Our Whakapapa

‘Whakapapa’ is a term that is familiar to many in Aotearoa-New Zealand, but perhaps not so for others. It’s a Te Reo Māori word that can be translated as genealogy; but in its wider sense it means a framework of mapping relationships, so that history, knowledge, legend, tikanga (custom), philosophies and spiritualities are preserved and transmitted across generations. For NZCMS, understanding our whakapapa means knowing the story of our rich heritage across different times, locations, and generations, and tracing the faithfulness of God through His people.

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The Beginnings of NZCMS

On a Friday evening in April 1799, a small group gathered at the Castle and Falcon pub in London. They were meeting to form a new society which would spread the Gospel to the world – to disseminate ‘treasures more valuable than silver and gold…the offerings of spiritual peace and Christian freedom.’ These men were part of the Clapham Sect, a network of evangelical Christians that included well-known figures such as William Wilberforce.

The Clapham Sect had long been discussing ways to preach the Gospel and plant churches in Australia, the East Indies, Southeast Asia and Africa. The Church Missionary Society (CMS) was born from these conversations, and the first missionaries were sent out to Africa, India and then New Zealand.

In New Zealand, the CMS missionaries were amongst the earliest European settlers. At first there were very few converts; however the Gospel started to spread, and Māori began turning to God. It was these new believers who became the most effective at reaching their own people.

New Zealanders soon began thinking beyond Aotearoa, to the world beyond; and in 1892, 78 years after the first missionaries arrived to our shores, the New Zealand Church Missionary Society (NZCMS) was formed. Less than a year later, a woman named Marie Pasley became the first missionary sent out by NZCMS, serving in Japan for 29 years. Since that time, our missionaries have served in countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America, Europe and the Pacific.

It is by God’s grace and provision that we continue to prepare, send and support partners in mission, and empower the Church to participate in God’s mission wherever they are.

Learn More about the Story of Mission in Aotearoa New Zealand

Whakapapa videos

We invite you to hear the stories of our missions whakapapa, our history in Aotearoa New Zealand, from those at the heart of the NZCMS community.


NZCMS National Director Rosie Fyfe welcomes you to this video series, introducing you briefly to each video and its topic.

Zinzendorf and the Moravians

Listen to the incredible stories of a group in modern-day Germany who devoted themselves to prayer, saw miracles, and committed to radical love and mission.

The Clapham Sect

Who were the Clapham Sect and how can they inspire youth and young adult engagement in missions today?

The Church Missionary Society - King and Kingdom

Rosie discusses the founding of the Church Missionary Society in 1799, speaking of their passion for sharing the Good News of Jesus and fighting against injustice.

The Gospel in Aotearoa

Who were the early Māori evangelists that brought about Gospel transformation in this land? Keri-Ann shares these powerful stories and how she understands her role in this ministry of evangelism.

Passionate Young People

Guy shares about a particular story in NZCMS’ history, in which many young people committed to becoming involved in mission.

Our Story: Aotearoa

This fascinating book tells the story of mission in Aotearoa through the lens of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society. Written by a range of authors, it provides a rich history and valuable perspective. Please contact us to purchase a hard copy of the book.

You can find the first three chapters here in PDF form. Please contact our office if you would like to order the book in hardcopy.

Karuwhā Trust

If you would like to engage further with the conversation about identity and history in Aotearoa New Zealand, we recommend the work of the Karuwhā Trust. They seek to help people know the story they are a part of by connecting communities through haerenga, story and service.