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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 1, 2002

Kaua'i church preaches gospel of openness

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Faith Editor

Sliding glass doors give St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church on Kaua'i an air of openness. The church also tries to cultivate that atmosphere in its regular services.
Name of church: St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church

Our denomination: Episcopal

Where we are: 4364 Hardy St., in the center of Lihu'e, Kaua'i

Our numbers: 350 members, with about 140-160 attending weekend services regularly

Our pastor: The Rev. Jan C. Rudinoff

What's special about us: You might expect the largest Episcopal parish on Kaua'i to be rather, well, stuffy.


"You should've come when Jerry Garcia died — you would've seen me with my Grateful Dead T-shirt over my vestments," said Rudinoff, adding that "Going to Hell in a Bucket" was the processional hymn that day.

"It may be not the Episcopal style," he said with a laugh, "but it works."

St. Michael's building itself is rather remarkable, with 40-foot sliding glass doors that open on three sides, creating a sense of oneness between the church and its surroundings.

Church members do laying hands and healing at every service, and use balloons and champagne at Easter.

Theirs is a tight-knit community. "It's a healing, healthy place, attracting people who like each other," Rudinoff said. "When people are ill or in trouble, they come here because there's a community healing presence, a 'live and let live' (philosophy). We're a church that believes in reconciliation and redemption, and God wants each person whole."

Our history: As part of the Reformation, the Anglican church broke with the Catholic church in the time of Henry the VIII, circa 1500.

Episcopalians were among the first visitors to Hawai'i in the mid-1800s. They were invited by King Kamehameha and Queen Emma after the royal couple visited London and became enchanted with the pageantry of the Anglican services.

This particular church's history in Kaua'i goes back to the mid-1900s, when there was not much in Lihu'e beyond sugarcane fields. About 35 people from All Saints, the Episcopal church on the north side of the Wailua River, decided to establish an Episcopal church in Lihu'e, meeting at first at Wilcox Elementary. They purchased land and in 1964, the church was built, with the Rev. Charles Burger as the first vicar. Rudinoff arrived 28 years ago.

"I've gone through two hurricanes," Rudinoff said. "We built a new parish hall and church, just in time for Hurricane 'Iniki."

Though the parish sustained about $30,000 worth of damage from the devastating 1992 hurricane, the Red Cross was able to use their parish hall as its headquarters. Also, the phones still worked, so townspeople could call their loved ones on the Mainland to say they were safe. The Episcopal bishop sent the parish $50,000 for relief efforts, which Rudinoff gave away for things like new generators.

"I felt like 'The Millionaire,' that old TV show, handing out money," he said.

What we believe: Their mission is "outreach and concern for the worshipping community and the well-being of the parish at large," said Rudinoff.

St. Michael's affirms the Episcopal church's theology and "understanding of God's plan through scripture, reason and tradition," he said.

Their faith stems from the church of the apostles and still retains the creeds, sacraments and orders similar to the Catholic church, with a few changes:

  • Episcopalians use a hierarchy of checks and balances. For example, the priest has authority over church matters, but the vestry (a parish's financial wing) deals with money. To change a church law, both the lay order and clergy must vote on it. "If the laity is against it, it doesn't happen," said Rudinoff.
  • Women can be ministers, and ministers are allowed to marry.
  • They reject the authority of the pope and give only symbolic authority to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England.

The main service book is The Book of Common Prayer, created in 1549, which details different worship services. Like Roman Catholics, Episcopalians don't consider the Bible to be the literal word of God.

"We're not fundamentalists, we interpret scripture," he said "We are scripture critics, and I mean that in the best sense of the word — understanding the time it was written, the audience, etc."

As a "low" churchman, or a church leader who puts his emphasis on the Gospel and personal religion, Rudinoff celebrates Holy Communion at each service, and uses a mix of contemporary praise songs and older hymns.

"We try to balance the traditional with modern," he said.

What we're excited about: After 30 years in the ministry, retirement is about 18 months away for Rudinoff. The parish has hired a consultant to help with the transition. "We're plotting what's the next step of ministry for this parish," Rudinoff said.

Contact: (808) 245-3796.

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