to do."

What was most important about those two gifts, Rurawhe said, was her commitment to uphold the values of both - including the "promise to be a government that is kind and compassionate".

Her fourth gift was eight harakeke (flax) plants, on behalf of her infant daughter. The Rātana movement had offered her the name Waru (meaning eight) for the baby, but she decided on Te Aroha instead.

"Our people were quite okay about that, but it was a nice thing for her to do on behalf of her daughter," Rurawhe said.