A Message from Kahu Akana

  It was so good to be back in church after spending three months in Europe! I shared with the congregation about worship services I attended in France, Portugal, Italy, and Switzerland. Although I enjoyed each place, I understood almost nothing of the sermons because they were spoken in languages I did not understand. Sunday was Pentecost, the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit in our world and the Spirit’s desire for everyone to clearly hear in their own language the good things that Jesus did and taught. Throughout the history of the Christian Church, there have been people on the margins of society who have been kept from hearing and knowing God’s all-embracing love for everyone. On Sunday, we celebrated our unanimous decision to become an official “Open & Affirming” (ONA) congregation of the United Church of Christ. I cannot think of a better day to celebrate our new status, for Pentecost is about making sure that all people are able to hear about and experience God’s love. Our ONA celebration was featured in The Garden Island Newspaper last week. I was overjoyed to see people in church for the first time who learned about us through the article and by personal invitations! Click HERE if you want to see the article. I wanted to offer a special thanks to Penny O. and Penny J. for the fantastic decorations; Rose and Shellee for the amazing dances; Kathleen, Doug, Nancy Murphy and Eric Yoder, for beautiful and meaningful music; Chris for the nice photograph of our congregation (above); the entire Open & Affirming Team for such a great celebration...

A Message from Kahu Akana

Lisbon, Portugal Kahu’s Last Day in Europe It is good to be home after spending three months in Europe! I had a fantastic time focusing on beauty, art and spirituality in France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland—and I look forward to sharing with everyone in the coming weeks and months about my adventures and what I learned over the past three months! I’ll be talking about my sabbatical on Sunday mornings throughout the summer and also showing a slideshow at the parsonage on June 16. I saw some amazing art and inspirational places of worship and reflection. Throughout the entire spring, beauty was unfolding everywhere as flowers burst on the scene as landscapes and gardens transformed from earth tones to stunning places of color and vibrancy. This Sunday will be a special time as we celebrate Pentecost and our new “Open & Affirming” (ONA) status in the United Church of Christ. I’ll be talking about some of my experiences worshiping in churches throughout southern Europe during my sabbatical. We will give thanks for our newly adopted ONA covenant and commitment to welcoming and including people of all backgrounds and lifestyles. We will also collect our annual “Strengthen the Church” special mission offering in order to promote new areas of growth in ministry throughout the UCC. We will continue to celebrate after the worship service during a special Aloha Hour as well! Be sure to wear one of the colors of the rainbow, if you are able, as we plan to take a group photograph on this special occasion! I look forward to spending Friday and Saturday this week with...

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...