Penrhyn Gospel Day , 13th
Palmerston Gospel Day, 25th
Mangaia Gospel Day, 15th
Atiu Gospel Day, 19th
Mitiaro Gospel Day, 21st
Mauke Gospel Day, 23rd
Manihiki Gospel Day, 8th
Rakahanga Gospel Day, 15th
Aitutaki Gospel Day, 26th
National Gospel Day, 27th
Pukapuka Gospel Day, 6th
Cook Islanders are very religious...but who says religion can't be fun?! Gospel days are public holidays for celebrating the arrival of Christianity. Events are organised by the Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) and the churches themselves compete against each other to put on the best show. Islanders dress up, stage elaborate dramas or "nuku", sing, dance, play music and generally have a great time.
The London born clergyman, the Rev. John Williams was responsible for bringing Christianity to the Islands. He volunteered for service with the London Missionary Society in 1816 when he was just 20. He was ordained in September of that year, married in October and sailed for the South Seas in November.
It was five years later - after working in Tahiti - that Williams, his wife and some native Tahitian evangelists arrived off Aitutaki. According to another LMS missionary, Bernard Thorogood in his 1960 book "Not Quite Paradise", Island chiefs came across in canoes "..clad chiefly in tattoo marks and waving their spears".
It was 1823 before the Islanders finally rejected their idols and Williams returned to Aitutaki for the opening of the first Christian church.
Right:: "The Rev John Williams on board ship with native implements, in the South Sea Islands" by Henry Anelay, 1838.
From the pictures collection of the National Library of Australia (nla.pic-an6621835). Reproduced with permission.
The September 11th attack on the twin towers in New York and war in the Middle East were among the re-enacted "dramas" of a previous gospel day on Rarotonga. The participating churches wanted people to think about the battle between good and evil in the world.
RAROTONGA GOSPEL DAY ON VIDEO
Click here to watch a 5 minute film about gospel day on the capital island, created by the daily newspaper, Cook Islands News.
Opens in Windows Media Player
THE MISSIONARY WHO CHANGED HISTORY
GOSPEL DAY ON PALMERSTON: A rare first-hand account
Palmerston has a population of just over 50 people, but Gospel Day there is celebrated by every single one of them. Things start at 3 am, there's feasting, lots of prayers and finally holy day gives way to holiday. Read the only published account of the unique celebrations written by one of the island's young residents.