The United Church of Christ state convention will begin tomorrow at Kaumakapili Church. Here, the church undergoes renovations.

Church convention
continues a 182-year

When delegates to the state convention of the United Church of Christ begin meeting at Kaumakapili Church tomorrow, they will be continuing a 182-year-old tradition.

The annual governing conference of the denomination traces its beginnings to the first Christian missionaries to the islands, who arrived in 1820 and first convened in 1822.

The 200 delegates to the Aha Pae'aina represent 125 island congregations, 56 of which are in the State Council of Hawaiian Churches, mostly small congregations where the Hawaiian language is traditionally used in services.

The Rev. John Thomas, national president of the United Church of Christ denomination, will attend the week-long convention and participate in workshops and general sessions. He will preach at the closing service at 10:30 a.m. next Saturday.

Elected general minister and president in 1999, Thomas is principal spokesman of the national governing body and represents the church in national ecumenical and interfaith affairs. He held pastoral positions in Connecticut and Pennsylvania before becoming named adviser on ecumenical concerns to the denomination president at the Cincinnati headquarters.

On the convention agenda is election of a new Hawaii conference minister, the top state administrator. A search committee unanimously nominated the Rev. Charles Buck, pastor of the United Church of Christ on Judd Street.

The Rev. Don Sevetson, a retired Oregon pastor, has held the position as interim minister since the Rev. David Hansen resigned in April 2001.

The delegates also will debate plans for a changed organizational structure for the local church, the latest step in a six-year evaluation. Called the New Creation Initiative, it is a strategic planning effort, "trying to get the church to understand its mission again," Sevetson said. "We are seeking to be more mission-oriented, to find a new direction for the 21st century."


Minister up for top post is
cited for vision, energy

Delegates to the Aha Pae'aina opening tomorrow have their own business to tend to, but a Honolulu minister said they also face a universal question.

"Where does our religion bring us in light of world events? People of all faiths are asking that same question," said the Rev. Charles Buck, pastor of the United Church of Christ on Judd Street.

Buck, 40, is the first Korean American to be nominated for Hawaii Conference minister, the top local administrative position of the United Church of Christ. He was the unanimous choice of a search committee. Delegates will vote next Saturday.

"People are looking for relevancy in their lives. It's not unique to us," Buck said. "Every church is examining what it means to be Christian in the world today."

Jean Coffman, chairwoman of the conference board of directors, wrote to delegates that "a few of the qualities that drew the search committee to him are his deep faith, his deep commitment to the community of Christ and his excitement for and clear vision of the challenges ahead."

Buck has been pastor of the Nuuanu congregation for seven years. He is president of the Hawaii Council of Churches Fund, which underwrites the annual Easter sunrise service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, and the ecumenical Open Table.

He was born in San Francisco, the son of immigrants from Korea. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and earned a master's degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Stanford University. He held pastoral positions at the San Francisco Korean Methodist Church and Skyline Community United Church of Christ in Oakland. He and his wife, Susan, have two children, ages 9 and 7.

Buck said he is interested in fostering interfaith ties with other religions. He has served on the denomination's national Council for Ecumenism.

"The question being asked today is, How do we cooperate with each other?" Buck said. "We occupy the same earth. How do we enable the dialogue to take place?

"In Hawaii, with the diversity of people and churches, it is especially important."

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