KILAUEA — Christ Memorial Episcopal Church on Monday announced the completion of a year-long restoration effort and its commitment to providing a “Sanctuary for the Spirit” in serving the health, wellness and healing needs of the community.
The iconic lava stone sanctuary consecrated in 1941, and its ancient burial grounds, dates back to the 19th century. Across the street is one of island’s most well-known thrift shops, Helen Mitsui Shared Blessings, a ministry of the church.
Church members just completed a beautification of the church sanctuary, burial grounds, parish hall, office complex and thrift shop.
“For us it’s a celebratory rising from the ashes,” said Gae Chalker, priest and pastor of the church.
What most people don’t know is that two years ago the Christ Memorial property was in disrepair. Maintenance was overdue, but the real underlying crisis was in the covert activity happening on the property, a press release said.
“We discovered community drug usage and prostitution occurring on the property,” the release said. “The thrift shop would receive donations during off-hours, only to have those donations stolen or strewn across our grounds, creating endless cleanup for our parishioners.”
“We were feeling despair as we tried signage, closer monitoring, and involving the police, but the problems continued,” said Bishop’s Warden David Akana.
The turn-around came last year when the church board committed to a major restoration and renovation project.
“We decided we wanted our little church to be a ‘sanctuary for the spirit’ for the local community and for the many tourists who visit Kauai,” said Suzanne Kobayashi, bishop’s committee member in charge of long-term planning. “Everything we were going to undertake would support that mission.”
This year, the sanctuary was repaired and painted inside and out, and is open to the public throughout the week. Tourists on their way to the Kilauea Lighthouse visit the church for prayer, meditation and to stroll the burial grounds. Locals stop by to refresh their spirits.
Two morning church services are held on Sundays, and a Centering Prayer gathering, including meditation and a labyrinth walk, has been added twice per month on Sunday afternoons.
Church Historian Maggie Lea, the overseer of the burial ground restoration, said, “Our burial grounds date back to the sugar plantation era. Those buried attended the Hawaiian Congregational Church and eventually Christ Memorial.”
Gravesites without a local connection have been fostered by church members to caretake, and ancient tombstones have been cleaned and repaired.
Across the street, the church complex includes the Helen Mitsui Shared Blessings thrift shop, church offices, and the Parish Hall. These buildings have been restored and painted, and currently serve church ministries and a myriad of community groups that provide health, wellness, and healing services to the public.
Locked gates at night discourage after-hours trespassing.
“Although the property is much cleaner and safer, we still need help from the community,” added Akana. “We ask that thrift shop donations be made only during business hours, and if you see any suspicious activity, please contact the police.”
Three new additions have been added to the sanctuary and burial grounds property:
w A columbarium for the housing of the cremains of loved ones has been built. This long-time vision of the Kalihiwai Akana family was consecrated by The Right Reverend Robert Fitzpatrick, Bishop of Hawai`i earlier this year.
w A seven circuit, Chelsea neo-classical labyrinth has also been added to the sanctuary gardens. Created by Kauai labyrinth designer Bob Vlach and constructed by church members under his direction, the labyrinth welcomes all to visit for a meditative walk.
w A Peace Pole was recently added to the center of the labyrinth. “The Peace Pole Project entails the planting of thousands of poles around the world with the message, May Peace Prevail on Earth,” noted Lea. “Our Peace Pole shares this message in eight languages connecting with the ancestry of those buried on the grounds — Hawaiian, Japanese, Tagalog, Mandarin, Portuguese, German, Scottish Gaelic, and English.”
“Our hope is that our little church will provide the space for that refreshment,” said Pastor Gae. “Come and sit under the beautiful Poinciana tree, walk the labyrinth, or just spend some time in the sanctuary.”
Source: The Garden Island