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...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Celebration, Demolition & Construction   During our worship service on Sunday, I surprised Kei and Penny Osuga with a very special certificate regarding our office expansion, as the final big project of our capital campaign: The Church Office Shall Be Named In Honor Of: Tasaburo & Akiko Okamura Kiyoshi & Takako Shintani Kei & Penny Osuga For their generous and varied contributions to our church over three generations by gifts given by their family & friends   The certificate then listed the names of all of Kei & Penny’s family members and friends who made donations to the office project. In early fall, we were still short about $30,000 in terms of what we needed for the office expansion and new women’s restroom. After Penny mentioned to me that she wished she could think of a special way to honor her parents and grandparents, who were Kōloa Union Church members, I visited with Kei and Penny’s daughter Tara about the possibility of their family and friend’s donating the funds for the entire church office and naming the office after all three generations—including Penny and Kei! Checks poured in over the last couple of months, and a few folks made promises to send money over the next few weeks. It was a special honor to have Kei’s sisters, Irene and Sachiko, (who contributed to the effort), in church on Sunday to assist with placing lei on Kei and Penny! We had a vision four years ago to create a space that was more welcoming and inviting on our church property. We began with an ambitious goal of $150,000. Since a...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

On Sunday, I called attention again to the painting “The Holy Trinity” by the 15th century Russian artist Andrei Rublev. (You can see the painting below.) It a picture of three Persons sitting around a table in love, trust, vulnerability and intimacy. I pointed again to the small rectangle on the front of the table just below the dish. Art historians are aware that there are remnants of glue in that space and believe there used to be a mirror there. The author Richard Rohr tells us in his book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, that his purpose in writing the book was to call his readers to reposition themselves so that they could see their faces in the mirror. Just imagine really seeing yourself as a true reflection of God, for that is what you are! Genesis tells us that human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God We are God’s reflection—not just me…or you…but every single person in the world. Imagine the peace we would have if we truly saw ourselves—all of us—in the mirror! Rohr writes, “We always become what we behold.” So let’s spend some time during this season of Advent beholding the true nature of God, which is a relational God, relating to the “selves” of God with love, trust, vulnerability and intimacy. And let us ask how we might “reposition” ourselves so that we can clearly see that we are actually a part of this loving God. Just imagine God looking upon us in the same way that the three Persons in Rublev’s painting look upon each other! There...