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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Story glass set for new chapter at Kalihi church

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

When David Judson found out about the "Good Shepherd" window at Kaumakapili Church in Kalihi, he knew he'd discovered a treasure.

Luis Porras dismantles a stained-glass window at Kaumakapili Church.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Instead of painted glass, the window has leaded and layered glass in the style of Tiffany artisans of the 1910s.

Judson, a fifth-generation stained-glass artisan from Los Angeles, said it would be impressive to find such windows on the West Coast.

"To have it in Hawai'i is even more significant," he said.

There are no more than a handful of such windows in Hawai'i.

The story glass — so-called because it tells the story of Kaumakapili's founding missionary, Lowell Smith — was being carefully dismantled yesterday in preparation for shipping to California, where it will be restored. It's part of a $2.15 million renovation of Kaumakapili's chapel.

"This kind of triple glazing wasn't done that often," said Judson's glazier, Paul Martinez, as he took a break on a makeshift bench of a pile of lumber.

Judson's late father started the project with a condition assessment last fall. The estimate for fixing the story glass cost more than $5,000, and the restoration of three stained-glass windows — the story glass and two others — may climb to $450,000.

Luis Porras, left, and Paul Martinez transfer a piece of the 92-year-old window to a lift outside.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

That doesn't include the chapel's 17 bell tower windows and 23 arched windows that have yet to go out to bid. The church raised money for a quarter of those windows, which people can buy for the church, or have donated as memorial gifts.

Judson said he briefly considered doing the work here, rather than shipping it twice over the Pacific, but he figured it would be cost-prohibitive to move his shop, a dozen workers, materials and tools to Hawai'i for the project.

Other projects in the renovation include refurbishing the wooden floors, re-stuccoing the chapel facade, replacing the carpet and pews, and fixing wood that was damaged by termites, wood rot and time.

But the story glass is a bit of a miracle.

Ask Henry Maunakea, chairman of the church's sanctuary restoration committee, why he thinks the story glass managed to withstand vandalism and Hawai'i's daily elements for 92 years. He has three theories:

  • The 12-foot-by-18-foot story glass was placed on the 'ewa side, which is less exposed to elements.
  • It faced what used to be a community park, so there possibly was a measure of goodwill, so vandals didn't target it the way they did other windows.
  • Most importantly, "God had a reason," Maunakea said.

About 30 percent of the chapel renovation has been paid for by congregants, another 30 percent by fund-raising and corporate gifts, and the rest from grants by trusts and foundations. In comparison, about 70 percent of the stained-glass renovation money is from trusts and foundations; the rest, from individual gifts. Maunakea said the church is still about $400,000 short of its goal.

Reach Mary Kaye Ritz at mritz@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8035.

Correction: According to meteorological records, hurricanes have hit parts of O'ahu but there have not been documented, sustained hurricane-force winds in Honolulu since at least 1915. A previous version of this story said Kaumakapili Church had withstood two hurricanes.