The Church in Honolulu – A Dream Begins
Every church begins with a dream. As the years go by, it is important to keep that dream alive. It is also important for each new generation to let God give them new dreams because the challenges and opportunities change as the years go by. A vision of who we are and what we are called to be and do is what keeps the church strong and healthy. No church can survive very long without a dream.
Come with us as we remember how our church began and how God has guided us as we have grown. Let us remember the dreams, and let us pray that God will give us new ones.
The Early Years
The work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Hawaiian Islands was begun in 1884 by two literature evangelists, Abraham LaRue and William Scott. Because of the spiritual interest which they found among the people of the islands, an evangelist by the name of William Healey was sent by the General Conference Missions Board. Preaching the gospel in a 50-foot tent, Healey saw nine people give their lives to Christ and be baptized. This event foreshadowed the important role that public evangelism would always have in the life of Central Church.
On July 22, 1888, Pastor A. J. Cudney organized these nine members into the first Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hawaii. Just a few days later, on July 31, 1888, he left on a sailboat for Pitcairn Island (now famous for its place in early Adventist missions), but the ship was lost at sea and never heard from again. Because of this tragedy, the organization of the church in Hawaii was never reported to the world headquarters and was not officially recognized until its reorganization on February 22, 1896, with fifteen members.
The Kinau Street Church (1907 – 1920)
It was not long before the new group of believers felt the need of a church of their own. The first church was a tiny 28 x 40-foot white frame building at 767 Kinau Street. Built by the members, it cost $1,450 for the lot and structure. While the building may have been crowded, there were no parking problems. The members owned only three cars–a Packard Touring, a Hudson Super Six, and a Ford. That first organization must have been grateful to God for this little house of worship. They met there until they outgrew it.
The First Keeaumoku Street Church (1920 – 1934)
In 1920 the first Keeaumoku Church was built on mission property that ran from 1104 to 1120 Keeaumoku Street. Two mission homes were also located on that property to house ministerial families. The church continued to grow through the faithful work of pastors and bible workers, such as Elder L. T. Heaton (Margie Maket’s father) and members. Church membership reached 315 and a new church was needed.
The Second Keeaumoku Street Church (1935 – 1949)
With seating for 500, the second Keeaumoku Church was built on the same property as the first church. One of the old mission homes was moved to make room for it. This church was built with a baptistry with a beautiful painting as a backdrop. Until then, all baptisms had been held at Waikiki Beach.
It was here that the first radio programs of the church in Hawaii were broadcast on October 12, 1941. The church in Honolulu was keeping pace with other bold experiments, like that of H.M.S. Richards and The Voice of Prophecy, to share its message with the people of Oahu. The Adventist church in Honolulu was not afraid to try new things to reach people for Christ.
It was during the time of the second Keeaumoku Street Church that vigorous church planting began in the islands. In 1938, thirty-five members formed the Kaimuki Church, now known as the Diamond Head Seventh-day Adventist Church. That same year, nineteen members formed the Wahiawa Church. In 1940, thirty-two members began the Japanese SDA Church in Manoa Valley.
Giving up its members to start new churches did not seem to hinder the growth of the parent church. Keeaumoku Street continued to grow as members, pastor and their bible worker, Elder Heaton, faithfully shared their faith.
On December 7, 1941, the new Kilget organ peeled out the hymn, “A Shelter in the Time of Storm.” This marked a phase of special hospitality ministry for the young church. As many as 100 servicemen attended church on Sabbaths during the war years. They were hosted in members’ homes at first, then later as a group at the old academy building (now Hawaiian Mission Elementary and Intermediate School ). The name of Desmond Doss, an Adventist Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, is written twice in Margie Maket’s guest book from these days of loving concern. Keeaumoku is remembered as a church that was full of aloha as members shared their homes and their hospitality with each other.
The Piikoi Street Church (1949 – 1973)
By 1949, church membership had reached 600. At the same time, Keeaumoku Street was becoming quite noisy with the many businesses which had moved in. So property was purchased at 1556 Piikoi Street, just below Wilder Avenue, and a new church was build there. With a seating capacity of 800, it was the first church to have Sabbath School rooms for all the children’s divisions, a pastor’s study, treasurer’s office, kitchen, and a nursery.
The church continued to plant new churches while at Piikoi Street. In 1950, twenty-four members left to start the Waipahu Church.
At first, there was plenty of parking, but as time went on, the construction of apartment houses and condominiums in the area restricted parking and made another move necessary. It was then that the dream of building a church in its present location was born.
Honolulu Central Seventh-day Adventist Church (1976 – Present)
The site chosen for the new sanctuary was in beautiful Nu‘uanu Valley on a 2.75 acre plot next to the Mauna ‘Ala, the mausoleum for Hawaiian Royalty. There was tremendous enthusiasm and a wonderful spirit of working together as 80,000 hours of volunteer labor were given by members to construct the church.
Many miracles took place as the building went forward-so many that Central Church came to be known as “the Miracle Church.” This is the period of time that many members of Central Church remember the best. It is remembered for the tremendous spirit of unity which existed during the building of the church and in the years immediately afterward.
At the time of construction, it was Honolulu’s largest church with a seating capacity of 1,000 (plus an 80-seat choir loft), a 15,000 square foot sanctuary, a three-story building for Sabbath School classrooms, youth chapel, and fellowship hall, and a two-story auditorium and administration complex.
During these years, Central has continued giving birth to new congregations. In 1979 ninety-six members left to form the Samoa-Tokelau Church. During 1991 through 1998, members gave birth to the Honolulu Filipino Church. In 1998 forty-nine members left to start the Waipahu Samoan Church. Currently, our Chinese /Vietnamese Group, under the pastorate of Frank Loi, is working hard to grow and eventually spawn another church.