“From its beginning 150 years ago, our church has been a place for people of many faith perspectives,” said the church’s pastor, Rev. Dave Schlicher. “Our aim is to create a warm and loving community providing spiritual renewal, direction, comfort and strength through Christian fellowship.”
Makawao Union Church is an independent community church. The membership includes individuals with diverse denominational backgrounds.
“We welcome all who wish to participate in the life of the church, inviting them to share in its ministry,” said Rev. Schlicher.
Even to someone unfamiliar with its history and its contribution to the community, Makawao Union Church is an unusually beautiful structure.
Photo: Mike Sidney Photography
Even to those unfamiliar with the congregation’s history and contribution to the community, the Makawao Union Church building appears to be an unusually beautiful structure, described as “a hymn and a prayer in wood and stone.”
In recognition of both its historical significance and its outstanding architecture, Makawao Union Church has been placed on both the Hawai‘i and the National Register of Historic Places. With a profound sense of its roots, the congregation continues to contribute to the preservation of the historical site it occupies.
“Once I walked in, I was drawn to the spirituality in the church,” said Kathy Fletcher, who recently joined the church. “I can feel its history. I am an anthropology teacher and I really appreciate all that is offered here.”
First known as Makawao Foreign Church and Congregation, Makawao Union marks its founding year as 1861, when Lot Kamehameha, who later became King Kamehameha V, signed the charter. The first pastor, Rev. S. Jonathan Green, erected a small wooden framed building at the Old Makawao Cemetery.
In 1870, Henry Perrine Baldwin and his family joined the congregation. Baldwin became the church organist and served in that capacity for over 40 years.
“In 1888, Baldwin offered the church a site for a new building, where a white frame structure was dedicated in 1889,” said Rev. Schlicher.
In 1914, the Pä‘ia Community House was built adjacent to the church, and was in continuous use by various island groups for plays, concerts, dances and other gatherings.
“After Baldwin’s death in 1911, his family built a new stone sanctuary in his memory,” said Rev. Schlicher regarding the current building.
The new building designed by noted architect W. Dickey is a basically Gothic design in the style of the English village church. It combines a Norman tower with a distinctively Hawaiian roofline. With its intricate, carved-oak interior and unique pew arrangement, the sanctuary has long been noted for its exceptional structural design, and a beautiful and inspiring space for worship.
“Makawao Union Church is built to provide a permanent meeting house for the people of this community and future comers for the purpose of upholding and improving the moral and religious standing of the community for generations to come,” said Harry Baldwin, eldest son of Henry, in his 1917 dedication address.
It was his hope that the church be a potent factor for good and a blessing to Makawao and Maui.
“Our sanctuary building is a real landmark in the Pä‘ia-Makawao area—a constant reminder of the historical significance of our church and its relationship with Henry Baldwin,” said Rev. Schlicher. “Besides being a pioneer in Hawai‘i’s sugar industry, Baldwin was a deeply religious man who gave of his time, wealth and services to his church, his community and the people of Hawai‘i.”
Today, members of the congregation continue to build on the past to create foundations for the future.
“Makawao Union is proud of its musical heritage,” said Music Director and Organist Liz Gregg.
An especially ambitious music program began in 1974 under the direction of Don Allton.
“Allton produced an outstanding choir that recorded albums, and in 1987, made a tour of Europe,” Gregg said.
The church’s Reuter pipe organ and the Baldwin and Kawai pianos are superior instruments that many highly qualified organists and pianists have enjoyed playing.
“The congregation truly appreciates the music here,” said Gregg. “My job is a great joy. I am thrilled to be in such a beautiful environment with the opportunity to praise God through music.”
“My husband and I found our home at Makawao Union Church back in 1991,” said Barbara LaMarca, a former deacon and the current treasurer. “We received a warm welcome, and the couple who greeted us was very kind to find out what we liked to do.”
Because she is an artist and painter, LaMarca’s first ministry was to produce hospice gift cards with a group of churchwomen.
“There is a very loving spirit at this church and a feeling of welcome to all,” she said. “This special celebration of our 150th birthday is a good opportunity for our church to grow and share its aloha.”
The public is cordially invited to a potluck anniversary celebration at Makawao Union Church on Sunday, March 27, when there will be a worship service with conversation about the history of the church.
For more information, call (808) 579-9261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.