By Wendy Osher
Maui’s Waiola Church in Lahaina was recognized today with a ceremonial resolution celebrating its 190th anniversary.
The church was established in 1823 as a temporary structure built at Keawaiki, near the site of the present-day Lahaina Public Library, according to information contained in the resolution.
Members of the church congregation celebrated the historic anniversary of the church’s dedication during a three day event that ran from Sept. 13 to 15, 2013.
A new building, capable of accommodating 3,000 members was reportedly built at Waine’e, at the current site of where the church stands today, with the support of Chief Ulumaheihei Hoapili, county officials said.
According to the council resolution, the church was dedicated on March 4, 1832, becoming the first stone structure of its kind to be built on Maui.
“Over the next 60 years, the stone church survived multiple rebuilding efforts after being damaged by fire in the infamous Kauaʻula winds of Lahaina,” county staff said during the reading of the ceremonial resolution.
“Through a gift of Henry P Baldwin, a new Waineʻe Church was built in 1897 and endured for 50 years until the powerful Kauaʻula winds again destroyed the building on January 15, 1951,” the resolution states.
Final reconstruction of Waineʻe Church was completed on April 26, 1953, and the building has remained in tact until today, according to the council resolution.
The church also reportedly underwent a name change in 1954 from Waineʻe, meaning creeping waters, to Waiola, meaning living waters.
“Waiola Church is considered the site on Maui where Christianity began to spread,” according to the document, and serves as the final resting place for several of Hawaiʻi’s beloved aliʻi.
Queen Keōpūolani is among the aliʻi buried in a royal tomb at Waiola Cemetery, along with her daughter, Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena. Also buried there, is King Kaumualiʻi, last King of Kauaʻi, among other royals.
“Waiʻola Church holds tremendous historical and cultural significance as one of the few remaining monuments of Hawaiʻi’s royalty, that has endured through nearly two centuries of immense societal change,” the document states.
“On behalf of Waiola Church, It warms my heart for all that you’ve shared — all that you continue to support our church. As you know, we are the oldest church on this island,” said Waiola Church Kahu Anlea Rosa.
“Although we’ve been here for 190 years, it hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way; but because of the challenges and adversities, we can celebrate,” said Kahu Rosa in accepting the resolution.
West Maui Council Member Elle Cochran, who is a member of the Waiola congregation said, “I am extremely honored and privileged to share this information… The hidden treasures and history of our past, our aliʻi, and our Hawaiian culture is unveiled on a daily basis.”
Cochran is also a member of a subcommittee of Waiola called “Nā Kiaʻi o Waineʻe — The Guardians of Waineʻe”, serving as a caretaker of the area.
“The perpetuation of the host culture, the resting place of many of our aliʻi and aliʻi nui, is really a tribute to Lahaina and it being the first capitol of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, and then later being moved to Oʻahu,” said Council Member Michael Victorino in supporting the resolution. “Lahaina has much to be proud of,” he said.
“The cemetery next door is the final resting place of many of the aliʻi, and Waiola has a responsibility, or kuleana, that they carry very well in honoring the perpetuation of the culture, and being a very integral part of the Maui community,” said Council Member Mike White.
“This is certainly a moment to celebrate. thank you for the church for the big part it has played in Maui County,” said Council Chair Gladys Baisa in congratulating the church and its members on the anniversary.