New look delights congregation
By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer
Hundreds of congregants and visitors filled Kaumakapili Church during yesterday's reopening celebration and service, gawking at the new stained glass windows, the sparkling gold leaf on the organ pipes and the pristine carpet with nary a scuff mark.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
Kaumakapili Church, in the Kalihi-Palama area, features wider aisles and new carpets, choir loft chairs, a stage and sound system. The original organ pipes have been repainted, the gold leaf replaced.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
She can tell the difference from last Easter, when 93 years' worth of grit and grime dulled the light through that triptych, done in the remarkable Tiffany style rare for Hawai'i.
"Look at the brighter, clearer colors," Dawson said, pointing to the Good Shepherd glass. "The yellows give out a light all their own. See the brilliant green of the grass? And the blue of the cross above Jesus have you ever seen anything more luminous?"
Hawai'i's second-oldest Hawaiian Christian church stepped into its next century when workers finished its $2.4 million renovation. Since Easter, members had been meeting in the church hall, sitting through services on cold metal folding chairs and making their way through the maze of barricades as extensive renovation proceeded on the wooden structure housing the sanctuary.
During the first half of a two-hour service that started at 10:30 a.m., Roberta Jahrling brought the keiki of the congregation to the front of the hall to give them their children's sermon, asking the little ones: "Do you remember why we're meeting here?" as she gestured to the hall.
Wood rot and age had also taken their toll on the structure. The original windows had been broken all save the story glass, which managed to withstand vandals and storms.
Later in the service, when church member Buddy Maunakea, who helped oversee the project, thanked the contractors and architects who worked on the project, he marveled that during the 8-month-long construction, not a speck of graffiti appeared on the barricades or plywood around the site.
"And this is Kalihi-Palama," he said. "That tells me when we do our works in God, there's nothing to stop us."
However, Maunakea pointed out, not everything was new: "The spirit is the same."
The structure is the original, as is the chandelier, though both look bright and shiny. But there are plenty of new things to admire: The rug is new; the aisles are wider. The outside has been replastered and new stucco applied. The pews are in a different alignment. A piano pit was built to house the new baby grand.
Also new: chairs in the choir loft, the stage, the sound system, and paint on the floor and stairways. The original organ pipes have been repainted, the gold leaf replaced.
Melvin Spencer Jr. remembers as a little boy sitting through services, his mother stuffing vitamins in his mouth to keep him occupied.
"It's beautiful," the senior member of the church said. "All the former ministers and all the former kupuna are very, very happy," his eyes looking heavenward.
The day was doubly special; it was also the last day before the church's kahu retired. Kaupu, former chaplain at Kamehameha Schools, was giving his last sermon before taking time out to spend with his wife, though he didn't discount the possibility of filling in at some point in the future. The congregation Sunday will hear the Rev. Richard Kamanu preach, and on Feb. 15, it will vote on whether to officially call him the new pastor.
Friends and visitors came for both the rededication and the retirement.
Up in the balcony sat Catherine Hughes, a 75-year-old Roman Catholic whose carpenter father helped build the original 93-year-old church. She blinked back tears as she told how her father, Patrick, who came to Hawai'i in 1909, used to drive her past the North King Street church to show off his handiwork.
Hughes had visited last Easter, and was surprised by the state Kaumakapili was in: the broken Plexiglass instead of stained glass, the wood, a church that looked like it was falling apart. Yesterday, she was amazed by the transformation.
"My father would be very proud to see this today."
Reach Mary Kaye Ritz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8035.