The Waialua United Church of Christ celebrates its 50th anniversary with a banquet tonight. Above is a 1956 photo of the former plantation Pilgrim Church with merged congregations of Japanese and Filipino members.
Banquet to celebrate Waialua church’s 50 years
Storytelling will be the main entertainment tonight as four generations of Waialua United Church of Christ members gather for the church's 50th-anniversary banquet.
Former Waialua Sugar Co. executive Bill Paty, 85, a longtime member, and Ruth Otake, 90, whose father was a former pastor at the church, will be among the speakers.
Congregation members prepared a video of other old-timers telling anecdotes about the days when the church served families on the sugar plantations. "We tried to implement what we learned from an oral-history workshop at the University of Hawaii Oral History Center," said the Rev. Grant Lee, the pastor.
The evening program at the church grounds next to Waialua High School will also feature skits and dances by an informal dramatics group, Kompang Players, whose name describes the concept of sharing, Lee said.
The church's history is woven from the threads of several ethnic Christian communities. It reflects the plantation culture of immigrant groups bound together by their language and culture, living -- and worshipping -- separately from other ethnic groups.
The new Weinberg Community Hall.
The 50th anniversary being celebrated marks the 1956 merger of Waialua Pilgrim Church and Waialua Filipino Evangelical Church.
The roots of Waialua Pilgrim Church went back to 1901, when Japanese laborers organized the Waialua Japanese Church. In 1941, descendants of the Japanese immigrants joined together with Caucasian Congregational church members to organize Waialua Pilgrim Church. In 1946 a Korean Protestant church disbanded, and members joined the increasingly diverse congregation.
The current church building was dedicated in 1988 and now holds a congregation of 150 people. It was praised for its landscaped grounds in a recent beautification award from the North Shore Outdoor Circle, Lee said.
A building project completed in 2002 turned the church grounds into an activities center for the North Shore community. The Weinberg Community Center houses a Head Start preschool, an Adult Day Care Center operated by Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, and the North Shore Learning Center, offering classes in English as a second language for modern-day immigrants. Also using the center are the Olelo Community Media Center, Jasmine yoga classes and 12-Step programs for alcohol and drug abuse.
Lee said the banquet is the finale of a series of anniversary events of the past year that included a youth camp, a women's tea and a golf tournament.