May 21, 2019
After experiencing three days of the most uninterrupted rest I have gotten in more than a decade, I sat on the lanai of the beautiful condo loving lent to me and Indigo. Lulling ocean breezes and fragrant freesia and plumeria trees just beyond the railing literally performed life-giving measures upon me. I planned to sit or lay around as much as I could without an ounce of shame.
A challenge presented itself: Do I go to church or not? Honestly, I love church, but as a church professional, I had committed to Sabbath and self-care, that I would have church with a good book, a sun hat and an umbrella on one of the black sand beaches of the Big Island.
However, the church was literally down and across the street about a Seattle city block. A sweet little church with a wonderful history sits by what appears to be old and falling koa trees. The yard is immaculately maintained, and the white stucco makes it look like Plymouth’s small sibling. I had stopped by earlier in the week to find sweet ladies making poi in a shady spot near the lapping water. They had invited me. How could I refuse? These women looked like folks of our faithful knitting circle, sitting by the water, quietly being the church together day after day.
I felt compelled to go. The church, Hokuloa United Church of Christ, resides in a village called Puako. Hokuloa means “the evening star” in Hawaiian. The church maintains a commitment to its Hawaiian heritage, singing songs in Hawaiian and in English, though most members were retired European Americans. We were greeted by the able pastor Rev. Joseph Medlin and other folks in covenant with the church with big smiles and genuine welcome.
What drew me and made me know I made the right choice was that this little church dared display a rainbowed “Be the Church” sign. What courage! I discovered in the sermon that the church was beginning its open and affirming process. Rev. Medlin preached on resisting fear, understanding it is the church’s role to be the place where all are welcome; to honor that God is still speaking.
After worship, I sat with Rev. Medlin and promised Plymouth’s solidarity. I told them what I knew of our own process, that the personal stories of LGBTQ folk in our families and beyond are what made the process loving and faithful for Plymouth now more than 25 years ago.
Friends, I was so inspired by this community. They just began the open and affirming process and already, there has been loss. For a small church, even the loss of a few people is devastating. However, they know that to live into their name, Hokuloa, they must be a light to so many who in the evenings of their lives, when they are sure they are not seen or heard by anyone, they matter. Queer and trans folk are cherished by God and affirming the LGBTQ community is a matter of our faith.
The next time I visit Puako village on the Big Island, I will find no challenge in determining what to do on a Sunday morning. There is a little church there I have claimed as my own. With them, let us strive to be an evening star. Aloha. –Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown