St. James’ Episcopal Church in Waimea was founded in 1913, and celebrates its centennial anniversary this month. PHOTOS BY ANNA PACHECO | SPECIAL TO NHN
Father David Stout of St. James’ Episcopal Church greets attendees of Easter services on March 31.
Father David Stout of St. James’ Episcopal Church greets a young visitor during Easter services on March 31.
Father David Stout of St. James’ Episcopal Church greets attendees of Easter services on March 31. (PHOTO BY ANN PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)
An acolyte, or assistant, carries a cross during Easter services at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANN PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)
Rona Lee, choir director, dances hula during Easter services at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANN PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)
Father David Stout of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Waimea speaks to the congregation during Easter service. (PHOTO BY ANN PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)
St. James’ Episcopal Church in Waimea was founded in 1913, and celebrates its centennial anniversary this month. (PHOTO BY ANN PACHECO|SPECIAL TO NHN)
“I’d live to be 100 … if I was functional,” said Beth McKeen, a member of Waimea’s St. James Church.
And functional is what St. James Episcopal Church is all about. Celebrating their 100th year in the Waimea community, the church has a thriving congregation of more than 130 people attending one of three weekend services.
McKeen, who is one of the teachers for Godly Play, a Montessori based program for children ages 3 through 12, said with a laugh, “I’m not very spry, I’m kind of old, but I use a chair to get down on the floor with them.”
She explained that Godly Play allows children to learn experientially, using a box filled with sand to play with characters from bible stories.
“Often, people go to Sunday School and get a page to color or they sing songs. But as an example, we take the story of the escape from Egypt. We have the children move Fischer-Price-like people across the desert, and the Egyptians chase them, they cross the red sea, and afterwards they dance. After the end of the story, we ask, ‘I wonder where you are in the story?’” And these are wondering questions, we don’t tell them what to believe, we let them work it out for themselves,” said McKeen.
Godly Play is a program that requires teachers, or “story tellers” as they are called, to be trained in order to teach. One of the teachers will be going to Canada to be trained, and her ambition is to bring a training program back this island so that other churches and denominations may be trained in Godly Play.
“The program materials can be adapted to any Christian denomination,” said McKeen, “even to Islam and other churches. Most kids report that they like and enjoy the program, and they ask incredible questions.”
St. James hosts many programs for the community as well, providing a place for the Waimea Community Chorus to meet, an after-school tutoring program for Marshallese children, a full weekly schedule of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous 12-step program meetings, and a beach Mass at Kawaihae Harbor on Saturdays at 5 p.m.
Many of the members are busy helping with the centennial celebration, which will include a luau on April 20 at the Paniolo Preservation Society’s Pukalani Stables. Other members are compiling a written history of the church’s first hundred years and gathering stories and photos of the members who helped shape the history of St. James. The celebratory Mass will be on Sunday, April 21 at 9 a.m.
Jo Piltz, a member who is heading the “History Committee” said she has thoroughly enjoyed the process of uncovering details of how St. James has evolved.
“The church and congregation in Waimea was already in place before 1913, but there was no permanent place to meet at that time,” Piltz said. “There were two congregations then, in Kapaau and Makapala, and Frank Merrill was the first minister.”
Piltz explained that the members in Waimea met at people’s homes and when Merrill took over, the congregation wanted to have a “regular” church. In 1912, they ordered a building from a Seattle company who made buildings and it came over on a boat.
“Talk about faith,” Piltz said. “There is a nice letter that he (Merrill) wrote to A.W. Carter, saying that one of the members of the church was a Parker, and it was A.W. that made arrangements to put the first church in the middle of town.”
After seeing an old photo of Richard Smart standing in front of the first church, Piltz went to Mr. Tetsuo Wakayama, now in his 90’s, and asked him where the church had stood. Wakayama answered that the first church property was across the street from the current Bank of Hawaii.
“They had a service there on Dec. 22, 1912, but the building was not consecrated yet,” said Piltz. “The bishop came on a ship (from Honolulu) and Father Merrill arrived by horse from North Kohala. The church was blessed on March 30, 1913. That’s how we are counting the 100 year anniversary.”
In the early 1930’s, the church building was lifted and moved to the present spot in Waimea, and in 1934, Piltz said they had enough land to start a cemetery next to the existing church.
There are many interesting historic details about Waimea that Piltz spoke about. She said before the war, there were probably between 400-800 people who were Waimea residents. Then things changed in around 1943, when the Marines began coming after the war started. They took over the public school as well as a building that was the Waimea Hotel. The Marines started a 400-bed hospital, put in more electricity throughout the town, and additional water reservoirs were installed. Children at the school got “farmed out” to people’s homes and classes were held in people’s garages and lanais.
“Then the Marines built the smaller buildings behind St. James as placement for the schools, but by November of 1945, the war was over and they moved out,” Piltz said.
It was around 1950 that Richard Smart told Hartwell Carter that a new church was needed. They contacted the bishop and the existing church was built. HPA had already started in 1949, using the smaller buildings in back of the church, however then, it was called Hawaii Episcopal Academy. It was a school for both boys and girls, although the boarding school was for boys.
Eventually, around 1959-1960, school buildings were added near the Waiaka bridge, and the school children boarded there, coming back to the village on the old St. James campus for classes.
St. James Circle is still home to two schools, Waimea Country School and Small World Preschool. St. James is also host to the thrift shop store, open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Many of the volunteers there are long-term and love serving the community.
“We consider ourselves the Nordstroms of Waimea,” said Rona Lee, one of the lead volunteers. “A lot of our proceeds go to charities like Advocats, Kares, the food pantry, and bags of clothing are given to women’s shelters.”
Laurie Rosa, who has volunteered for more three years, said her mother was a thrift store volunteer in the 1960’s.
“A big percentage of the 40-plus volunteers here at the store are non-members,” said Rosa.
The enthusiasm of all the church members who serve in various capacities is evident when speaking with them. The present leader of St. James, the Rev. David Stout, said he feels very blessed to be serving the congregation and community.
“I’ve been here just over a year and a half, and I feel very humble and excited at the same time,” said Stout. “While celebrating our 100 years here, we’ve grown both in numbers, missions and depths of programs. It’s a very special place.”
Stout said as of this past Easter’s service, a weekly service at Paauilo’s historic St. Columba’s Church will be celebrated by Tom Buechele at 9:30 a.m on Sundays.
“The current thought is that people don’t go to church anymore,” said McKeen, “but it’s growing, it is not passé!”
For more information about the St. James Church 100-year Centennial Celebration, visit stjameshawaii.org, or call 885-4923.