Father Bill Albinger to say goodbye to Holy Innocents
LAHAINA – All retirees know the dilemma. There are great expectations, and there is heartache. Add leaving Maui to the equation, and it is understandable how difficult saying goodbye will be for Father Bill Albinger after ten years as priest in charge of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Lahaina.
For Father Bill, retiring means farewell to his beloved congregation, preschool, friends and, in fact, to the whole Maui community. His last official service at Holy Innocents will be Sunday, Dec. 28.
“I found my job at Holy Innocents when I came to Maui to do supply work, on the Sunday after Easter, 2005,” said Father Bill, noting how the people embraced him and his spouse, Mark, with so much aloha.
Shortly thereafter, he was invited to become the priest at Holy Innocents.
“Being a parish priest encompasses unforgettable moments,” Father Bill said. “You get to see and share God’s presence in people’s lives at their most joyful and painful times.”
Reminiscing about his experiences, Father Bill said he found God most present when people are especially open to receive Him. For example: blessing a baby shortly after birth, baptizing people into the Body of Christ, presiding at marriages, visiting the sick, comforting the dying and commending them to God’s care at a funeral.
With sincerity and integrity, Father Bill invited “everyone” into his church. The doors of Holy Innocents are open at the front and sides of the building, welcoming guests and island trade winds.
“Here at Holy Innocents, we don’t ask people to check their brains at the door. Questions are not just allowed, they are encouraged!” he exclaimed.
“We might not always be right,” he said, “but it will always be interesting!”
“Holy Innocents has deep historic roots in Lahaina,” explained Father Bill. “In 2012, we celebrated 150 years of ministry.”
The Anglican Church, formally established in Honolulu by the monarchs on Nov. 30, 1862, held its first service on Maui in Lahaina by the Right Rev. Thomas Nettleship Staley, the first bishop of Honolulu. Bishop Staley used the Book of Common Prayer as translated by King Kamehameha IV.
“Our church was first built in 1872 on a lot diagonally across Front Street from the present location,” Father Bill said, noting that on these royal grounds, Hawaii’s reigning monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, enjoyed holidays and vacations as a child.
Throughout his years at Holy Innocents, Father Bill, as a parish priest, found himself called to speak out for justice in the community and the world. As a former Wall Street lawyer and Roman Catholic, his own diversity has been a tool for uniting others.
“Holy Innocents became one of the original church members of FACE-Maui (Faith Action for Community Equity), and I have been active in it since its founding,” he said.
Holy Innocents spoke out against abuses by banks in lending practices and foreclosures, against abuses and unfair treatment of immigrants, in favor of affordable housing and other matters of importance to the community.
“It also was vocal in its support of marriage equality under the civil laws of the state,” said Father Bill.
Many of Father Bill’s memorable moments happened in his weekly talk story in the church with the children from Holy Innocent’s Preschool.
“We start with a little prayer,” he said, “then, we add what we are thankful for and ask for help for those that need extra prayer. Then we sit down for talk story and end with a song, the ‘Ho’onani’ and the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ “
“The children and the community will miss Father Bill so much,” said Cynthia Shibao, Holy Innocents Preschool director. “He absorbed himself in Hawaiian culture and tradition from the get go and spent years studying and mastering the language.”
Holy Innocents organist Carol Becker agreed. “Everyone has been in a better mood and spirit since Father Bill has been here. We will miss him a lot.”
“I have been blessed to be able to share with parishioners and visitors alike the message of God’s love and care for all,” Father Bill tearfully said.
“In addition, it has been a privilege to share with them the beauty of God’s creation at our historic and uniquely beautiful location.”
As he enters his 70th year, Father Bill realizes that he is being called to challenges yet to be discovered, and that the parish is also being called to new challenges.
“Mark and I will be moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, a block from the Charles River, Harvard University and the monastery of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal order of monks,” he said.
Aloha and mahalo, Father Bill.