Hawai’i. The 50th and last state. You might wonder how a chain of islands so far away from the United States mainland can be connected with the beginning of United States history. Study the two churches closest to the Capitol in Honolulu and you will see striking similarities. The early settlers to colonial America were separating from the royalty and the Church of England. But Hawai’i Kings, in the 19th century, were actually connecting with the Church of England, bringing Anglican faith to the islands.
First, let me explain about the Hawaiian alphabet. It consists of 13 letters. Five vowels (long and short) and 8 consonants (Hh, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Pp, Ww, ‘okina). A boy in his teens named Obookiah became a New England connection in 1819. He sailed to Cornwall, Connecticut to become a student at the Foreign Mission school. He provided information on the Hawaiian language to Protestant missionaries. They then started to translate and publish a Hawaiian bible. Eventually, they influenced King Kamehameha III to establish a constitution around 1840.
Kawaiaha’o Church was constructed between 1836 and 1842 with a New England style. 14,000 pounds of coral rock from an offshore reef created this impressive church known as Hawaii’s Westminster Abbey. Originally, the national church of the Hawaiian kingdom and chapel of the royal family. It is now a member of the United Church of Christ. It lies two blocks southeast of the current state Capitol.
King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma were devout members of the Church of England, which was led by their close friend Queen Victoria. They requested a bishop be appointed in 1862 and commissioned the construction of a new Cathedral. The King died on the feast day of Saint Andrew in 1863 at the age of 29. His brother King Kamehameha V, completed the project and named the Cathedral of St Andrew. This majestic Episcopal cathedral lies 2 blocks to the northwest of the current Capitol.
In the separation between these two historic churches is the Hawai’i state Capitol. Opened in 1969, it replaced the former state house, the ‘Iolani Palace. It is unique among US Capitols for a number of features. It is surrounded by a reflective pool, symbolizing the Pacific Ocean. Two chambers are cone -shaped, like the volcanoes. The eight columns on either side resemble palm trees and represent the eight main islands. Open -air design allowing the sky to be Hawaii’s capitol rotunda.
It may be the last state admitted to the Union, but Hawai’i is clearly connected to the the first church going settlers to America. On your next vacation to this tropical paradise, plan a visit to downtown Honolulu and explore these fascinating historical buildings. You may feel not so far from home.