‘A place for all people’ … and dogs, too

Sager has been attending St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church for two years.

He was there again last Sunday, sitting quietly in the sanctuary, listening, watching, even wearing a hat that read, “Episcopal Relief and Development: Healing a hurting world.”

Sager seems to smile quite a bit, but he doesn’t say much. Perhaps because he’s a dog.

“He’s a very faithful Anglican,” said Maureen Nuccio-Hiraga, owner of the golden retriever lab mix that also happens to be her trusted service dog of nearly four years.

The two enjoy the church, Nuccio-Hiraga says, because of its warm, friendly, accepting ways.

“It was really love at first visit. We just fell in love with the church,” she said.

“It accepts us exactly for who we are, the way we are. You find God here on your terms. They don’t try to shove God down your throat. You come here and you’re with God.”

As Nuccio-Hiraga speaks, Sager snuggles up to Rev. Bill Miller, who leads the church at 4364 Hardy St.

She smiles and laughs.

“Here’s the one problem. He’s in love with the priest. I keep telling him, it’s not going to work out,” Nuccio-Hiraga says.

Miller, too, grins and laughs. It’s another great day at St. Michael and All Angels church.

“We’re a place for all people,” he said.

But this day is special.

The energized, musical service included about 100 people who sang, prayed and listened to Miller’s enthusiastic, animated sermon. When he said, “It’s not over,” the congregation responded with a loud cry, “until the angel sings.”

Everyone was still in a festive mood later as they headed for a reception.

Not only is it the 50th anniversary year for St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, but for the past two years members have been engaged in planning a major capital campaign to improve facilities.  

The goal was high, even formidable, at $550,000.

Last Sunday, Miller shared the results: $594,000.

Applause and cheers filled the church.

And that, he said, came from 133 families and individuals. No grants. No corporate gifts. Just church families.

“For a long time we have been praying, discerning, talking, thinking, giving, pledging, of what we could accomplish, some things here at St. Michaels, to enhance our ministry to allow us to share the good news of Jesus Christ in a more effective manner,” he said to the church goers gathered on the chairs.

“We had extraordinary leadership during this campaign, and no one has worked harder than Charlie King. He’s been an inspiration to many of us and he’s been tireless in his efforts,” Miller said.

King, a chairman of the fundraising campaign, said it felt good to top the goal and be able to make improvements next.

Attendance is rising, he said, and the church wants to be ready to serve as many as it can.

“It’s things that the church needs. It’s not really fancy stuff,” King said. “It’s not like we’re adding a pool or something like that.”

The money will be used to upgrade and update the church. The sanctuary was built in 1991 and hasn’t been changed.

“These are the original chairs, the original carpet, we’ve done some upgrades to the sound, but not a major upgrade,” Miller said.

Planned improvements include new carpeting and chairs, video, lighting and sound system upgrades. The conference room, used for training sessions and showing films, will be enlarged, with a capacity of 65 from 40. Parking will be enhanced.

Good thing. St. Michael  and All Angels church continues to gain a strong following.

It has become, in recent years, a community center, Miller said, as well as a place of worship and praise.

The campus, utilized by many nonprofit groups on Kauai, is also the home for Kauai’s Jewish community, and has become a center for the performing arts. Many groups in the community, such as YWCA, Kauai Voices and Joyful Noise, depend on the church for a place to rehearse.

St. Michael church also recently established the ReSource Center for Christian Spirituality on campus.

“This is a place for the community of Kauai,” Miller said. “We open our doors to everyone. I think a lot of the community groups know that. When they’re looking for a place to meet, when they’re looking for a place to do something good or to perform, they call us, because they know we’re supportive of anything that’s going to enhance or make a positive difference in the community.”

Miller was not surprised the campaign went so well.

He said the congregation demonstrated extraordinary generosity in September in a most unusual way.  Different groups provided beverages at the church’s Tiki Hut on Sundays after the main service.  

Recently, the Filipino members raised over $500 for an Episcopal Relief and Development Project in the Philippines.   

Last Sunday’s proceeds went to its brothers and sisters in Pakistan – half to All Saints Church in Peshawar and half to the Children’s Christmas Party for Father Riaz Mubarek and St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Abbotabad.

 Miller said for this fundraising drive, some pledged money over years, some every month and some donated immediately.

That it was so successful is a confirmation of its members faith and sacrifice.

 “It is something of a miracle that we achieved it, and it’s also a testimony to the generosity of our people,” Miller said.

“We’re a small church, but we have lots of extended Ohana,” he said.

Visitors from the Mainland, he said, might stop by two weeks out of the year.

“But they’re part of our family. When they’re here, they plug right in,” he said.

Miller came to the church eight years ago from Texas. Since, he’s led it to a strong outreach concept.

The church is bright, specious and comfortable, with light flowing in through open doors and large windows. A large cross stands tall behind the altar.

The architecture, Miller said, reflects the church: Open and inviting.

It’s location, in the heart of Lihue, is also part of the dynamics of the church.

“We’re right in the center of everything, and we’re happy to be,” he said.

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