Still worshipping after all these years

ANAHOLA —The Koolauhuiia Protestant Church is celebrating 150 years.

“It will be a yearlong celebration with special monthly happenings,” said Kahu Rennie Mau, pastor of Koolauhuiia Church. “We have an incredible history from its early inception being the mother church for a network of ohana cells, which met in homes and came together on Sundays to worship — which is where the ‘hui’ia’ comes in its name.”

The church is in Anahola behind the Kamehameha preschool off Kealia Road. Its design showcases its legacy of the early paniolo’s (Hawaiian cowboys) nestled up in the hills overlooking Anahola. The celebration kicks off with worship on one of its original sites in Koolau Sunday. It is in located in the Moloaa plain on Koolau Road. The church sanctuary was used in the movie, “Donovan’s Reef,” with John Wayne but it was demolished during Hurricane Iwa in 1982.

“I feel honored and privileged to serve as this year’s moderator,” said Luella Lemn of being a part of a special anniversary. “What I see in church are the generations of those who became Christians and built a place to worship. A church exists because people congregate to fellowship and worship. So those generations who continue to malama Koolauhuiia Church, my gratitude goes out to them.”

On three consecutive Fridays during February, the church will showcase a six-hour documentary, “Native of Owhyee,” which explores the early spirituality of Hawaii and the journey of the first Hawaiian Christian, Henry Opukahaia, and other Hawaiians for the first 75 years.

It tells the story of Christianity in Hawaii from the perspective of many Native Hawaiians at 10 a.m. Feb. 6, 13, and 21 at Koolauhuiia Church. Donations will help with a public release.

Worship at Koolauhuiia Church each Sunday is a blend of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music and congregational liturgy.

“We are blessed to have Uncle Nathan Kalama play the piano every week with us,” said Maile Baird, music director at Koolauhuiia.

The liturgy is both in Hawaiian and English. The sermon is in English.

“In March, we’ll be having an Aha Mele Hoike of our Hawaiian hymns and will invite the island folks to join us in the fun,” Kahu Mau said. “The old hymns in our Na Himeni hymnals are being lost, so we’re gonna revive them in song and fellowship.” 

Award-winning record engineer Russell Faraldi will be setting up remote microphones to record the gathering, and the church will publish a CD, as well.

The congregation will be making ukuleles from scratch during a two-day workshop as the church will start up a ukulele chorus with Essie Medeiros this year.

Koolauhuiia Church will be partnering with many community organizations and events to showcase and lift up Anahola’s rich history as an agricultural, fishing, surfing, and cattle legacy, including a Paniolo month that will focus on cowboys and a chili cook off. Kauai’s first cowboy, Miguel Castro, was a part of the early hui’s leading up to birth of Koolauhuiia Church.

“We have two cemeteries on two church sites,” Luella Lemn said. “Many graves of the kupuna and ancestors are not visited. I would like to entreat those who have benefited from their kupuna to embrace their existence by learning more about them.”

The public is invited to join the congregation when it worships at its old site in Koolau at 9 a.m. Sunday. The easiest way to get there is from the north end of Koolau Road off Kuhio Highway and go about a mile. The church site will be on the ocean side of the road. In case of rain, the church will meet at its present site.



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