During the COVID-19 pandemic, a dinner pod connected folks who realized the difficulty of finding a progressive Christian church here on Oahu that felt like home. We wanted a church that reflected our vision of economic justice, valued diversity, did the work of decolonizing our faith, and promoted home-grown leadership.
We found a home with the United Church of Christ, a national Protestant denomination that reflects our values of diversity, justice, and a commitment to deepening our Christian faith. We launched in January 2023 as the second Just Peace church in the State of Hawaiʻi and the third Open and Affirming church on the island. We value our covenant of relationship and accountability with local UCC churches and the national church body.
Our backgrounds represent the full spectrum of Christian faith, but we agreed it was more important that a church shared a unified practice of serving the local community, rather than a unified set of beliefs; after all Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbor directs the ways that we treat one another, not the doctrines that we confess.
“Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!”
– Psalm 139:14
We celebrate that each person is made in the image of God. We understand who we are best when we love ourselves, each other, and all of God’s creation. We celebrate the full participation of people of all gender expressions and sexual orientations into the life of the church. We celebrate all the forms of love that people experience and share with one another.
The ways we love each other in our church, celebrating the gifts and the diversity of each member teach us to love our community beyond the congregation. Traditional models of church leadership center authority in a head pastor and perpetuate relationships of inequality. In Hawaiʻi this has an especially problematic history tied to missionaries and the colonization of the islands.
In starting a new church we saw the opportunity to live through an inclusive model of church organization where we share responsibility and decision making power. We are organized by circles of responsibility, so that every member can contribute to the life of the church, using their unique gifts. The invitation to contribute to the vital life of the church reflects the truth that we are all of equal and vital importance to God.
Jesus mostly talked about the Kin-dom of God and money. So will we. Our everyday economic behavior is itself an act of worship that reflects our relationship to God and with each other.
We give because we are a church, not because we are a philanthropic charity. The difference lies in the change that the act of giving makes in each of our lives. We understand our giving and engagement with our neighbors to be an embodiment of our faith and a catalyst for greater acts of love, justice, and compassion.
So while we seek to care for others outside of our community, we know that doing so opens our own eyes to the needs of our neighbors and transforms us through our relationships with people we live amongst.
“They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.”
- Acts 2:45 (CEB)