St. John’s celebrates 75 years

ELEELE — Lyn Farman of the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Eleele, said polishing the church’s original hardware, including the brass candle holders, vases, and cross, was a lot of work.

“These were the original hardware in the church when it was consecrated 75 years ago,” Farman said. “When we started cleaning and polishing, it looked like they hadn’t been done for a long time, and it took a lot of elbow grease to get it looking good.”

St. John’s Church celebrated its 75th anniversary, Sunday with a service officiated by Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick who flew in from Honolulu for the occasion.

“He brought over a copy of the original Charter of Consecration,” Farman said. “The church was consecrated on May 4, the third Sunday following Easter, in 1941. In those days, everything was done with calligraphy and he brought over a copy done in calligraphy.”

Yukiko Eleanor Akiyoshi, 94, was one of the celebrants attending the special service which filled the tiny church designed and built by students of the Kalaheo Vocational School.

“She’s a charter member of the church,” said one of the parishioners following the service. “Back then, her surname was Yoshikawa. She likes sewing and working on Hawaiian quilts. That must be the secret to her long life.”

Akiyoshi studied the pictures posted on a wall of the social hall, pointing out members of her family, which triggered memories.

“We used to spend a lot of time here,” Akiyoshi said. “My family used to say I spend so much time at the church I should just live here.”

John Baker of Bellingham, Washington, said he was born in Koloa in 1941. He is the son of the church’s first vicar, the Rev. J. Thurlow Baker.

He made a special trip to attend the service with his wife Carol, bringing over a batch of special hand-made commemorative koa crosses.

“This is from a piece I got from Al Lopez of Hanapepe,” Baker said. “I just turned the wood and inlaid it to create these crosses.”

Baker said he remembers the days growing up around the Eleele church.

“I used to live there,” he said, pointing to the minister’s residence which sits on one corner of the St. John’s Church property, its architecture featuring stonework complimenting the small church. “My father was the first vicar for the church, and those were different times.”

Baker said his father was sent to Eleele as a missionary, but growing up on Kauai, he realized that the community was the missionary family.

“The community defined the life of Thurlow and Jane Baker,” the vicar’s son said. “This was a powerful community.”

John Baker said he remembers the plantation era days.

“The workers were treated like slaves,” he said. “They worked long, hard hours every single day. Sunday was the only time they had to come to the church. This was a place, a readiness center, where they learned how to use forks and knives, and other skills they needed to survive. It was a place they could get away from the hard work in the plantations.”

Then, the War (World War II) came and with that, the White Military who brought racism and prejudice.

“This is when we realized that as missionaries, we were not making good Christians and the church was a readiness center,” John said. “This was an important time because the community never lost hope.”

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