View from the Pew
Kawaiaha'o Church members listen to the Rev. Curtis Kekuna at a "hoomaka hou" ceremony saying farewell to the old parish hall and office complex.
Humble hall, rich lore
Kawaiaha‘o Church's Likeke Hall will be razed to make way for a new center
There are as many memories about good times in Likeke Hall as there were dust motes floating in the air in the 1940 vintage parish hall on the Kawaiaha'o Church grounds.
Church luaus, wedding receptions, Sunday school classes and choir parties are stories being shared as people wait for the wrecking ball to reduce the concrete brick hall and adjoining 1929 vintage office wing to dust later this month. Likeke was used for years as a meeting space for Hawaiian organizations and community groups, so some memories are of tense times, too.
There was some storytelling at a low-key gathering Oct. 24 that looked to the future as much as the past. The courtyard service was called an "oki" ceremony, meaning to cut, a symbolic letting go of the old. It was also billed as "hoomaka hou," a blessing on new beginnings.
Kawaiaha'o officials used the event to formally announce the construction of a $14.5 million multipurpose building to contain a social hall, conference room, modern kitchen, classrooms, office space and meeting rooms. Not to mention a bookstore, reading library, church archives and small museum. Actually, news about the project was published in the Star-Bulletin in June after the state released a $1 million grant approved by the state Legislature.
"When we would go to church, it was an all-day event," said Brickwood Galuteria, a church trustee. "It was Sunday school, then church -- we'd sneak out during the sermon and come back for the end. Then we had Christian Endeavor activities, volleyball in the parking lot, then Mom had choir practice, so we hung out. That's where we grew up."
They are planning to create an environment attractive for younger generations of today. Never mind the blackboards of yesteryear; the new building will be ready for laptops and iPods, designed to provide a wireless local area network with Internet access.
"We look forward to the new facilities," said the Rev. Curtis Kekuna, senior pastor. "Technology will enable us to carry out our mission." Kekuna was one of several to reminisce about "coming for church, playing volleyball ... and staying until night."
The structures will be demolished soon to make way for construction of a new multipurpose building, as shown in the rendering.
Frank Pestana, chairman of the board of trustees, remembered the annual Christmas party when "Santa showed up with oranges and grapes." He and his wife, Linda, were married at the church in 1972, but for the reception in Likeke Hall, "the entertainment didn't show up. The youth group was rehearsing at church, so we got them to come over and sing."
Pestana trumped all other memories as he recalled the visit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. The civil rights leader spoke at the University of Hawaii and attended Kawaiaha'o Church, where he and the late Rev. Abraham Akaka forged a friendship.
"Dr. King taught the choir a gospel song, 'The Old Ark Is A-Moving.' He brought Danny Akaka -- former choir director and now U.S. senator from Hawaii -- up to sing along with him."
Likeke, Hawaiian for "Richard," was named for Theodore Richards, a descendant of early Christian missionaries, whose family contributed to the 1940 construction. Stay tuned to learn what they decide about a name with a little more zing than "multipurpose center."
Church leaders originally considered an underground level to ease their parking crunch, but decided against it because there are, without doubt, bones in the area. The new building will match the footprint of the old, adjacent to a graveyard where burials date back to the 1842 completion of Kawaiaha'o Church, the first Christian church built on Oahu.
A Na Iwi Committee of church volunteers and Hawaiian community advisers has been planning since the beginning about what to do if old burials are disturbed in construction.
Juliette Galuteria's memories reached back to World War II days when the state Department of Defense used Kawaiaha'o as a distribution site for gas masks to the general population.
She voiced a prayer for the construction workers, "the hands that will be doing away with and the hands that will be bringing up. The Lord is telling us this needs to go. It's only a building, but within it holds so many memories.
"When it goes down, I'm going to cry."