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Holy Innocents Episcopal Church active in the community

By Staff | Nov 15, 2012

The original Holy Innocents’ Church was built in 1872.

LAHAINA – Although a small congregation, Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Lahaina has served our West Side community in a large way.

On Sunday, Nov. 25, it will celebrate the Feast Day of the Holy Sovereigns, King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, and 150 years of ministry in Lahaina.

Rev. William J. Albinger is the rector of the parish.

“There will be a 3 p.m. special service. We have invited the Royal Societies, because we are an historic church. The Episcopal Church is the only church that the kings and queens had invited to Hawaii. We have connections with the royal traditions,” he said.

Community leader and retired Lahainaluna High School English teacher Penny Wakida is a devoted Holy Innocents parishioner.

On and off, for over 25 years, she has served on the church vestry.

Founding member of the Lahainaluna High School Archive Committee, Wakida considered it her charge to preserve the church’s rich history.

“I did an inventory of the safe, and I organized the filing cabinets. There were written bits and pieces, and I put it all in one place,” she explained.

“We have record books in there that go back to 1873, like baptisms. There are historic names in those registries,” she added.

“One of the founding lay people of the parish was Henry Dickenson Sr.,” Father Bill said. Dickenson was district magistrate in 1869.

“For a short time, there were no priests, and he led the morning services as a lay person,” Wakida noted.

“Lani Hanchett was the first Native Hawaiian ordained a priest,” Albinger added.

He served as the rector at Holy Innocents from 1952 to 1959 and went on “to become the first bishop when Hawaii became a stand-alone diocese.”

The church was not always located at 561 Front St.

The first service in Lahaina was conducted by Right Rev. Thomas Nettleship Staley at Hale Aloha on Dec. 14, 1862.

“From there, we went to a ship chandlery’s office on Canal Street; met and had services there. Then they built the church on the corner of Prison and Front. In 1917, they did a land swap,” Albinger continued.

“The present building was built in 1927 and expanded in ’59.”

The strength of the church, however, is not in its structure. It’s embodied by its congregation.

“I treasure the history and the spirit of this church… the principles that come with it and the people,” Wakida affirmed.

Holy Innocents’ has an open door policy.

“Historically, I think it has always been an opening, welcoming congregation to everyone. It has embraced the whole community,” Father Bill commented.

“I think we have six 12-step meetings that meet on this property. (We’re) the oldest AA meeting in Lahaina – we’ve been here for years,” the parish rector added.

Monthly PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter meetings are held at the parish.

“The Free Church of Tonga, they worship here in the afternoons on Sundays and Wednesday nights,” Albinger added.

“I think the biggest sin is that you have a building that is used for only two hours a week,” he remarked.

Education is an integral part of the Holy Innocents experience.

In the archives, an unknown author penned: “The premises of Messrs. Bolles and Co. (a ship’s chandlery) were leased (on the site of the present King Kamehameha III School) to use as church and boy’s school Luaehu School.

“In 1865, the Sisters of the Devonport Society of the Most Holy Trinity came and started a girl’s school.”

HIPS (Holy Innocents’ Preschool) opened its doors in the Parish Hall in 1974.

“We have sponsored that now for 37 years. I do chapel with them once a week – three and four years old – and, to me it is like payday,” Father Bill said.

Holy Innocents was one of the founding parishes for FACE (Faith Action for Community Equity) three years ago.

“Father Bill was a real strong mover and shaker in the foundation of this organization,” Wakida said.

The congregation is also involved in secular activities.

“We have been effective with Roz Baker, and Angus McKelvey has been very helpful,” he said.

“We are able to get through the mortgage foreclosure legislation that saves a lot of homes here,” Father Bill added.

Other issues of importance to the Holy Innocents community include immigration reform, affordable housing and better jobs.

“We have investment banker prices and hospitality industry wages. If we want to keep our kids here, we have to have decent jobs for them,” he said.

In response to its parishioners, a 5:30 p.m. service was recently added to its Sunday worship schedule.

“They have reached out to us; it was parents that came and said, ‘We got soccer, we got football, we got little league. All of this stuff happens on Sunday morning. Everybody is busy, busy, busy,’ ” he explained.

“We do a service at 5:30 on Sunday afternoon. Because everybody’s winding down, I said one-half hour. Keep it short. Make the sermons understandable to the young people. It’s a gathering for some prayers, read the lessons, a short sermon One Sunday a month, we do a potluck,” Father Bill commented.

Over the years, Father Bill concluded, “The world has changed, and we’ve changed with it.”