For the current and former members of New Zealand's Masterton Ward, belonging to a Latter-day Saint congregation is something to celebrate. In fact, such are the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood forged through years of worshipping and associating together, former members have travelled from other parts of New Zealand and from Australia to attend a special reunion.
The reunion for individuals and families who have attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Masterton took place in the New Year period, 2012.
Local Latter-day Saint leader, Bishop James Aporo, said the reunion is "an opportunity for families and friends to once again reunite and celebrate the long legacy of the Masterton Ward."
More than 350 current and former members of the ward participated in a variety of events over five days. Reunion activities included a bus tour, dance, talent show, dinner, historical tours of the region and sacrament meeting (worship service) at the Opaki Road Chapel.
Jared Riwai-Couch attended church in Masterton as a teenager. Now living in Christchurch he has returned with his wife and five children to participate in the reunion. His Grandfather, Member of Parliament Ben Couch was a well-known Latter-day Saint from Masterton.
The Church's chapel located on Opaki Rd was built by local members of the Church and finished in 1965. The chapel has enabled members to gather for more than two thousand sacrament meetings and weekly youth activities, and provided a venue for numerous weddings and funerals.
The reunion commenced with a pōwhiri, an appropriate event given the strong relationship between the Church and the local Māori community.
In 1881 at Te Oreore Marae, Paora Potangaroa a well-known Māori prophet announced the coming of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Wairarapa region. Many of his descendants remain in the Wairarapa and are attending the reunion.
This and many other aspects of Latter-day Saint history in the Wairarapa have been captured in a print publication titled He Hokinga Mahara: Linking the Past to the Future.
The Church's website for media, opinion leaders and the public, Newsroom.lds.org, states that: "Members of a ward worship together on Sundays and hold activities during the week. A ward is a community where Mormons can develop friendships and support their fellow Church members in their efforts to worship and follow Jesus Christ. Everyone is welcome to visit ward worship services on Sundays."
Read more about Latter-day Saint congregations here.