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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Church blends biblical, Hawaiian values

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Faith Editor

The Rev. Regina Recca, left, and other Ke Alaula Oka Malamalama leaders greet parishioners at a service.

Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser

Name of church: Ke Alaula Oka Malamalama (The Bright Morning Rays of the Church of Reasonable Service).

Our denomination: Ho'omana Na'auao 'O Hawai'i, (Reasonable Service Church of Hawai'”), the first independent Hawaiian Christian denomination in the state.

Where we are: 910 Cooke St., Kaka'ako.

Our numbers: 300 members, about 50 of whom attend weekly services.

Our pastor: The Rev. Regina B. Recca

What's special about us: This is among the oldest churches in Hawai'i. Not only do the kahu (pastors) conduct their biblical readings in Hawaiian; the congregation sings hymns in Hawaiian, as well. (With a large percentage of Hawaiian entertainers among the group, the music is among its noted features.)

What we believe: Some may call this "the Hawaiian Christian science," and others say the teachings most resemble that of the Congregationalist Church. But at its simplest form, Ke Alaula oka Malamalama is a mixture of Protestant Christianity and Hawaiian. Members espouse a belief in the trinity and follow the Bible, as well as Hawaiian values.

How close to Protestantism are they? They call God "Iehova," a Hawaiian name for Jehovah, and recite prayers addressing "Ka Makua, Ke Keiki, a Me 'Uhane Hemolele (the father, the son and the holy spirit)."

In the koa pews, eight to either side of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it church adjoined by a Lexus dealership on three sides, are copies of the "Baibala Hemolele," a Hawaiian-language Bible with both Old and New Testaments.

But there is no Hawaiian word for "sacraments," said Kanoe Cheek, a church member who stayed after last weekend's 11 a.m. service to explain the mechanics of this historic church to a reporter.

Although a baby is blessed at 30 days old, the church doesn't baptize members until they are 18.

"With your permission," she added.

Communion is held three times a year: the first Sunday of year, the first Sunday in May, and the first Sunday in September.

Our history: In 1853, the Rev. J.H. Poliwailehua felt the call to faith while working as a houseboy in Hamakua.

On April 16, 1881, he met John Kekipa Maia of North Kohala and told him "Whatever secret you have within you, you must bring it out."

Maia moved to O'ahu, where he established the Ho'omana Na'auao on the concept of "reasonable service," based on the passage in Romans: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

Maia tried to have the denomination made into the national Hawaiian church, but the ali'i of the time chose to make Kawaiaha'o Church its official church, Cheek said.

"But Queen Lili'oukalani would walk right past to come here," she added.

The church is also known as "the Bright church," after the Rev. and Mrs. Andrew Iaukea Bright. Bright served as pastor until his death in 1939; their many children attended the church. As a matter of fact, the "B." in the current kahu's name stands for Bright.

The church also has several branches throughout the Islands, including one in Hilo and Kurtistown on the Big Island, as well as in Lana'i City, for an estimated 650 members islandwide.

The denomination also saw some splintering, and some members left to start their own churches over the years.

What we're excited about: In 2003, the denomination is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Members are planning to invite six churches islandwide to join in the celebration, which may take on the proportions of a block party.

"We normally don't go outside and fund-raise," said Cheek, "but in this case, we might have to."

They're drumming up assistance from nonprofit groups in the community to help. They also have established committees to handle areas of the big event, including entertainment, security and refreshments.

The gala is tentatively scheduled for the last weekend in April next year.

To learn more, catch "Ho'omana Na'auao 'O Hawai'i: 150 Years of Blessings," which runs at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow on Channel 53, NATV (native TV). It repeats at 8:30 p.m. Monday and 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Contact: Kanoe Cheek, 778-5598.

If you would like to recommend a faith organization for a Where We Worship profile, e-mail us at faith@honoluluadvertiser.com, call 525-8035 or write: Where We Worship, Faith Page, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802.