Connection to church and spirituality

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Title slide: Connections to church and spirituality

Reverend Fitifiti Luatua, E.F.K.S Church, Christchurch

Images of the environment at E.F.K.S Church

The church is part of the wider community, that's going back in the island. Where the village is, it’s got the churches, education, the schools, the health, every other sectors are an important part of the communities.

Reverend Fitifiti Luatua, E.F.K.S Church, Christchurch, facing camera

So, that's back home where the villages... where we have the, everybody, the leadership from the matai’s (the chiefs) then it comes down to the families and then to the extended families. Where everybody has a part to play, and the church becomes a central part of their spiritual life whereby they go every Sunday. Everyone has to go to church. Because that's a very important part of the village structure and also part of everyday lives, as far as people are concerned.

But now in New Zealand, the church now becomes the village. We have everyone from the village. We have the village structure that's also centrality in the church. We have the ministers, we had the matai (the chiefs), the orators. We have the faletua (the mothers) and then we have the youth, so all age groups are in there. And that's where we do all things, all cultural components of our everyday life. It's all handled in the church. That's where we teach the values to our children.

Dr Ali Glasgow, Lecturer, Victoria University of Wellington, facing camera

We're part of a collective community, particularly of Polynesian, where a large extended family is how we live our lives. And by the time you get to a certain age, we’re all “Mama”, everyone takes responsibility. We all, you can go have your... go and sleep at Aunty’s place tonight, and then I might go down the road to Grandma's place. You know the village is very much a fluid, you know... people will live, you know, that sense of not just the nuclear family – we're all, yeah, we're all connected in this place.

So, I think, I think there’s some really valuable learning that we as, you know, Pākehā, we can take from that way of looking after each other, caring for each other. That spirituality comes through very strongly and not just the church but it's how we look after each other, how we celebrate, we worship, we do blessings, we bless our food, we bless our day. That helps us reinforce ourselves. It nourishes our soul as well.

Reverend Fitifiti Luatua, E.F.K.S Church, Christchurch, facing camera

Spirituality encompasses the wholeness of life, in as far as our Pacific people are concerned. You know their understanding in relationship with the surroundings, their identities, their cultures, and what they do in everyday life. So, spirituality, I will call it the holistic view of the surrounding, the world and the relationship, everything to do with human life and in specific children. It's very central because that is a very important stage of the development of the children, you know.

Whereby, it's taught at home and the parents become the first teachers where they learn about themselves, their sense of belonging, their parents, their sisters and brothers, their aunts and uncles, and their great grandfathers and mothers. So, it's connecting them to those important areas of who they are and whose they are. And also with the extended families. How they are connected and what is expected of them. You know, like that saying, the whole village raises a child, it takes a whole village. So, I see the perception of the church as very important.

Ioane Ioane, Pastor, Deputy Chairperson, Parent, Kingsford Primary, Auckland, facing camera

Well, one thing is, like in Samoan culture, culture goes hand-in-hand with religion. So you cannot take the two apart. You can't just take the culture and leave it, it has to go hand-in-hand. It's like yin and yang. So for the teachers to know that it's special, it’s like the Tapasā word, it's embedded into these Pacific kids that church and culture has to go one on one. And through the teaching hopefully, they can grasp that and then use it as a tool for their education.

Reverend Pennie Vaione Otto, Deputy Principal, Manurewa High School, Auckland, facing camera

What we want teachers to know about the role of the church and spirituality is that it is central to our families. While time has evolved and generations kind of become a bit more technological, so to say, it doesn't take away that spirituality for us as Pasifika, it is really important. There's a certain essence, an element to it that you cannot remove. So, for example, we might have students who themselves do not attend church but their grandparents will stay very connected to the church. We've got first-generation and second-generation, you know, New Zealand born Pasifika who don't really engage in the church space per se, but that element of spirituality it never goes away.

I honestly believe that if you come back to or if you engage with your local Samoan or Tongan or Niuean or Cook Island church that's the only way you're going to keep your language alive or even learn about culture. So I think it's really important that schools understand the value of church and spirituality in that space.

Reverend Fitifiti Luatua, Christchurch, facing camera

Early childhood students reading and playing

And so when talking about spirituality it's about, you know, their understanding of who they are. What God expected of them and how they were created and what they expected in terms of their own living.

You know they’ve got to look after one another, support each other. They have to respect each other. All those values that are learned at home. It's the same when you go out to the communities and into the churches and when you leave home, you are there with that... you are ready to live wherever you go. But knowing that you have a sense of belonging. So that's why spirituality is so central that they know who they are.

This video illustrates the values of faith, spirituality (church), and family. Values that are important to many Pacific learners are collective community, spirituality in the lives of Pacific children and families, and looking after and caring for each other. Culture is also an important part of a Pacific learner's identity, and it is built around the core Pacific values of respect, spirituality and Christian faith.

Relevant ethnicities
  • Cook Islands
  • Samoa
Relevant turu
  • Turu 1

Spirituality and the classroom

There will be many versions of faith and spirituality in your learning setting, and it is important that we are tolerant and accepting of values and beliefs, while also following the Ministry of Education guidance about spiritual components in secular education.

Understanding your learners’ faiths and spiritual beliefs will give you a holistic view of each child. Understanding faith doesn't mean that you need to unpack it or teach to it, rather, it’s a way to find out about your learner outside of school, and a way to connect with the wider community and families.

Reflections for individual teachers

This video demonstrates that cultural customs and spirituality are important to Pacific learners’ ways of being. The video also shows the way that the values of respect, love, family and collectivism are interconnected.

As you watch this video:

  • Think about how to engage your Pacific learners in classroom discussions in the context of their community and spirituality. How can you embed Pacific values and cultural practices to enhance learning through engagement in class discussions and content?
  • How can you incorporate Pacific knowledge, values and practices into your class content? Can you identify other ways of engaging with your learners, using culturally inclusive pedagogies, that will improve their learning in the classroom?

To acknowledge the different cultures in your classroom it is necessary to have an idea of who your learners are and their cultural backgrounds.

  • What is your current method for inviting learners to introduce themselves and share their name and its origin, where their family is from, the community they live in, and their spiritual worldview? Can you pronounce all of your learners’ names correctly? How can you improve on your current practice?
  • Think about how you can enhance and strengthen your learners' cultural and spiritual worldviews and how you can support and enable them to understand and make sense of curriculum learning through their own experiences. What teaching methods could you use?
  • How will you share your place in your community, your family, background, culture, values, and your name? A good way for learners to share the significance of their names is storytelling.


Reflections for staff or departments

Culturally responsive pedagogy for Pacific learners is built around core values that include spirituality, respect, stories, humility, humour, affection, and a sense of community.

Reflect on the following questions in the context of a culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy:

  • How can you enable your Pacific learners and their families to share their knowledge with each other, and at the same time collaborate with other students and parents to learn?
  • How is your school creating an environment that is safe and supportive of Pacific learners with regards to their culture, spiritual faith and life experiences?
  • How does your school build Pacific knowledge into content and delivery and how are you customising teaching methods to suit Pacific learners?
  • What cultural competency workshops does your school currently offer to encourage culturally responsive teaching and learning and catering for difference acknowledging that the cultural values and norms of your learners may be different from your own?