The Story of Mokuaikaua Congregational Church

The Story of Mokuaikaua Church booklet cover

The Story of Mokuaikaua Congreational Church is 32-page booklet I helped create over summer 2016. Mokuaikaua Church (www.mokuaikaua.org) is located along the waterfront in Kailua-Kona on central west shore of the Island of Hawai‘i. Here the first missionary party sent to Hawai‘i formally landed in early April 1820. Mokuaikaua is the “first-gathered” church in Hawaiʻi, and the “oldest-stand” church building in Hawaiʻi. Construction funded by Hawaiʻi Island Governor Kuakini (John Adams) in 1836 built the stone-and-mortar walled church that still stands today. The church is pictured in the cover illustration above, you can’t miss the church as it then towered over all the thatched hale and wood-frame western buildings of old Kailua town.

Mokuaikaua Church Historian Yolanda Olson wrote the main text of the booklet. I did the background research, editing, graphic design, photography. I contributed a section I call “A New England Church with a Hawaiian Heart.” This contribution details the dual, hybrid New England-Native Hawaiian architectural features found in the Mokuaikaua Church building.

Proceeds from sale of The Story of Mokuaikaua Church are helping to raise funds for a $3 million restoration needed to make the historic church earthquake proof, to replace hardwood ʻōhiʻa beams that date back to the 1820s, and other repairs needed to preserve Mokuaikaua. Go www.mokuaikaua.org for more details.

Copies of the booklet are available at the Mokuaikaua Church in Kailua-Kona. Check on their website for contact information.

 

Moku‘aikaua – The First Gathered Church

Mokuaikaua-NPS-photo-shoot
A nationally-renowned historical documentary film company traveled to Moku‘aikaua Church in Kailua-Kona Sunday, August 7 for location filming. Great Divide Pictures of Denver is filming for several documentaries, each set at a National Park Service historic site on Hawai‘i Island. Moku‘aikaua, located along the waterfront in Kailua-Kona in leeward Hawai‘i Island, is located along an ancient, shoreline trail that is 175-miles long. Interpreted sections of the trail today are accessible to hikers and part of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail (). Moku‘aikaua is to be featured in the Ala Kahakai Trail feature.

This photo is of Great Divide Pictures Executive Producer/Principal Photographer Chris Wheeler (l.), myself and Chuck Dunkerly (r.) from the Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park who was coordinating the production on-island. Chris and Chuck joined me in this photo taken in front of Mokuaikaua Church along Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona. Sonny Hutchinson, Chris’ partner in Great Divide PIctures, took this photo and handled the audio for the shoot.

The Great Divide Pictures team shot footage of the interior and exterior of Moku‘aikaua. I supplied narrative on the history of Moku‘aikaua Church, which is considered the first Protestant church gathered in all Hawai‘i. The pioneer Sandwich Islands Mission party arrived at Kailua on April 4, 1820. Kuakini, the ruling ali‘i nui of Hawai‘i Island in 1820 greeted the missionaries, aided in securing them permission to reside and establish a missionary station in Kailua-Kona, and built for the missionaries a series of three churches at Kailua-Kona: two thatched churches, the second destroyed by fire in 1835, and the stone-walled Moku‘aikaua Church (built in 1836) which is still actively used as a Congregational church.

I am currently editing and designing a booklet on the history of Moku‘aikaua. The booklet will support an effort to raise funds to keep the almost 200-year-old church earthquake resilient and to repair and restore aging features of the church. Go to www.mokuaikaua.com for more information. Digital copies of the booklet will be available by this fall on the Moku‘aikaua website.

I am writing an essay to be featured in the booklet on the very interesting vernacular architecture of Moku‘aikaua. The building combines a structure based on a large New England barn of the post-Revolutionary War era, with materials readily available in Hawai‘i: Basalt-lava rock stones, coral heads burnt with firewood to create lime, and tall, sturdy hardwood ‘Ōhi‘a beams and posts. Moku‘aikaua is considered the mother Congregational church of Hawai‘i. Elements of native Hawaiian culture are embedded in the church, including dressed hewn stones used as edge stones stacked up in each corner of the church building to anchor its heavy rock walls. The hewn stones were carried by a long line of workers from the nearby heiau (temple) of the legendary 15th century ruler ‘Umi. ‘Umi moved the capital of Hawai‘i Island from Waipio Valley on its windward side to sunny Kailua. His incredible, mauka (inland) agricultural system stretched south for miles, providing abundant food for ‘Umi’s people. Its rock wall landscape pattern is still visible today.

‘Ōpūkahaīa’s home village located thanks to Rev. Henry Boshard Ph. D.

Boshards-June-2016
Kahu Henry Boshard and his wife Iris Boshard sit at a regal koa wood table Henry handcrafted in 1968. He rounded the corners of this fine piece of koa wood furniture to resemble a traditional native Hawaiian taro pounding “poi board.” Henry holds a copy of my book, The Providential Life and Times of Henry Obookiah, and Iris holds a copy of In Obedience. Kahu Boshard’s books are available for sale at the Mokuaikaua Church.

The more I uncover historical details from the life of Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia, the more I realize there is much still to be learned.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting the Rev. Henry Boshard Ph.D. and his lovely wife Iris Boshard. Kahu Boshard is the former pastor of the Mokuaikaua Church located on the waterfront in Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i Island. Henry presented me with a copy of his book In Obedience. Kahu Boshard’s book tells the story of his decades of service (1964-retiring in 2006) as pastor of Mokuaikaua and its sister churches along the sunny Kona coast.

David Ross, a board member and long-time member at Mokuaikaua, arranged the meeting. I hoped to find out more about the childhood years of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia along the black sand beach and lava rock coastline at Nīnole and Punalu‘u in the Ka‘ū District of Hawai‘i Island. I had read that Kahu Boshard grew up in Punalu‘u. At our meeting in the Thaddeus Room in the Mokuaikaua sanctuary I learned a lot more than expected.

Iris Boshard’s ties to Ka‘ū come through her paniolo father from the Kanaka‘ole family of the Kapapala Ranch. This still-large ranch once stretched from Na‘alehu to Volcano.

Hokuloa Chapel

A vintage photo of the old Hokuloa Church at Punalu‘u, Hawai‘i Island. Photo from The Master and Disciple by Rev. Dr. Henry Boshard.

Kahu Boshard’s grandmother Adeline Nihokula Akiu related to her family that the location of a beachfront parcel makai of the Hokuloa Chapel at Punalu‘u is the birthplace and childhood home of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia. The Hokuloa Chapel, which was dedicated in 1957 in honor of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia, looks out over the beachfront parcel.

Standing at the chapel this week on a one-day ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia tour with Scott Tompkins, long-time Univeristy of the Nations School of Writing instructor, I imagined Henry and his family departing Ka‘ū. Scott and I were there at Kealakekua Bay and at Kahikolu Church in Napo‘opo‘o back in the summer of 1993 when ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s remains were returned from Cornwall, Connecticut by his family.

Nīnole looking towards Punalu‘u.  The homesite and birthplace of  ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia is located several coves north of this black sand beach.

Nīnole looking towards Punalu‘u. The homesite and birthplace of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia is located several coves north of this black sand beach.

In 1796 ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s father served as a minuteman type soldier in a Ka‘ū army marching under orders of the district ali‘i nui. The local chief hoped to reconquer lands taken earlier by Kamehameha, when the king was distracted completing his conquest of O‘ahu. The family’s fate was never to return to their kuleana at Punalu‘u. All except ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia were slaughtered following the Battle of Kaipalaoa near the Waiakea River in Hilo in the summer of 1796.

I have hiked to closely look over the coastline about a quarter mile south of the Hokuloa Chapel, a beach known as Koloa in the ahupua‘a of Nīnole. I assumed (a faulty practice in searching for pieces of history) that location was ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s home. Now I know better!

Boshard books

Kahu Boshard is the author of these two publications that are related to the Mokuaikaua Church. The History of the Mokuaikaua Church provides an insightful narrative of the sweep of time that brought native Hawaiians to Hawai‘i over a thousand years ago up to the arrival of the Sandwich Islands Mission in April 1820 and beyond. The Rev. Asa Thurston, co-leader of the first party of the Sandwich Islands Mission, served at Mokuaikaua from the early 1820s up to the years preceding the Civil War. The Master and His Disciples is a drama written and staged by Kahu Boshard for the 165th anniversary of the founding of Mokuaikaua. The drama portrays the story of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia and his co-adventurer and close friend Thomas Hopu. The script for The Master and His Disciples appears in the booklet, along with very interesting historic photos of the old Hokuloa Church at Punalu‘u (which preceded today’s chapel) and a photo of the beach parcel where ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia lived as a child.

Speaking at Mokuaikaua Church – Kailua-Kona

Mokuaikaua-Arch-1910

The basalt stone arch entrance to the Mokuaikaua church is dedicated to Henry Opukaha‘ia and was completed in 1910, the year marking the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the Congregational Church organization that sent out the Sandwich Islands Mission to Hawai‘i in 1819. A bronze plaque marking the dedication is visible at the top left side of the archway.

Pastor David de Carvalho of the historic Mokuaikaua Church on the waterfont in Kailua-Kona on Hawai‘i Island has graciously asked me to speak about Opukaha‘ia in relation to the landmark “First Christian Church” in Hawai‘i. I will be speaking at the Sunday, April 17 worship services set for 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Church historian Yolanda Olson is assisting me with research for the talk. Yolanda provides free tours of the Mokuaikaua Church at 12:15 p.m. on Sundays. I will be signing books following the services. My book is also available online at amazon.com