The Oldest Church in Hawaii Still Stands Strong After 187 Years

W Nowicki/ CC BY 3.0

Written by Katie Melynn Wood

Published: March 2, 2024

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With a complex and interesting history, it’s not surprising that the oldest church in Hawaii is an important historic site. Hawaii was populated for centuries by native Hawaiians with their own culture, beliefs, and traditional spiritual customs. Many of the spiritual beliefs within Hawaiian culture focus on the relationship of people to the land. When traditional Western religious groups came to the island, things shifted. Many of the early settlements and initiatives during that time centered around bringing Western religious traditions and customs to Hawaii. The first Christian church, Mokuaikaua Church, is still standing and is the oldest church in Hawaii.

Where is Mokuaikaua Church?

Kailua Kona Hawaii

Mokuaikaua Church is located in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

This church is located on the Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island. It is the heart of Kailua-Kona, a town on the western side of the island. Kailua-Kona is on the opposite side of the oldest and largest city on Hawaii Island, Hilo. The steeple makes the church easy to spot within the town. The church’s gate is also a recognizable landmark in Kailua-Kona.

History of Mokuaikaua Church

Signs on the gate of Mokuaikaua Church detail its historic significance to Hawaii.

When Christian missionaries first came to Hawaii, many of them sought to establish congregations to teach about their beliefs. Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston were two Protestant missionaries who came to Hawaii in the early 1800s. At the time, Hawaii was a sovereign kingdom and they had to get permission from King Kamehameha II to open their church. He granted permission and they began to teach Christianity in Honolulu near the royal palace. They eventually moved to Kailua-Kona when they learned that there was interest in the area. The first church was made of wood from the ohi’a tree, the state tree of Hawaii.

The current church, which is made of stones, was completed in 1837. The stones were native to Hawaii and previously used in traditional Hawaiian places of worship. The roof was made of ohi’a wood and the interior included decorations made of koa. Overall, the church was a strong tie between the land and religious beliefs. It housed the congregation that dated back to the church’s founding in 1820. On

Mokuaikaua Church is still an active Christian congregation. They host services, prayer groups, study groups, and many other religious outreach programs.

Wildlife in Hawaii

Are Seals Mammals

The

Hawaiian monk seal

is one of two mammals that are endemic to Hawaii.

As a chain of islands in the Pacific, Hawaii enjoys a tropical climate that allows numerous species of plants and animals to thrive. Hawaii is home to some of the most unique and distinct animals on both land and in the ocean. There are also plenty of exotic plants that grow in Hawaii as part of its lush, tropical landscape.

The state animals of Hawaii include the Hawaiian monk seal, the humpback whale, the Hawaiian hoary bat, the NeNe or Hawaiian goose, the reef triggerfish, and the Kamehameha butterfly. Many of these animals feature prominently in Hawaiian culture, traditional spiritual beliefs, and legends.


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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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