Travel Photo Thursday: Holy Icons of Hawaii

June 13, 2013

in Travel Photo Thursday

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I’m definitely never going to go there.

Hula DancersOkay, so I went.

Five times I went.

One iconic photo of Hawaii: Lei-clad hula dancers, hips swaying to the music.

Another, more powerful, and yet ironic one: Church steeples.

Nearly 200 years ago, the first Christian missionaries began arriving in the Hawaiian islands, 1,300 years after the first settlers reached those volcanic isles jutting up from the floor of the Pacific Ocean, and 30-plus years after the first “white man,” British explorer Captain James Cook, set foot on-shore there.

And, according to Julia Flynn Siler’s book, Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure, radical changes to Hawaiian society and rule of the islands soon began.

Saint Paul's Church in Kipahulu, MauiToday you’ll find evidence of that missionary “invasion” in a number of locations in the Hawaiian islands. To me, the churches that they built are “holy icons” of Hawaiian history.

Many are constructed at least partially of wood and roofed with corrugated tine sheets, like St. Paul’s Catholic Church near Kipahulu, just west of Hana on the island of Maui.

Wailuku Union Church, MauiIt was serene as Heaven there, with nary a soul inside nor out, when I stopped to photograph the church during two separate trips to Maui.

In this photo, stone-built Wailuku Union Church, just a few blocks from the Bailey House Museum, the former home of missionary school teacher Edward Bailey, looks like a “Rock of Ages” fortress designed to protect the congregation from any forces of evil that might dare attack them. But as you’ll see from the photos on the church’s Facebook page, it’s a place for its members to celebrate life.

Kalahikiola Congregation Church of Kapa'auLike California, Hawaii’s ties to underground vulcanism make it subject to earthquakes that can wreak death and destruction. What has created the island chain can also destroy and disrupt human life.

At 7:07 local time on Sunday, October 15, 2007—not long before many would be finishing breakfast and heading to church—a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck near the northwestern edge of The Big Island of Hawaii. Major damage occurred on both The Big Island and Maui.

While the steeple of Kalahikiola Congregation Church of Kapa’au in the North Kohala section of The Big Island  escaped the wrath of Mother Nature, the sanctuary did not. But the massive temblor couldn’t shake the faith of its parishioners.

2007 Earthquare Damage, Kalahikiola Congregation Church of Kapa'au

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie Beardsley from European Travelista
June 13, 2013 at 2:00 PM

The Hawaiian Islands are a wonderful place. Their history is also very fascinating and I’m sure the book you referenced is very interesting.
Debbie Beardsley recently posted..To Market, To MarketMy Profile

budget jan
June 13, 2013 at 6:32 PM

I love that never going to go there turned into going five times. That says it all :)
budget jan recently posted..Welcome to the Only Walled City North of Mexico City: Quebec CityMy Profile

Jackie Smith
June 14, 2013 at 7:28 AM

Nice post, Dick. You’ve made me add the churches to my list of ‘things to pay attention to’ the next time we are in Hawaii. Really enjoyed this one. . .
Jackie Smith recently posted..Crete: Sunday Morning at – not ‘in’ – ChurchMy Profile

June 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM

I have learned to never say never!
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Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel
June 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Hi there, we’ve never been to Hawaii, but lots of friends have, it’s a popular holiday destination from Sydney where we live. It sounds very family-friendly, and interesting for the adults too. Enjoyed seeing your photos.
Seana – Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel recently posted..Luna Park Sydney Family Pass Giveaway – School Holidays Coming UpMy Profile

June 15, 2013 at 2:20 PM

I was in Hawaii years and years ago, and loved it. Have to say, I didn’t explore the churches. That’s a good reason to go back :)
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Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel
June 15, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Hawaii is a really popular family holiday spot for Aussies, but we’ve never been… yet! Have heard lots about it, but not about religion and churches so was glad to read this and learn. Thank you!

Kelly Rogers March 6, 2014 at 1:03 AM

I like your photos. But for me, the best one is about the unshakable faith of the parishioners in God.

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