A Message from Kahu Akana

“Beauty All Around Us” On Sunday, I shared a story from the book Moloka`i, by Alan Brennert, which I read over the previous couple of weeks. In the novel, a Catholic nun by the name of Sister Catherine had arrived at Kalaupapa, one of the most beautiful places in Hawai`i, to care for the patients who suffered from leprosy, also known today as Hansen’s Disease. Her first couple of weeks were especially difficult, as she dressed the wounds of young girls. She did her best all day long, every day, not to wretch as she tended one wound after another. After she had been there for a couple of weeks, she was unwrapping the bandages on the arm of a young girl by the name of Noelani, who was about 15. The wound was so horrible to look at, that Sister Catherine let out a horrifying cry and felt that she would throw up right then and there. She rushed outside and dropped to her knees. The beauty of Kalaupapa was far from her thoughts. Fortunately, her colleague Sister Leopoldina covered for her, and when their shift was over, Leopoldina took her across the yard to the girl’s dining room. There was a cabinet there, in which Leopoldina rummaged through one of the drawers until she found a piece of paper. She told Sister Catherine the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson had written something on the paper—something he wrote when he visited Kalaupapa in 1889—and then she read the poem:   To see the infinite pity of this place, The mangled limb, the devastated face, The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,...

A Message from Kahu Akana

A Tree Planted by a Stream On Sunday, I shared with the congregation about Pando, which is the largest known single living organism on Earth. It has been growing in central Utah for some 80,000 years—around the time of the last ice age. It weighs 13 million pounds and covers over 100 acres. Pando is a cluster of aspen trees. When I moved to the mountains of Utah in 1997, I lived in a place that was surrounded by aspen groves. Someone told me that a grove is actually one living unit, connected by an amazing root system of sometimes thousands of trees, all sharing the same genetic material. I pondered how the world would be so much better if human beings all saw that we are connected to one another like an aspen grove. Just like the individual trees, we all look different and are unique in our own special ways. Yet, we are connected in invisible ways that we will never truly comprehend in their entirety. Perhaps if we reflected on this more closely we would say, “Your happiness impacts my happiness; your health, my health; your fulfillment, my fulfillment.” Jesus understood this when he said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” I invite you to consider this week just how very connected we are to one another, to Jesus and to God; for an appreciation of our connectedness is what will save us and lead us to an abundant life together. I look forward to seeing everyone this week at the beach! Aloha nui! Kahu P.S. If you watch this week’s video of...

A Message from Kahu Akana

“The Greatest Commandments” On Sunday, I shared a couple of stories about gay friends of mine who were physically and emotionally tortured. The people inflicting pain believed they were doing God’s will, and had Scriptures to back up their actions. I wholeheartedly disagree with their interpretation and use of biblical passages. There are commands in both the Old and New Testaments which are troublesome and conflict with others. I shared some of those commands (and the ensuing punishments) which are so outlandish that no followers of Jesus would ever attempt to follow. People have used the Bible to defend slavery, abuse women and children, and inflict judgment and pain on those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender-nonconforming. So how do we interpret the difficult biblical passages—or any parts of the Bible, for that matter? I said in my message that we should first pay attention to Jesus when he gave tha answer to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” His response was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Since Jesus said that these are the two greatest commandments, it seems clear to me that all other commandments should be seen in light of these two. Our church is going through the process of moving toward becoming an official “Open & Affirming” congregation of the United Church of Christ. By doing so, we will publicly state that everyone is welcome to worship and participate in...

A Message from Kahu Akana

Kalawao Kalaupapa Peninsula “Kalaupapa Sunday” On Sunday, we observed Kalaupapa Sunday. Churches throughout Hawaii remembered Kalaupapa this week as that isolated peninsula on the north shore of Molokai where the Hawaiian government sent people who had Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) to live and die there separated from family and community. I began my message by sharing the tragic story of the murder of Dr. Jared Knapp Smith in 1897. Jared grew up right here in Koloa, the son of Dr. James and Melicent Smith, who arrived here in 1842. James was the only Western-trained medical doctor on the island and served all of Kauai and Niihau. Jared went to college and medical school in New England, and returned to Koloa to follow in his father’s footsteps. He not only had a busy medical practice but also started Koloa Industrial School for boys (after his family started and ran Koloa Boarding School for Girls). He met Margaret Brewer of Honolulu and fell in love. They were engaged to be married. One September evening, Jared sat down in his room and wrote her a letter. Just before he finished writing, he thought he heard a knock on his door. His life ended that night. When I shared the entire story on Sunday, I made the connection between Kalaupapa, on the island of Molokai, and Koloa, for it was because of the dread of loved ones going to Kalaupapa that Jared Smith was murdered. I reminded the congregation that Kalaupapa affected every community throughout Hawaii. Our Gospel reading on Sunday was Luke 5:12-16—the story of a man with leprosy who dared to cry...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Kalaupapa Sunday / Annual Meeting” Sunday, January 27, 2019 I know, I know, I’m jumping ahead a whole week, but attendance on January 27 is so important, I want to give everyone plenty of warning! Last week, I had a fantastic time on Molokai with my son Palani where we stayed with former Koloa Union Church Pastor John Lunn. We enjoyed a trip to Kalaupapa, where a Congregational Church existed since the first year people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) were sent there a part from their families and friends. We also hiked through the Kamakou Nature Preserve, way up in the mountains, where lehua blossoms and songs of native birds were abundant. On our last day, we hiked at Moomomi Nature Preserve, which is located along the northern coast far to the west of Kalaupapa and where native coastal flowers flourish. The trip gave me new subject matter for future watercolors. It also gave me some perspective on life at Kalaupapa over the years. The peninsula there is beautiful beyond description. It is hard to imagine thousands of people who were sent there to suffer and die far away from family members and friends. I look forward to sharing with the congregation on Kalaupapa Sunday, January 27 some thoughts from this recent trip. Church members are asked to attend our Annual Congregational Meeting after the worship service on the 27th. Besides our usual business, reporting and voting that is conducted each year, the Open & Affirming Core Team will present a draft of the “Open & Affirming Covenant” to the congregation—a task directed by the Congregation on October 21 in order to...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Art & Sharing During our worship service on Sunday, I was surprised to receive a stunning red lehua lei made by Rose Tatiana Warken Ceballos in honor of my 25 years of watercoloring the flowers of Hawai`i nei! In the afternoon, I hosted an open house at the parsonage and invited the community to come and celebrate my work over the past quarter of a century. I am so grateful for those who provided live music and dancing, delicious treats, beautiful gifts, and hospitality. What began as a hobby when my son Palani was born in Honolulu (something to do while he napped) became a passion over the years. I had no idea that painting watercolors was something for which I had any talent. I was really just looking for an enjoyable way to pass the time. As I reflect back over the past 25 years, there are a few lessons I have learned. First of all, I think that it is important to find something you really enjoy and do it on a regular basis. It doesn’t really matter what it is. There are very few things that bring me as much joy as watercoloring, and I am glad that I have spent time every year since Palani’s birth doing something so enjoyable. Secondly, I realize that I have become a better artist by practicing my art. Some people call it discipline. I call it making time for what you love. Whatever it is that you do, you will only get better at it when you practice it over the years. Thirdly, I have discovered that there is great joy...