View from the Pew
A look inside Hawaii's houses of worship
By Mary AdamskiSaturday, June 9, 2001
Sunday morning, on with shorts, tank top and sunscreen, gather mat and cold drinks and head for the beach. It's time for church.
Church uses beach
venue to send message
More than 200 people ringed the heavy-duty audio system that defined the "sanctuary" of the oceanfront church where the Rev. Alex McAngus holds forth at 10:30 Sunday mornings. He has been pastor for 13 of the 31 years the Waikiki Beach Chaplaincy has convened a nondenominational Christian service on the sands of Hilton Hawaiian Village beach.
"I go to church, (but) I've never been to anything like this," said James Quen, sitting with 30 teenagers in his graduating class from Chinese Christian Schools in San Leandro, Calif. His was one of three mainland school groups introduced during the service.
True to its venue, the service felt like entertainment, a show staged for the tourists, and the novelty of it all was unceasingly recorded on film throughout the one-hour-plus service. Cameras were particularly busy when four young ladies in matching muumuu from the Mililani New Hope Chapel halau danced to modern hymns.
Professional entertainers Teddy and Nanci Tanaka harmonized on joyous Christian songs -- all available on CDs being sold under the nearby thatched umbrella. They shared a more weighty message in Teddy's testimony about his earlier lifestyle and drinking habits, which nearly broke up their marriage until he followed her lead to conversion.
Even the pastor, formerly a balladeer in Waikiki shows, belted out "Put Jesus First in Your Life," backed by the soundtrack of full orchestra, from his Christian music album. He cut the Scriptures and preaching short this week to feature the Tanaka duo.
The pastor and performers compete with continuous distractions. A crowd disembarking from a catamaran ride trooped through the congregation, which was sitting in scattered clumps to use the sparse palm-tree shade. Regular beach action continued outside their perimeter, and indeed, the "worshipper" closest to center stage spent most of the service on his belly with his well-oiled body stretched for sun's rays.
The chaplaincy's executive secretary, Ruby Nobles, 78, conveyed a feeling of congregation and permanency, greeting returnees by name.
"People ask me why don't I join a church closer to home; I tell them this is my church," said Doris Peterson of Mililani. She and husband William have attended for 27 years. They bring a cooler containing lunch and rendezvous down the beach with their son and grandson.
>> Welcome: As New Jersey visitor Grace Hanson said, "We're looking for a church even when we're on vacation," and Waikiki Beach Chaplaincy makes it easy.
>> Participation: Most were content to lie back and be entertained until Foa Fetui, former fire dancer who described himself as "God's cheerleader," incited everyone to chant, "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good."
>> Message: It's unlikely that anyone carried away a deep thought, but there are those snapshots that bear witness "we went to church on our vacation."
Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
Email her at email@example.com.