Friday, January 15, 1999

Courtesy of The Church of the Holy Nativity
Church of the Holy Nativity Children's Choir in 1949.

‘St. Mary
in the Dairy’
celebrates 50

Farm-raised church will
share 50 years of memories
this weekend

By Mary Adamski


Aina Haina was farmland being developed as a suburb, and Kalanianaole Highway was a narrow, rutted road to rural east Oahu, when a Church of the Holy Nativity congregation of about 70 people first gathered in a refurbished barn in January 1949.

They jokingly called it "St. Mary in the Dairy," a nickname fondly remembered by some of the members and friends who will gather at 50th anniversary festivities this weekend at the Episcopal church at 5286 Kalanianaole Highway.

Its official name was put to a vote, and the Rev. John Morrett, the first vicar, tells the story of a Sunday School 6-year-old who went home to announce the chosen title as "The Church of Holy Activity."

That's another name that lingers and fits because of the many projects and programs at the church, said church member Rhoda Hackler, a retired University of Hawaii history professor who has gathered anecdotes and searched meeting minutes to compile a church history.

Morrett and the Rev. Charles Crane, the other former rector, will join the current pastor, the Rev. John Clyde Millen, in a Sunday forum. "We'll talk about the church in the modern world, what we're called to be in the present and future," Millen said.

"Our roots and our ongoing mission are the same as they were at the beginning, but the setting is different," Millen said. "We live in a very different world, competing for people's time and interest. The message and companionship of Christ is eternal. We are getting rejuvenated, looking forward to the next 50 years."

The church today has about 600 members, and 210 children attend Holy Nativity School, from preschool through 6th grade.

Episcopal Bishop Richard Chang will preside at the Sunday Eucharist, and he has his own Holy Nativity story to tell. He was a newly ordained priest in 1966 when assigned to head the school and religious education program. There, he met Sunday School teacher Delia Morrish. They were married at the church in 1969.

Organist Janet Albright remembers her effort to scrounge a church organ in the post-World War II days when they were on the long list of rare commodities in the islands. She had learned that several musical instruments returned from various Pacific military posts were in an Oahu military depot.

"There were dozens in pretty bad shape, but a sergeant told her that a man from the prisons had picked up the best ones to be restored," said Hackler.

Albright tracked the man down, persuaded him to part with one and brought an organ home to the church.

Several of the memories shared in the history booklet, which will be distributed at a luau tomorrow, have an animal theme, fitting for the dairy farm origins.

Auctions were a regular fund-raiser in the 1950s, and Marilyn Goss told of her effort to drive up the bids for a donated calf.

It backfired. She and husband John found themselves the reluctant owners of the animal, which they had to herd home to Wailupe Circle.

A few days later -- to the relief of their neighbors -- they hauled it off to a Waianae ranch.

Then there was the congregation's effort to help a visiting priest who wrote back from his homeland of Uganda that he wanted to marry a nice Christian girl but he couldn't afford the traditional bride price. "We took up a collection to buy cattle to give the bride's family," Hackler said.

The historian was a participant in one of the Holy Nativity animal sagas.

"Our outreach committee started supporting the Heifer Project, which started in Arkansas to raise money to give animals to farmers in Third World countries," she said. "Bishop (Edmond) Browning suggested that we could bring it closer to home by helping the Kahumana Project in Waianae (an agricultural program for youngsters with mental and emotional problems).

"They needed a goat. So we bought a goat and a whole group of us went out to Waianae with the goat in the back of a pickup truck. When we arrived -- it was a long, bumpy ride with no freeway -- we discovered a natural miracle had occurred. There were three goats in the truck, the mother and two little ones."


Celebrating in song

Public events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Church of the Holy Nativity include services Sunday and a Jan. 24 concert:

Bullet The school choir will sing at a 9:45 a.m. Sunday prayer service, after an 8:30 a.m. forum by the church's current and previous pastors.

Bullet Episcopal Bishop Richard Chang will preside at the Eucharist at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Bullet At 4 p.m. Jan. 24, the concert will include the Robert Hamilton Chamber Orchestra performing with organist Margaret Lloyd and the Holy Nativity Community Choir.

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