When Bishop Mark Whitfield entered the Redeemer College chapel for the opening service of Convention, we saw something we had not seen before. Draped around Bishop Mark’s shoulders was a unique Maori cloak, or Rapaki, made for him by long-time friend Jude Te Punga Nelson, to acknowledge his contribution to, and love for, the Lutheran Church of New Zealand.
Made from flax, flax fibre, knitting silk and cotton, the cloak took more than 200 hours to make and is named Te Aroha O Atua mo te Tangata, meaning ‘the love of God for the people’.
‘The free swinging portion of the cloak depicts a piano or organ keyboard and speaks to your love for music and acknowledges your God-given gift’, Jude said when she presented Bishop Mark with the Rapaki in the lead-up to Convention.
‘The pokini (rolled hard lowest portion of the cloak) have been etched with thirteen stripes; these represent Christ and his disciples. There are seven almost-hidden triple pokini, which allude to the Creation and depicts the Triune nature of God. The pokini will clap together as you move creating more music in your life.
‘The Taniko (finger twined) is a very old pattern … The colours are chosen to show the darkness of our sin contrasting with the pure and holy whiteness of God. The red stitches are the sacrificed blood of the Lamb that flows from the cross.’
Bishop Mark wore the cloak in public for the first time at Convention and told New Zealand Lutherans it would serve as a special reminder of the purpose of his role.
‘I will be honoured to wear this beautiful cloak as your servant-leader, and to be reminded each time I wear it, of my call to the ministry of God’s grace and love; the gospel of Jesus Christ’, he said.