Project Canterbury

Five Years' Church Work in the Kingdom of Hawaii

By Thomas Nettleship Staley
Bishop of Honolulu

London, Oxford and Cambridge: Rivingtons, 1868.

Chapter III. The First Year

No sooner had the vessel anchored, than Mr. Wyllie, the Foreign Minister, and Mr. Gregg, Minister of Finance, an American, came on board to receive the Mission in the King's name. They were followed by a deputation of the Church Committee and other residents. The royal carriage was placed at the disposal of the Bishop, and every thing done to show him respect and welcome. It happened to be Saturday; but by the next day a building, formerly used as a Wesleyan chapel, had been arranged for Divine service. After an early communion) English matins were celebrated at eleven o'clock, when there was a full congregation, consisting chiefly of foreign residents, Hawaiians filling up all the vacant space, and thronging round the doors and windows. An eloquent and impressive sermon was preached by Mr. Mason. The King and Queen arrived at the palace the following week from the country, whither they had [22/23] retired in the first outburst of their grief. Both were deeply moved when the Bishop was introduced to them by Mr. Wyllie. After a few touching words referring to his recent loss, yet bidding us a hearty welcome to the Islands, the King said he had already completed his translation of the Morning and Evening Prayers and Litany into the Hawaiian language, and that it was then in the hands of the printer. He recommended the immediate enlargement of the temporary church, which was accordingly at once undertaken. An aisle in wood was added. The building, as a whole, was made more suitable for the ritual of the English Church. The royal seat was draped in black; and immediately over the entrance was an illuminated legend, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." The inaugural sermon of the Mission was preached on October 19th by the Bishop, in English, before the King, Queen, and leading residents. On October 23rd a meeting was held in the court-house of those who desired to attend the ministrations of the Church, the Attorney-General, Mr. Harris, a member of the American branch of the Church, presiding. The King was present. Resolutions were carried, welcoming the English Mission, and pledging annual [23/24] contributions towards its support. It was determined at once to apply to the Government for a Charter of Incorporation, which was granted. The Bishop, the clergy in priests' orders, and certain laymen nominated by the King, were to be trustees of all such funds as might be obtained from local sources or sent to them through the hands of the Bishop, from England and America. By the terms of the Charter, the voice of the laity is limited to matters of a purely secular kind. Provision was made for the permanence of the corporation by a clause requiring each congregation to elect some communicant member as a lay-delegate to represent them. A Finance Committee, with a layman to act as treasurer, was also appointed.

On October 2lst Queen Emma was baptized in the palace, in the presence of all the leading chiefs and foreign residents in the kingdom. On November 9th the first Hawaiian service was celebrated, consisting of matins and sermon. The latter was, of course, a written one, and it had been submitted to the King before its delivery. His Majesty corrected the translation where it was defective, and then heard it read over by the preacher several times till the pronunciation was deemed satisfactory. During the greater part of the following year it was his wont [24/25] every week to render this invaluable service to the Bishop or the clergy. The delight of the natives was unbounded when they joined, for the first time in their own language, in the grand and solemn offices of our Liturgy.

For some weeks their Majesties were under preparation and instruction for the Holy Rite of Confirmation. The day fixed for it was November the 28th, which happened to be a public holiday, kept in commemoration of the recognition of the national independence of England and France. The following is a description of this memorable incident, by one of the clergy, in a letter to friends in England:--

"The hour fixed for the ceremony was 1.0.30, but long before that time the temporary cathedral was besieged by hundreds anxious to gain admittance. One-third of the church was reserved for members of the Court, house of Nobles, and Consular body; another for the regular congregation, and the rest for the native population. The street was occupied by His Majesty's troops--viz., the cavalry, infantry, and rifle volunteers. Precisely at 10.30 the procession entered the church, consisting of the choir of native boys and men vested in surplices, and the [25/26] Bishop and clergy. At the same moment the sounds of the National Anthem announced the approach of their Majesties; and the Bishop, attended by his chaplain, the Rev. G. Mason, received the King and Queen at the west door. Here the King and Queen knelt down, having begged the Bishop to give them his blessing. His Lordship immediately pronounced Episcopal benediction, and then conducted their Majesties to their seats. The service commenced with the Litany, chanted in Hawaiian, the choir responding in harmony; from the musical nature of the language, it had a most solemn and beautiful effect, and the harmony of the responses was perfect. The Litany ended, we then left the church for the vestry, where we re-formed in the following order--Major Kaauwai (the King's aide-de-camp), vested in surplice, and carrying the Bishop's banner; choristers (native boys and men, two and two), clergy, chaplain bearing pastoral staff, and the Bishop. The procession left the vestry and entered the church at the west door) chanting the 19th Psalm, to the 3rd tone, 2nd ending. Their Majesties then left their seats, and stood in front of the altar. The address was read by the Rev. G. Mason. The Bishop having put the question, their Majesties replied in a clear) audible [26/27] voice. All kneeling, the Bishop said the prayers. His Lordship then called upon the congregation to spend a few moments in silent prayer on behalf of those to be confirmed. The request was responded to in earnest. Those few moments were indeed silent and solemn; the congregation then rose and sang the Veni Creator over their Majesties, who remained kneeling. We sang it to the ancient Gregorian melody. The Bishop then confirmed the King and Queen, and afterwards delivered an impressive address. Their Majesties were deeply affected, and so were the people, judging from their devout behaviour and attention. The natives especially seemed to enter into every thing; and many shed tears of joy and thankfulness when they saw their beloved Sovereign and his consort kneeling before the altar, and under the consecrated hands of their Bishop. One elderly chief remarked to his son, after service, that 'if a man did not know English, or even if he were quite deaf, still he might understand all that was passing before him from what he saw.' Before the Blessing we sang the 100th Psalm. After the service was over, the King and Queen returned to the Palace, the band playing as before, the guns firing a royal salute. The altar was vested in [27/28] white, and decorated with flowers, offered by members of the congregation. The King wore his uniform, which is similar to that of an English field-marshal; the Queen was dressed in white, and, wore a long white veil. We said Evensong, as usual, at 7.30, and Friday happening to be the evening for the Hawaiian service, the church was crowded with natives; after which we sang a Te Deum in the native language as the closing act of this happy and important day. May it be blessed to their Majesties as well as to their country will ever be the prayer of us all; and I think our kind friends at home will join in this intercession. Three of the King's officers have also been confirmed--viz., his Excellency the Hon. R. C. Wyllie, Prime Minister; the Hon. G. M. Robertson, Vice-Chancellor; and the Attorney-General, C. C. Harris, Esq. On Advent Sunday the King and Queen, with the above-mentioned, made their first Communion."

The year which followed the royal Confirmations was one of steady, silent progress in Church-work. Mrs. Mason began a female boarding-school at Honolulu, the King being at an expense of about 4000 dollars in the erection of suitable buildings for [28/29] this institution. A district visiting society was established, of which Queen Emma and other ladies, native and foreign, became working members. A guild of Hawaiian communicants was formed, "to make known the principles of the Church, as distinguished from Popery and Calvinism, to distribute tracts, teach in the Sunday-schools, read parts of the King's Prayer Book in small gatherings of people, and look out persons for confirmation." Early in 1863 a second station was opened at Lahaina, in the island of Maui, with a meeting held in the Court house at which resolutions, welcoming the Bishop and his coadjutors, were moved by the Governor and other chiefs, and carried by acclamation. Often were the King and Queen seen standing side by side at the font, to answer for the little ones whom they brought to receive Holy Baptism, and for whose proper training and instruction they made themselves responsible. Unions long unblest of Heaven were, through their instrumentality, now sealed in holy matrimony, "in the sight of God and His Church." Such was the work going on in Honolulu and Lahaina, when another severe loss befell the Mission, in the untimely and sudden death of its founder and friend, King Kamehameha IV., on St. Andrew's day, 1863.

Project Canterbury