Sunday, August 18, 2019
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
May the meditations of my heart and the words of my mouth be a testament to you, Oh Lord my strength, my redeemer and my teacher.
I have to admit to you that I am uncomfortable standing here before you. I do not see myself as a church leader, I am certainly not a Kahu or pastor, I am not Hawaiian, I can’t play the saxophone…there are a lot of things I am not but I try very hard to be a dedicated servant here at Keawala`i!
In my teaching career one of my favorite subjects was Social Studies and within that is the subject of History. It is in that vein that, I would like to share a few thoughts from our 187-year history with you today. I hope to tie it all in to this special place that we know as Keawala`i Congregational Church.
You might know that this church was founded in 1832. It was first built of pili grass and was called the Church of Honua`ula. (a variety of sugar cane formerly used in medicine and one of the best for eating raw).
In May of 1832, the same year this church was founded, Andrew Jackson was reelected president of the United States and Martin Van Buren was elected vice president. Also in May of that year the Treaty of London created the independent Kingdom of Greece.
From 1855 to1858 our church was rebuilt as a stone & wood building with members gathering coral to be used to make cement and others bringing lumber from the forest side. Pastor Nueku placed a bible and a hymnal in the cornerstone and offered a prayer.
In 1856 the Sunday school raised $70 to buy a bell for the church. It arrived in January 1860, the same year that the plumeria was first introduced to Hawaii by a German botanist. The bell was lifted to the belfry in 1862 the same year that the Frenchman Victor Hugo had his historical novel Les Misérables published. While in Mexico forces commanded by General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862 (commemorated by the Cinco de Mayo holiday). In August Claude Debussey the French composer was born. Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) tells the story that becomes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, for ten-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters, and Keawala`i was still here!
In 1864 the land where the Church now stands was purchased for $80 from Mahoe, the last Konohiki or headman who administered the land ruled by an ali'i chief. The land was surveyed and the deed recorded.
The minister, Pastor Hezekiah Manase, asked that the property, church and deed be turned over to the mission in Boston, but the members voted to retain the property as their own and elected nine trustees, one of whom was a forbear of Auntie Judy K’s husband. This same year Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is established when 200 acres of the grounds of Robert E. Lee's home are officially set-aside as a military cemetery by U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Jules Verne wrote his story, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and Keawala`i was still here!
From 1864 to 1870, Kahu Kaiwi was the pastor. Church records were updated in 1876, when the list of members was divided into four districts. In 1876 Mark Twain published “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and on March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell conducted a successful experiment with the telephone. This breakthrough, during which he spoke his famous request to his assistant, 'Mr Watson, come here. I want to see you,’ changed our world forever. A man by the name of Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant beer-maker, licensed the name of Budweiser in America, and Keawala`i was still here!
Over the next several years our records show more than 13 different people were called to be the pastor here. I often wonder what their sermons would be like? Were they worried about what would happen after they moved on or what would be their legacy? Our records show their concerns, often like ours today, were about repairs and maintenance and the changing nature of the community.
Might they have read the same scripture we did today which tells us in Ecclesiastes 3, “I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.” Would they apply that to the work God has done here at Keawala`i knowing that it would endure up to this day?
In Hawaii in 1878, the Hawaiian Bell Telephone Company incorporated and the first telephone lines in Hawai`i connected Samuel Wilder's Interior Ministry office with his lumberyard. Lili'uokalani writes the beautiful "Aloha ‘Oe," during her confinement, and Keawala`i was still here!
In 1879, the first 3500 Chinese laborers arrive in Hawaii. The Kahului & Wailuku railroad opened on Maui. An eruption of Mauna Loa causes lava to lap at the outskirts of Hilo town. Rites performed by Princess Ruth, granddaughter of Kamehameha I, halt the flow at the town's edge. In 1881, William Purvis first introduced Macadamia nuts to Hawaii from Australia. The next year Captain William Matson acquires the first vessel of his sailing fleet for transport between Hawai'i and the U.S. mainland, and Keawala`i was still here!
In 1884, Princess Bernice Bishop, great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, dies. Her will places vast land holdings in a perpetual trust and establishes Kamehameha Schools.
Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee is celebrated in 1887 and King David Kalākaua sent a delegation from Hawaii. In 1889 the Eiffel Tower is built for the Paris Centennial Exposition and the first anthurium plants were introduced to Hawaii from England. U.S. agents encourage a group of businessmen to remove Queen Lili'uokalani from power and to set up a Provisional Government under Sanford Dole in 1892 and Keawala`i was still here!
On a personal note, on June 24,1898 the 10th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment after arriving in Honolulu aboard a steamer from San Francisco was entertained on the grounds of the palace in Honolulu. In that regiment, in Company I was Sergeant Harry L. Probst, my grandfather. The regiment would later report to Manila as part of Admiral Dewey’s forces during the Spanish-American War.
Through the next several decades the weather patterns changed here in Makena. The forested slopes of Haleakala were harvested; the lower slopes that grew cane, potatoes, tobacco and other crops by small farmers changed to large ranching operations. The land became dry and the people moved away for jobs elsewhere. The great depression came and even more people moved away. The church in Makena fell into disrepair and was plagued by pillaging and thievery. But despite all of this Keawala`i was still here!
In the 1950’s the church was refurbished and repaired by the many loving people of the congregation and their friends. A new alter was donated in memory of Mother Hattie Chang by her family. New hymnals and new English-Hawaiian New Testaments were given in memory of Daniel Foo Sum by his wife and children. In 1952 the membership rose to more that 40 and the church was rededicated by Kahu Abraham Akaka. A 50 voice all Maui-Hawaiian choir sang at the sunrise service. A lūʻau was held with special kōkua being received by the church from Edward Baldwin, Eddie Chang, Joseph Kalohelani and Abner DeLima and others. Keawala`i was still here and vibrant.
Last week Taka spoke eloquently about being prepared for whatever may come. Pam Norris shared with me that there are 25 places in the Bible where God tells us to be prepared and 5 places we are told to stand firm because trials will come our way. In the 60’s our belfry collapsed and was replaced while we also replaced doors and windows. This Church has seen and endured many trials throughout our history. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are told “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. The people of this Church, through the years, have remained vigilant.
In 1969, Statues of Kamehameha I and Father Damien were installed in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. The first competitive Merrie Monarch hula festival is held in Hilo in 1970 and has become an event that we all look forward to each year. In 1972 Representative Patsy Mink (2nd District Hawaii) co-authored legislation known as "Title IX mandating equal opportunities for women in sports and education. And, yes, Keawala`i was still here!
In 1982 the population of Hawaii reached 1 million and compact discs began to replace cassette tapes and records. In 1983, Kilauea Volcano begins its present eruption, above Kalapana, the lava flow destroys two houses, the first home destruction since the 1960 Kapoho flow. In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger explodes after takeoff, killing the entire crew, including Hawaii's Ellison Onizuka. In 1986 the Maui Prince Resort completed construction just down the road. A 1st class postage stamp cost 24 cents in 1987, Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Keawala`i was still here!
In 1991 Kahu Kealahou C. Alika was called to the pulpit of Keawala`i Congregational Church starting his 29 year pastorate which will come to a close next year. In 1992, members voted to restore the floor of the church. The previous floor was constructed in 1908 out of Douglas fir. The Floor Restoration Project was completed on October 2, 1994. The new floor is made out of ‘ohi‘a, a wood native to Hawai‘i. 1992 was also the year Hurricane Iniki struck the islands; this hurricane is the most devastating natural disaster ever in Hawaii's recorded history, causing $1.8 billion in damage.
In 1992 a new altar cross was commissioned. The cross is made out of milo and the base of the cross is made out of koa. Ed Perreira of Haiku made the koa candlesticks and offering bowls.
In 1993 the World Wide Web was created at The European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland. Jurassic Park and Schlinder’s List were in theaters and Chad Rowan (Akebono) from Waimānalo on Oʻahu becomes first foreign-born wrestler to achieve the highest sumo rank of yokozuna. And Keawala`i was still here!
In 1994, John Wittenburg was commissioned, to design and create a new altar for the church. Made out of ‘ulu, koa, milo, and ‘iliahi, the altar was dedicated on Thanksgiving Sunday, November 19, 1995 along with 100 copies of The New Century Hymnal. The facing panels feature an‘ulu design, a symbol of immortality, which was carved by artist Dale Zarrella.
In the years that followed a portion of the stone wall on the mauka side of the church was restored by Sam Luʻuloa and later additional restoration was done by Uncle Johnny Pasco. On Sunday, June 3, 2001 copies of the new Hawaiian language hymnal, Nā Hïmeni O Ka ‘Ekalesia: The Hymns of the Church," were dedicated during the morning service. The hymnals were made possible through the gifts that were received from members and friends of the church. On that same morning, the new Allen Renaissance Organ was also dedicated.
On Sunday, November 4, 2001 a dedication was made of 125 copies of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. In addition, 40 choir chairs were also dedicated along with the completion of the new roof for the sanctuary. The dedication of the Bibles, chairs and roof were all made possible through the generous gifts of members and friends of the church.
In 2003 a commitment was made to restore the exterior walls of the church. Frank Williams and his crew completed the Hale Pule Restoration Project in July 2004. In addition, Uncle Johnny Pasco of Kïhei also completed a portion of the rock wall along Mākena Road. A special dedication and blessing was held on Thanksgiving Sunday, November 21, 2004 celebrating the completion of both projects.
On Sunday, September 5, 2004 the columbarium known as Pō‘aialoha was dedicated and blessed. On Saturday, September 11, 2004 a Mākena ‘Ohana Day was held for those who have family members buried in the cemetery. Both events were coordinated through the work of the Cemetery Committee.
The church celebrated its 175th Anniversary over two seasons of the Makahiki. The celebration began at the start of the Makahiki on November 18, 2006 ended with the annual lūʻau on March 10, 2007. Uncle Eddie Chang of Mākena and Kēpā Maly of Kumu Pono Associates made presentations on the history of the church and the surrounding area.
Through the rest of the next decade other improvements have been made to the buildings and grounds and staffing has changed. The work of the Outreach Committee, Choir, Sunday School and other bodies has intensified and added to the dynamic life of Keawala`i Congregational Church.
This church has survived through the years because of the blood, sweat and tears of this congregation and our many friends. We are prepared! This building has witnessed tremendous worldwide change and many significant changes in Hawaii…kingdom, territory and statehood. We have enjoyed the services of Kahu Alika for 28 years going on 29, which is almost unheard of in any workplace or church.
Kahu will retire on Sunday, February 16 and I believe I can say with a certain degree of certainty that his legacy at Keawala`i Congregational Church is secure due to his being a servant of Christ and a selfless disciple of God. In 2 Timothy 2 Paul tells us… “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Kahu is one of those reliable people who has taught all of us.
Kahu will retire on February 16, 2020 and on February 17th and every day thereafter Keawala`i will still be here! Yes, there will be differences and yes that might mean adapting to changes as individuals or as a congregation. Kahu Danette asked on August 4th “What kind of Legacy is our church building?” I would suggest that the legacy of Keawala`i Congregational Church has not yet been fully written. We are a work-in-progress.
I believe that with the efforts of faithful servants like all of you the best days of Keawala`i Congregational Church are yet to come. We are here today standing on the shoulders of those faithful few that were here during the beginning days when the congregation met here in a church built of pili grass, many of who are buried in our cemetery.
We benefit by the work done by those individuals who in 1858 gathered coral and rock and cut lumber to construct this building.
A lot has changed and continues to change in this community. I’ll bet those hardy souls who gathered here in the 1800’s could never have imagined the changes that have happened here in Makena and the changes that are yet to come.
As I stated, Kahu Alika will retire in 2020 with his legacy intact. So, will we keep working on our legacy? Will we give up and leave because Kahu is leaving? Will we quit attending because someone new stands at this pulpit? Will we allow the development of our island to change us as a congregation? I hope and pray that your answer, like mine, is a resounding NO!
Together, standing side by side, we will continue to write in the history books what the legacy of this place… Keawala`i Congregational Church by the ‘peaceful bay’ will be. And in 2020, 2021 and beyond Keawala`i will, by the Grace of The Almighty, still be here!
So, be prepared! Do not be afraid! Amen!