In many countries in the world the church is divided on theological grounds, but only on the little southern Cook island of Mauke is it divided architecturally. Mauke is a raised atoll with a population of 700 people. A road encircles the island and others lead up through the makatea to its fertile core. Here are located the villages of Ngatiarua and Areora, near the junction of three roads. Standing within the junction is the Cook Islands Christian Church called Ziona, which was completed in 1882.

The two villages are very small, and when the decision was made to build a church, they agreed, sensibly, that a single place of worship would be sufficient to serve the spiritual needs of both. The building materials for the exterior, and the labour to erect them, was duly contributed by both Ngatiarua and Areora, and the structure was raised. Then the problems began.

The villagers could not agree on the design of Ziona's interior. After heated debate agreement still could not be reached, so it was decided to amalgamate two markedly different designs into one structure, each the preference of the two villages. A wall was built down the middle, Ngatiarua built its preferred interior on one side of it, and Areora did likewise on the other.

Mauke church
Ziona church, Mauke

Two doorways were cut in the walls and two walkways, each with its own distinctive carved coral portal, were built leading up to the two doors.

The wall was eventually taken down, and a pulpit built which straddles the divide, with the clear understanding by both villages that the pastor would thereafter conduct the service with a foot in each camp. Well over a century later, the Ziona church of Mauke remains that way today.

Deserted white sandy coves and several guest lodges attract a small number of visitors each year, looking for the peace and tranquility of a remote Pacific island.

  Mauke from the air

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