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Kahikolu Congregational Church celebrates its 190th Anniversary

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Photography by John C. Wicart | Special to Hawaii 24/7

A history of Kahikolu Congregational Church from their event program

Kahikolu Congregational Church is one of Hawaii’s early great stone, lime and timber structures erected to the glory of God by the Hawaiian people after the first Christian missionaries from New England arrived on these shores at Kailua-Kona in 1820. In 1822, Chiefess Kapiolani, a devout Christian, founded the “Church at Kaawaloa” (also known as “the land of the chiefs”) by establishing worship services at a site located on the north side of Kealakekua Bay, Chiefess Kapiolani was one of the first Alii to accept Christianity and also remembered for defying the goddess, Pele with her faith at Halemaumau Crater. Later, in March 29, 1824, Mr, Asa Thurston, a missionary from the first board of missions, was asked to deliver the dedication sermon, officially establishing the church.

Over the years, Kahikolu was relocated to two other church sites at Kuapehu (on the ridge of Ka Pali Kapu O Keoua) and, its current site on the southwest flank of Mauna Loa at Kepulu since 1840, therefore, receiving its name, ‘Kahikolu,’, the ‘third church.’ Over the years, ‘Kahikolu’ (also meaning ‘Trinity’) became recognized as the Great ‘Mother Church’ and meeting place far all the people in South Kona.

In 1840, the missionary. Cochrane Forbes, oversaw the building of the historic first edifice of stone and adobe block, which measured 130 x 60 feet. Time and earthquakes weakened that structure, so, the missionary leader, John D. Paris, who served this area for 40 years, rebuilt the church in 1852 with koa from the mountains and lime from the sea, using the width of the massive old church for the length of the new building. Paris’ building stood restored to its magnificent beauty for years, but, in 1953, the church was once more weakened by earthquakes and determined unsafe. Faithful to worshipping God, Its members built a chapel at Waiulaula, on the shores of Kealakekua Bay.

In August 1984, Kahikolu Church re-opened its church doors. Over 750 persons from all corners of the islands, members, friends and relatives, converged on Kepulu to give their thanks and praise to God for the newly restored church. Nearly twenty years later, in August 16, 2003, Kahikolu Church was rdedicated to God with the blessings of restored walls, renovated floors and re-stenciling of the original and intricate wall patterns that have become a significant part of its history. Like our kupuna (elders), the majesty of Kahikolu Church was restored through the help of God and labor of its people. Today, Kahikolu stands majestically for His glory and embraces the final resting place of Henry Opukahaia, first Hawaiian Christian missionary, responsible for bringing Christianity to Hawaii and its people.

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