Kauai’s Christian history lives on in 19th century churches where worshippers still gather every Sunday. St. Raphael’s Church in Koloa is the island’s oldest Catholic church. Father Arsenius Robert Walsh, who named the mission in honor of St. Raphael the Archangel and said the first mass on Christmas Day, founded the church in 1841. The existing sanctuary was built in 1856 and renovated in 1936.
The Lihu’e Lutheran Church stands on German Hill just south of the old Lihu’e Plantation sugar mill. The quaint church was constructed in 1885 to look like a German village church. The church’s unusual floor slopes downward from the center like the deck of a ship.
The early Protestant missionary churches at Waimea, Koloa and Hanalei still stand as monuments to these New England pioneers. The mission hall of the Waioli Hui’ia Church at Hanalei dates back to the 1830s. The landmark building is one of the first and finest examples of how builders combined New England architecture with designs taken from Hawaiian thatched buildings.
The United Church of Christ congregation at Waioli meets next door on Sunday in a picturesque green church transported in pieces from New England to Kauai in the 1920s. Services at the Waioli church are known for the melodious Hawaiian hymns.
The Waimea Mission was the earliest missionary settlement. The stone church at Waimea was built over a 10-year period starting in 1849. Sandstone blocks were hauled from Kekaha and hardwood beams from the mountains. Recently renovated, the acoustics in the church make it a popular site for musicians to record their music.
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