Friday, February 7, 2014

Poʻokela Church

The ship Parthian, Captained by Richard D Blinn, sailed from Boston November 3, 1827 and after 148-days at sea, arrived at Honolulu March 30, 1828. On board were 16-missionaries in the Third Company to the Islands.  Among them were Jonathan Smith Green (December 20, 1796 – January 5, 1878) and his wife Theodosia Arnold Green (April 33, 1792 – October 5, 1859.)

The Greens were assigned to Lāhainā on the island of Maui until 1831, then Hilo for one year.  In 1833, they moved to Wailuku, back on Maui, and built one of the first permanent houses there.  The house is now known as the Bailey House, a two-story lava stone structure with 20” thick walls and a high-pitched roof covered with wood shingles.

In 1828, Green was part of a small group of non-Hawaiians to first climb Haleakalā (with Lorrin Andrews and physician Dr. Gerrit P Judd.) They were followed by a US Navy expedition led by Commander Charles Wilkes in 1841, and later, others. Significant public interest was generated by written accounts of these visits that determined that Haleakalā would eventually become a destination for tourism.  (NPS)

Over the years Green served in various roles and supported and helped construct several schools and churches.

The present Kaʻahumanu Church is actually the fourth place of worship for the Wailuku congregation. The original congregation, under the leadership of the Green, was first forced to hold their meetings in a shed.

During its first year, Queen Kaʻahumanu, the Kuhina Nui of the Kingdom and convert to Christianity, visited the congregation and asked that when the congregation built an actual church, it be named for her.  The congregation’s small shed meeting house soon proved too small as the service held there attracted as many as 3,000 worshippers. In 1834, a larger meeting house with a thatched roof was erected by the congregation.

The Central Female Seminary (Wailuku Female Seminary - the first female school begun by the missionaries) opened July 6, 1837, under Green, with six girls, which increased to an average of 30-students. Subsequently, this school moved to Makawao.

Green experimented with growing wheat in Wailuku in 1854.  “Had I engaged in the business of wheat raising with the sole or even chief view of making money, I should not be a little mortified, but greatly so, with my want of success, for I have, thus far, failed to clear any thing.”

“My chief object, however, was to introduce the grain into the country, and persuade in people to cultivate it. In this I have succeeded, and I am more than content.”  (JS Green, The New England Farmer, March 8, 1855)

First known as Makawao Foreign Church and Congregation, Makawao Union Church received a charter from the Hawaiian government in 1861, although Green had been holding services in his Makawao home from 1857.

On February 7, 1843, Green moved to Makawao and helped the Hawaiians in the Makawao area form the first self-supporting church in Hawaiʻi at Poʻokela (foremost, best, superior, prime, outstanding.)

He continued to serve as the pastor of Poʻokela Church, as well as the Makawao Union Church which was started to meet the needs of the English speaking, foreign community around Makawao.

He preached two sermons and conducted Bible studies on Sundays; gave a public lecture on Wednesdays; and held monthly prayer meetings, one for the conversion of the world, one for schools, one for seamen and one for the enslaved.  (Poʻokela Church)

Green’s first wife died October 5, 1859 and on September 5, 1861 he married Asaneth Spring.  In 1878, at the age of 82, Jonathan Green died.  Asenath Green, and daughters Laura and Mary, continued to advise the church.

Mrs Green applied to the Hawaiian Evangelical Associate (HEA) for assistance and ministers were obtained for a time.  From 1885 to 1889, the reverend John Kalama pastored the church.  The following years saw a transition from Hawaiian to English-speaking services.

In 1904, Poʻokela Independent Church gave up its independence and merged with the HEA.  Shortly thereafter, the church fell into disrepair.

“No services have been held at Poʻokela Church during the last five months on account of the dilapidated condition of the roof, part of which was blown away by the storm. Fortunately through the assistance of Maui's generous friend and the Hawaiian Board, the building was repaired, and once more historic Poʻokela is looking fresh and comfortable, and ready for religious services. These began Sunday, May 5th, with a good old rally meeting.”  (Hawaiian Evangelical Association, 1907)

“The repairs of the historic Poʻokela Church (‘which was fast tumbling to ruins,’) so dear to many former students of the present Maunaolu Seminary, and so closely associated with the life and work of the splendid missionary family, the Greens, are now begun in earnest.”  (The Friend, March 1, 1907)

“The wood of which the ceiling is made is sweet scented and not found in these islands or in the states, and is supposed to have been imported from China about the time that Father Green built this church.”  (Maui News, March 2, 1907)

During WWII, church buildings were converted to classrooms for the primary grades of Makawao School (the US Army took over the school for a military hospital.)  “Aunty” Kalama provided the vision and energy to keep things moving.

Following the war, a reopening of the church took place.  With the changing demographics of the region, the church evolved into a multi-ethnic church.

In 1999, a concrete floor was installed in the church (at a Christmas Eve service, a person’s foot went through the old wooden floor (the carpet saving him from going all the way through.))

A century after its last roof repair, the church needed reroofing, again.  Built without nails, each peg had to be removed individually from the hand-hewn beams in the repair process. The church congregation raised a large tent to accommodate our meetings as well as Sunday services for members and visitors. (2009-2010)  (Lots of information here from Poʻokela Church.)

The image shows Poʻokela Church.  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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