Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Aloha Parish

St. Columba's Church in NW Hawai'i
This past Sunday Barry and I found a little mission church near where we were staying on the NW coast of the big island of Hawaii, in an area that used to be populated by workers in the sugar industry (before it closed down there).  We drove past it on Saturday and it looked pretty small and pretty basic.  We went on Sunday to experience worship there, looking forward to the Eucharist.  When we got there at 20 minutes before the hour no one was in the parking lot... uh oh.  But soon enough a few people showed up; I bet there were 15 or 20 people there in this tiny church.  They couldn't find a supply priest for that Sunday and I kept my mouth shut, observing my fast from sacramental duties.  Besides, the senior warden was going to lead morning prayer AND preach, and I wasn't going to diminish that or steal his thunder.

The service was fine and the message good.  But the real Eucharist happened for us afterward.  The people there celebrate together only once a month, when the usual priest makes a circuit and visits their church on the third Sunday.  To extend the celebration they follow worship with a potluck meal.  The folks there were so very hospitable, inviting us warmly to stay for lunch, so we did.  There was a stewed chicken.  There was fried eggplant.  There was a "sushi" made with sticky rice, spam, and wrapped with seaweed and finally individually encased in parchment paper.  There were spring rolls made with banana stuffing instead of the usual sprouts and veggies.  One kind woman led me through the line, explaining what everything was.  Lots of people sat down with us to make sure we were taken care of and comfortable.  Another lovely woman grabbed my plate when I was done to make sure I didn't feel like I had to take it into the kitchen myself.

These folks were so kind and welcoming to strangers (us).  They acted out the true "spirit of Aloha," which I think means a spirit of warmth, welcome, well-wishing, and loving-kindness.  I will treasure our giving thanks together over Spam and seaweed and eggplant.  I will treasure that Eucharist.

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