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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 15, 2002

Church of Christ always on the move

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Faith Editor

Name of church: O'ahu Church of Christ

Our denomination: Part of the International Churches of Christ

Where we are: Main office at 1833 Kalakaua, Suite 1001, but members meet weekly at different public venues, including August Ahrens Elementary School in Waipahu, Castle High and the University of Hawai'i. Baptisms are usually performed at Kahala Beach or by the patch of sand at the end of Hunakai Street. They used to meet in Kailua, and more often at Ala Moana Beach Park, but that led to some problems, spokesman Art Wong said.

"It got really crowded," he said. "(Baptism) was done at night. The police come any time you have a gathering of people in the middle of the night and they wonder what's going on."

Our numbers: Weekly services draw anywhere from 350 to 1,000 people, Wong estimated. Members number about 700.

Our pastor: Lead evangelist is the Rev. Rhys Kia'aina, ordained through the International Churches of Christ.

What we believe: Theirs is a fundamental, evangelical church. Members believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, in the trinity (God as father, son and holy spirit) and in baptizing adults (but not children). They take communion weekly.

"I like to say biblical, rather than fundamental and traditional," Wong said.

They don't ordain women or homosexuals.

What's special about us: For a church that doesn't meet at a certain place at a given time, it's surprising how organized they are.

"Nobody ever misses a church service because they didn't know where it was," Wong said. "We're in contact every day. People love coming to church. ... The church is really close. We do a lot of things during the week, spend time with each other."

He said strong mentoring relationships also help keep the church organized. Leaders are responsible for keeping in regular contact with their group, which ranges from six to 15 members.

"Some (members) we check in with every day, others once a week," he said, "but most times more than that."

Besides getting a call, members also can check at the church office for upcoming services, or listen to the visitor announcement on the phone. Members not only meet on Sunday, but for a midweek service as well as at weekly social events.

"Church members usually see one another about three times a week," he said.

The recruiting effort is also well-coordinated. "We like to teach people about the Bible on an individual basis," Wong said. "One of the keys is treating people as family, evangelizing in a personal way."

They offer ministry programs for children, couples, singles, addicts and families with children who have disabilities, which has a weekly soccer program.

Our history: Kip and Elena McKean started the International Churches of Christ in 1979 with about 30 people in Lexington, Mass. In 1989, a group of 21 people from the Boston area came to Hawai'i, led by Brock and Anne Roby of Illinois. Local services were held first at Ala Moana Beach, then at an elementary school and even spots in Manoa — "wherever we could get locations," Wong said.

Two couples from Hawai'i were in that initial group.

But don't expect the O'ahu Church of Christ to find a permanent home anytime soon.

"It's hard for us to find a place to hold that many people," Wong said.

What we're excited about: Each year the church holds one big fund-raiser through its Na Kamali'i program. In the '90s, for example, they staged annual "trash-a-thons" at various spots across O'ahu. Most recently, they've taken on smaller, less centralized projects, volunteering to help paint and do maintenance at several area schools, for example. Their next project is planned for September, but it's still in the conceptual phase, Wong said.

Contact: www.upcyberdown .net or ucd.net on the Web, or call the church office, 955-1196.

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.