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.