Preserving Kauai’s ‘green’ church

HANALEI — It’s not everyday you see a church with a backdrop of cascading waterfalls and a teeming jungle. Yet, this is where the 103-year-old Waioli Church in Hanalei stands.

Beauty — and spirituality — abound at this historic landmark.

“People feel this spiritual energy, and I tell them it’s from the prayers of Hawaiians,” said Pastor Alpha Goto.

Generations of Hawaiians have been attending the church, Kahu Goto said, and there’s an energy from their prayers that he believes lives on.

Barbara Hollendeck of Princeville sings the praises of the Waioli or “green” church.

“I love it because it has a great history behind it. It’s like family to me, it’s my family here on the island,” the 75-year-old said.

Hollendeck said she doesn’t have much family on the island, and that the church has always been there for her.

“The pastor is just wonderful, they always help people who are in need, and they helped me personally, when a family member passed away,” she said.

The community’s concern for Waioli Church, built in 1912, shows through fundraising efforts to preserve it.

The Church Preservation Reservation program has been started, and is being headed up by three North Shore women: Lori Marston, Andrea Gardner, and Susan Ferrell. So far, $14,000 of the $60,000 goal has been raised for projects like adding special shingles to three sides of the church and restoring the floor of the mission hall.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Marston said.

Phase 1 began with “small steps,” Marston says. They raised money by encouraging regular church attendees to buy shingles for $5 each. Replacing shingles helps to get rid of the dry rot, which is common in old buildings on the island.

Marston anticipates Phase 2 to include more outreach to the public. Down the road, Marston looks forward to working on Phase 3 once their support system grows strong. The plan calls for restoring the floor of the mission hall, which she says has been deteriorating quickly. She says its been difficult to have meetings, services, and activities in the building because of the deterioration.

The church was renovated following Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which Goto says caused the church to move 18 inches off of its original foundation. It still stands in that same place after engineers said that it could still be sturdy.

Before the Waioli Church was built, services were held in the mission hall next door. The church was officially founded in 1834. Some of the original Hawaiian style timber used to create the house, which was once in “hale style” with thatched roofing, still remains.

An average of 100-125 people, a mix of residents and visitors, attend the 10 a.m. on Sunday worship led by Goto, or “Kahu Alpha.”

Mildrene Swan has been going to the church for the past 19 years.

“The messages are always uplifting, there’s no finger pointing,” she said.

Swan enjoys the rich, cultural experience to be had at Waioli Church, too.

“I like learning the Hawaiian music and culture,” she said. “I think that’s very important, because it’s a real Hawaiian church.”


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