Tracing Early Beginnings

July 7, 2016

In from Dita Ramler

This morning, our group took a short walk to Park Street Church which sits at the center of Boston. We were met by Rich Elliot, facility manager for the church who also is a Board member for the Congregational Library and Archives at 14 Beacon Street. The church was founded in 1809 and it was here in 1819 that the plans were laid for the Sandwich Islands mission.

Samuel Mills, while studying theology at Yale, befriended Henry ʻOpukahaʻia, who was at Yale studying English. It was Millʻs hope that the newly converted ʻOpukahaʻia and some American missionaries would go to the Hawaiian Islands to spread the gospel. ʻOpukahaʻia died of typhus before this dream could be realized. His memoirs were widely read and inspired a group gathered at the Park Street Church, including Hiram Bingham I and Asa Thurston, to set sail on the Thaddeus. They arrived in Hawai‘i and within two decades, the Bible was translated into Hawaiian and thousands of Hawaiians were converted and these same missionaries founded our beloved school. Our group stood and sang the Hawaiian Doxology along with a beautiful accompaniment by their organist. It brought tears and a feeling of deep gratitude to be in the place that planted the first seeds of Punahou.

We made our way up to 14 Beacon Street on Beacon Hill where the Congregational Library and Archives are housed. This library was founded in 1853 and holds 225,000 items documenting the history of American Congregationalism. It serves Congregational churches and is available for researchers through its collection, with its digital collection accessed through its wonderful website, http://www.congregationallibrary.org.

“The Congregational story is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, beginning with the seventeenth-century Puritans and continuing on through nineteenth-century abolitionists and social reformers to the work of modern-day Congregational churches toward a just and open society.”

It is important to remember that this story and philosophy is being carried on through our mission at Punahou, educating the heart and the mind and working towards a “just and open society.” We were founded by these missionaries who cared deeply about our fair Hawaiʻi.

Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Bendroth, their executive director and Carolyn Hewitt, director of development, shared some items of interest to our group. Of particular interest was a first edition of Henry ʻOpukahaʻiaʻs Memoirs, an early printing of the Hawaiian Bible, and an early publication of Ke Kumu, a Hawaiian newspaper. Emma was able to translate for our group.

I was able to ask for and access two boxes from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM ) archives with pictures and letters from some of the early missionaries to Hawai‘i for Kawaiahao and Kaumakapili churches in Honolulu and Haili at Hilo. Our Punahou connections were there with manuscripts and pictures of our early missionary families such as Alexander, Baldwin, Bingham, Chamberlain, Damon, Dole, Judd and others.

The hospitality and generosity shown to us filled our hearts and minds with the impact the ABCFM has had on our school and our fair Hawaiʻi. It continues even today. We presented Peggy with a copy of our beautiful Ka Punahou 175th Celebration Book. It was a full day of sharing and learning.

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