23 September 2022

Griffith's LifeSource church launch weekly Cook Islands Maori Mass

| Oliver Jacques
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Steven Rand and Theresa Mataora outside LifeSource Church in the sun..

Pastors Steven Rand and Theresa Mataora outside LifeSource Church. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

In a sign of the growing prominence of Griffith’s Pacific Islander population, a popular church in town has launched a weekly Cook Islands service.

Lifesource, a Pentecostal Christian church with a growing parish in Griffith, now offers a Mass delivered in the Cook Islands Maori language every Sunday at 1 pm. The inaugural service on 31 July 2022 attracted 145 attendees.

Pastor Theresa Mataora, a Cook Islander who delivers the service, recognised the growing demand for what she now offers.

“There was no real place for Cook Islanders to worship in the same way they do back home,” she said.

“We have a really big Pacific Islander population here in Griffith … work is scarce at home, so for many years families have been moving here for jobs.

“Although they speak English they appreciate being able to worship in their native language.”

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There are more Cook Islanders living in Australia than there are in the Cook Islands, a self-governing country located in the South Pacific Ocean. More than 28,000 Cook Islanders reside in Australia, while the population of the Cook Islands was estimated at 17,565 in 2021.

Senior Pastor Steven Rand, who presides over the main [English] Mass at 9:30 am every Sunday, said the demographics of the local Cook Islands population were changing.

“The town has been blessed by their presence here … they bring very good qualities. Initially, we saw a lot of labourers for the chicken farms, but more recently we’re seeing more Cook Islanders employed by the wineries and in higher skilled professions.”

The weekly LifeSource Sunday Mass features a hymn unique to the Cook Islands, called Imene tuki, which includes cascading multi-part harmonies.

Church members singing

Congregation members sing loudly during the inaugural service. Photo: Supplied.

“Our Cook Islands service is also attended by Fijians and Tongans. Anyone is welcome. If there are people who don’t speak the language I can do some translations,” Pastor Theresa said.

Pastor Mataora is the wife of Scholar Mataora, an elder in the church and former star rugby league player.

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Lifesource Church have long been trailblazers in the Riverina. In 2018, they opened the first ever non-Catholic Christian school in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, which is called Verity Christian College.

“We now have 127 students, we offer classes from pre-kinder to year 10,” Pastor Rand said.

“We are open to all Christian faiths, we are getting a lot of students from other Christian religions.

“We would love to be able to offer year 11 and 12 but we need a good portion of land to be able to extend – it’s something we are looking for now.”

Pastor Rand said that almost 50 per cent of students at the school are of Pacific Islander origin, a community that makes up about 20 per cent of the total congregation.

Further information can be found on the LifeSource Church Griffith Facebook page.

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