‘The best Happy Hour on Sunday’
KAANAPALI – “This is the best Happy Hour you can find on Maui, and it is at 8 a.m.,” the minister says. “Do you get God’s approval if you follow the Ten Commandments? No. You may not be able even to say what they are. There is only one way, and it is to have faith in God. And it does not hurt to acquire a little aloha either.”
Part-Hawaiian, Georgia-born, educated at Baldwin High School, 27 years in the U.S. military (including the National Guard), and a member of the Holy Ghost Motorcycle Club, Pastor Richard Murray began preaching at the Kaanapali Beach Ministry some 35 years ago.
He is still at it, offering good-humored – and meaningful – observations that you don’t hear in many churches.
Murray got the calling when he was a young boy – told by a minister he would be a preacher and that he should pray about it. The minister became his mentor, finally convincing him to join the ministry.
Visitors and locals pour into the downstairs at Leilani’s on the Beach, facing the long walkway every Sunday for 90 minutes of beautiful hula on the lawn, robust song and not the least, words from the pastor.
In the 1980s, 12 people used to show up. Today, sitting in bright red, blue and green chairs, a growing crowd that sometimes approaches several hundred overflows onto the second floor and the lawn. On Easter and Christmas, the service switches to the Hyatt Regency Maui, with a lawn big enough to accommodate close to 500 visitors and locals who attend.
Murray avoids pounding home the message that we are all sinners…. although he believes we are. The hoopla may seem a bit much to some, but this is not too strong a word. Webster defines it as “talk that is designed to get people excited about and interested in something.” The message, nevertheless, resonates.
This columnist, brought up Catholic, has found that homilies at mass are in general less than inspiring. To Murray, also brought up Catholic, inspiration is what it is all about.
“Everybody is caught up in the rat race. You go to church and forget about it the rest of the week, even though it should be 24 hours, 365 days. This church is for people who want to grow. You need to feel good here. We want people who walk by (on the beach path) to know this is happy place,” he said.
Visitors and locals are provided with pencil and paper to take notes, “since you will forget what was said by Wednesday.”
To Murray, it is all about faith. “There is only one way to please God, and that is to have faith. Faith is the key that unlocks the doors to Heaven. You need to ask God for help,” he said.
“Faith has the power to make us optimistic. If you have faith, you will have a purpose in life. Who am I and what am I doing here?” Faith, he said one Sunday, is nurtured in four ways.
First, know God by praying and bringing Him into your life. “You should listen to what God is telling you in your subconscious every day. You will know when you fail his tests and when you don’t,” he said.
Second, read the Bible to learn what He wants. Third, associate with like-minded people. “You are not meant to be a lone rancher Christian,” he added.
Fourth, claim the promises made in the Bible. There are more than 3,000, he believes.
Murray concludes an interview with the startling revelation that he sells ice. He owns Lahaina Ice Co. and makes a living at it. You will find his products in water or drinks from the Pioneer Inn to Naplii Kai.
Kaanapali Beach Ministry also sells things to support itself.
One can’t help but feel that Kaanapali Beach Ministry may indeed inspire people to change their lives. “I have one chance to change you,” he tells weekly vacationers. “It is not a hard sell.”