Orthodoxy in Hawaii

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Christianity in Hawaii

         The first Christian service held in Hawai'i was a Russian Orthodox Paschal service. Somewhere between 1792 and 1793, while traveling from Far East to what was then Russian America, a Russian trading ship stopped over in the Hawaiian Islands. The Russian Orthodox Priest, not wanting to celebrate Holy Pascha (Easter) at sea instructed the captain to disembark. The captain then told the priest that he feared the native Hawaiians but was then told, "They will not harm us for we are Orthodox, and we bear the Light of Christ to Illumine their Hearts." The Priest then landed and blessed a temporary altar under a newly built temple made out of palms and bamboo. As they departed, the Orthodox Priest nailed a copy of the miracle-working Znamenny (Kursk-Root) Icon of the Sign of the Mother of God to a bamboo post promising that, "We shall return and baptize these natives to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." 


First Orthodox Chapels

          In 1815, Russians built Hawaii's first Orthodox Church -- the Russian Orthodox chapel at Fort Elizabeth. On the Island of Kaua'i, three Russian forts were built, Forts Alexander, Barclay & Elizabeth. Fort Alexander also housed a small Orthodox chapel, but Fort Elizabeth was the trading base for the new Russian-American Company in Hawaii. When the King Kaumuali'i of Kaua'i ceded his kingdom to King Kamehameha the Great in 1816 after the refusal of the Russian Tsar to annex Kaua'i due to political troubles in Russia, the forts were also ceded and the Hawaiian Islands become one unified kingdom. The chapels ultimately fell into dispair after Calvinist missionaries from the United States landed in 1820 after the death of King Kamehameha I.   
         In 1882, the Hawaiian Kingdom sent a diplomatic delegation to St. Petersburg, Russia, to witness the coronation of Tsar Alexander III. The reports of the Hawaiian special envoy to the Russian court, Colonel Curtis 'Iaukea about the liturgical services were widely published in Hawaiian language newspapers. Two years later, Tsar Alexander III sent King Kalakaua the Imperial Order of St. Alexander of Nevsky-the highest Russian award and established a permanent Russian Embasy in Hawai'i with a very small Orthodox chapel. Subsequently, 200 Ukrainians were imported by American sugar planters.
          In 1893, Queen Lili'uokalani was deposed by US Marines and American sugar plantation owners--who were mostly the children of American Calvinist missionaries--and a provisional government under protection of the United States was installed. In 1898, Hawai'i was incorporated into the United States despite near universal opposition from native Hawaiians. In the early 1900s, the Russian ambassador was recalled and the embassy was moved to a small office and the chapel was closed.   


Rebirth of Orthodoxy

          On November 27, 1910 (Julian Calendar), with the blessing of the bishop of Vladivostok, the first Russian Orthodox reader services were held by Reader Vasily Pasderin. November 27th was, and is, the "Feast day of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God". 
          In 1916, at the petition of the Russian Orthodox community to the Patriarchate of Moscow, a Russian Orthodox priest was dispatched to Hawai'i to pastor the large population of Russian Orthodox faithful. On Orthodox Christmas (Dec.25/Jan. 7), Archpriest John Korchinsky celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu and he established permanent Liturgical service. Thus orthodoxy was established in Hawai'i. 
          In subsequent years the Russian Orthodox Church in Hawai'i had shipped or flown priests to Hawai'i. Archimandrite Innokenty Dronov of Hilo, a contemporary of St. Jonah of Manchuria and St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, served the entire Orthodox Christian flock on all the Hawaiian Islands throughout 1930's and 1940's. Archimandrite Innokenty frequently returned to the Diocese in San Francisco to report to Archbishop Tikhon and for medical reasons. He is now buried on the Big Island of Hawai'i. 
         In the 1960's a Greek community established a Greek Orthodox Church, and soon thereafter, the Serbian community established an Orthodox mission. The mission later joined the Russian Orthodox Church of Hawai'i. 
         In the late 1990's, the current priest and one of the first Russian Orthodox priests since Archimandrite Innokenty, was ordained to serve the Orthodox Faithful in Hawai'i, Father Anatole Lyovin. Currently there are plans to built the first Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Hawai'i.

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