EDITH WOLFE / 1921-2005

Isle reverend was
relentlessly energetic
in her ministry

She preached in every United Church of Christ congregation in the state during her 25 years of service, but what many people remember best about the Rev. Edith Wolfe was her action approach to ministry.

"Her philosophy was to gather them together and do something," said the Rev. Renate Rose, her friend and colleague. Wolfe cooked spaghetti and invited hippies in Hana to share it, marshaled Kalihi youngsters to collect garbage in their neighborhood and in 1978, organized an English tutoring program to help ease Vietnam refugees into their new culture.

Wolfe died April 8 at the age of 83.

She came to Hawaii in 1965 as executive director of the Woman's Board of Missions for the Pacific Islands and, in that role, visited all the denomination's Hawaii churches to seek support for missionaries abroad and practical help -- school supplies and clothing -- for the influx of immigrants from Pacific countries.

"Edith Wolfe could not be confined to an office, it simply didn't suit her," Rose said. So the energetic minister took interim pastor assignments at dozens of island churches and traveled to Micronesia, the Philippines and Japan on mission projects.

Rose said Wolfe persuaded the Woman's Board of Missions to rent two small Honolulu apartments, which continue to be used as short-term housing for missionaries coming here from Asia and the Pacific, the mainland or neighbor islands.

In 1986, she took a permanent pastor position at Wananalua Congregational Church in Hana, Maui, facing a major renovation of the 150-year-old building. She worked to get it listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, opening the opportunity for foundation grants. She led the effort that succeeded in raising $425,000. She retired from the Hana church and from active ministry in 1989.

Wolfe worked with Annie Kanahele and a committee to create the 1970 edition of "Na Himene" Hawaiian language hymnal in use by several denominations. She edited an updated version of the 1819 memoirs of Henry Obookiah which sparked New England missionaries to come to Hawaii.

Wolfe was born in Newark, N.J. A former English teacher, she entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City, the only female student at a time when there were few women ministers. She was ordained in 1946, took assignments in Wales and in Connecticut and North Dakota before coming to Hawaii.

She developed her practical approach to ministry in her first New England assignment, where members of the small church paid part of her salary in eggs and produce, said niece Jennifer Wolfe Guidry. The minister began making egg custards for sick parishioners when she visited them at home and in hospitals.

"She was unfailingly generous with everything she had," said the Rev. Carrie Bail, former Waianae pastor, who said Wolfe contributed to her seminary education and "gave me my first, I suspect made-up, job when I finished seminary."

Wolfe is survived by brothers Paul and Robert; sister Dorothy Eastwick; nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. next Saturday at Church of the Crossroads, 1212 University Ave. The ashes will be buried in the Hana cemetery after a 10 a.m. May 8 service at Wananalua Congregational Church.

The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Woman's Board of Missions Edith Wolfe Fund.

E-mail to Features Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com