LAHAINA The melodic celebrating could be heard from busy Front Street on Sunday afternoon as members of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church marked 150 years of ministry in West Maui.
A crowd of about 150 people packed the church's pews. Plastic chairs had to be set up outside the open-air building to accommodate an overflow of people.
The Rev. William Albinger - affectionately known as Father Bill - credited the parish's longevity to faithful members who have served for generations. He said the church's location in Lahaina also helps draw tourists from around the world.
About 150 people packed Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, which marked 150 years of ministry in West Maui. Plastic chairs had to be set up outside the open-air building to accommodate the crowd.
The Maui News / NANEA KALANI photo
Albinger said Sunday's celebration represented two historic events: the 1862 establishment of the parish in Lahaina and the so-called Feast Day of the Holy Sovereigns, King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma.
In 1862, Queen Emma wrote to Queen Victoria of England, asking that a clergyman be sent to establish the church in Hawaii.
"They upped the ante and sent a bishop," Albinger said.
The Right Rev. Thomas Nettleship Staley arrived in Honolulu in November 1862 and confirmed King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma as members of the Church of England. Staley then sailed to Lahaina to establish the parish. The first services were conducted in December 1862 at Hale Aloha in Lahaina.
"The reason we are celebrating on this day is because it is after Thanksgiving and before the Christmas 'crazies,' '' Albinger said. "It's celebrating a 19th century tradition by 21st century standards."
Holy Innocents' original church was built in 1872 on the mauka side of Front Street. The land under the existing church at 561 Front St. was acquired in 1908 and the present church was built in 1927.
Albinger said the church has had to adapt to survive. For example, he recently added a 5:30 p.m. service on Sundays at the request of young families who said they have other obligations such as soccer and baseball practices earlier in the day.
The church opens its doors to other community groups, including the Free Church of Tonga and the Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays organization. In 1974, a preschool was added.
While the church has adapted to the times, ancestors of current members have worshipped at Holy Innocents from the beginning, a news release announcing the event said. A seventh-generation child of a church family was recently baptized.
Albinger said he hopes that Maui's families carry on their religious traditions, helping to ensure that their keiki will be sitting in the church's pews celebrating Holy Innocents' 200th anniversary.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.