LAHAINA — Waiola Church — formerly Waine’e Church, founded in 1823 by Queen Keopuolani — has been a cornerstone of the community for nearly 200 years.
In celebration of its 200th anniversary, the church will host events on Saturday, May 27, including entertainment, historical performances, cultural demonstrations, craft vendors, and a new virtual cemetery walking tour.
Anniversary events on Saturday will culminate in a luau dinner. Tickets are sold out.
The community can enjoy free activities from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the 535 Wainee St.
The event will feature performances by musicians CJ Helekahi, Lahela Park, Ikaika Blackburn, Marvin Tevaga, and Kevin Brown, and appearances by Kumu Hula Auli’i Mitchell, Dr. Ron Williams Jr., Tanya Lee-Greig, and Francis Tau’a.
According to the Waiola Church website, the church is the site of a historic mission established in 1823 on Maui.
The church cemetery is the final resting place of the first members of the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Waiola Church was originally called Ebenezer Church and later Waine’e Church (meaning “moving water”) until 1953. Waiola is where Christianity began on Maui.
On Oahu, Queen Keopuolani was impressed with the missionaries and the message they brought to the kingdom. She was considered the highest-ranking ali’i (royalty) in Hawaii, even higher than her husband, Kamehameha the Great.
Keopuolani left Oahu in May 1823 to reside in Lahaina. He asked missionaries Rev. William Richards and Rev. Charles Stewart to travel with her to speak “The Good Word” and pray to God with her. They arrived in Lahaina on May 31, 1823, and the next day the first Christian service was held on the beach.
Queen Keopuolani fell ill and died on September 16, 1823. Her request to be baptized in the Christian faith was fulfilled only an hour before her death. She and other Hawaiian ali’i are buried in the Royal Tomb located in the Waiola Church Cemetery. Nearby is the grave of Reverend Richards.
Within a few weeks of arriving on Maui, the first church building and mission houses were built in the area now known as Campbell Park, located on Front Street near Dickenson Street. Church services were held in that area for several years.
On September 14, 1828, the foundation stone for the first stone church in Hawaii was laid on the current church property on Wainee Street. Although dedicated as Ebenezera (Ebenezer), it became known as Waine’e Church. The dedication was held on March 4, 1832. The large church was approximately 115 feet by 50 feet with two stories and 3,000 seated worshippers.
Beginning in 1848, Waine’e Church underwent repairs and the height of the steeple was raised. In 1858, the church was damaged by Kaua’ula winds blowing from the West Maui mountains. Half of the roof and the bell tower were destroyed. Reconstruction was completed, and the church was rededicated on March 31, 1859.
A smaller (66 ft x 40 ft) Waine’e Church was dedicated on April 18, 1897. It was paid for by Henry Baldwin at a cost of $10,000 in memory of his father, W. Dwight Baldwin, who had been kahu (pastor) from 1837 to 1868. The smaller church was due to the decline in the Hawaiian population as a result of smallpox and the introduction of churches of many other denominations.
On October 20, 1947, the church was again destroyed by an accidental garbage fire. The church was rebuilt and dedicated on May 2, 1948.
On January 15, 1951 the church was destroyed by winds off Kaua’ula. The church was rebuilt and dedicated on April 26, 1953 and the name was changed from Waine’e (moving water) to Waiola (living water). This is the current church seen today.
The celebration is made possible through the support of the Maui County Office of Economic Development, the HK West Maui Community Fund, Kalei’s Lunch Box, and the many volunteers from the congregation who continually support the mission of the church.
For more information about the Waiola Church’s 200th anniversary celebration, visit www.waiolachurch.org or www.facebook.com/WaiolaChurch.