A Brief History of our church

Mid 1800s:  Many professing Christians migrate to Hawaii from South China


1868-69: Samuel Aheong displays a passion for sharing the gospel with other Chinese which inspires C.B. Andrews to recommend him to the Hawaiian Evangelical Association to be commissioned as a full-time evangelist. He departs on an evangelical tour of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. As a result, Chinese throughout the islands begin to attend the local native churches and sunday schools and many were beginning to request Bibles in Chinese and Hawaiian. It spurs the churches in Hawaii to support a greater outreach to Chinese here.


Samuel Chenery Damon

1869, February:  With the support of the Reverend Dr. Samuel Chenery Damon of the Bethel Union Church, Aheong began to hold Sabbath Evening meetings for the Chinese. He started it as an English Language School which met three evenings a week at Bethel Church with twenty pupils. It soon averaged between 60-100 Chinese. Aheong returns to China in 1870.


Goo Kim Fui

1875: Rev. A.W. Loomis recommends Sit Moon who had been working with the Presbyterian Mission field in San Francisco for the last 15 years and who he calls the best Chinese Evangelist in the California, to be a preacher/colportuer for the Honolulu Young Men’s Christian Association to evangelize the Chinese laborers in Hawaii. He is hired by the YMCA and he goes on evangelistic tours of the Hawaiian Islands, leading many of his countrymen to Christ.

He shares the Gospel with Goo Kim Fui, a successful Chinese businessman who immigrated from China to expand his businesses in Hawaii, who receives Christ.


Seamen’s Bethel Chapel

1876: A small group of 28 professing Christians arrive in Honolulu, five of them women, who had already been converted by the Basel missionaries in China. About 19 of them led by Sit Moon, ask pastor of the Seaman’s Bethel Church, to assist them in their Christian nurture. Pastor Samuel Chenery Damon makes available the facilities of the Church for Sunday afternoon services. Pastor Damon also starts a small night school in the parish hall to teach them English.


1877: Sit Moon founds You Hawk Jihu Taw Hui (the Beginning Evangelical Society of Learners) also known as the Chinese YMCA which later becomes the Chinese Christian Association.


John.Ballard Atherton

The Lyceum


1879: John T. Waterhouse* makes the facilities of the old Lyceum*, a town hall located on Kukui and Nuuanu Streets, available for their use. Under the leadership of Sit Moon and a corps of Y.M.C.A. workers inspired by Joseph Ballard Atherton, organize classes to teach them English and the basic Biblical truths.


1879, June 8: 39 Chinese Christian citing difficulties understanding the English language services, ask for a church where services could be in their own language. The Hawaiian Evangelical Association grants their petition and Sit Moon is called to become their first pastor. They meet at the Lyceum.


Fort Street Chinese Christian Church

1879, August 7: The congregation purchases at auction a lot on Fort Street, between Beretania and Kukui Streets, for the sum of $4500. It is now a triangular park Mauka of the Central Fire Station on Fort Street and Beretania.


King David Kalakaua

1879, October 3: The congregation is granted a charter of incorporation by His Majesty, King Kalakaua. Unfortunately, the charter signed by Kalakaua was destroyed in a fire at the Chinese Christian Association where it was being stored.


1881, January 2: The church building, constructed at a cost of $6,500 with an additional $1,000 for furnishings, was formally dedicated as the Fort Street Chinese Church also known as the FO GAI FOOK YIM TONG and served as the focal point of all Chinese mission work in the islands. The first story was a combination parish hall and Sunday School classrooms, while the second floor built as a sanctuary, was where regular worship services were held.

The Fort Street Chinese Christian Church

The church building was constantly in use not only for regular services and Bible classes, but also for funerals, weddings, wedding receptions, and other social functions. Here hundreds of children as well as many of their parents and other adults in the community were taught both English and Chinese either in the day or evening classes.


Frank Damon

1881: Francis Williams Damon (1852-1915) is appointed by the Hawaiian Board as the Superintendent of Chinese work.


1886 and 1898: During the two disastrous Chinatown fires, the church grounds becomes a virtual refugee camp to house those who were homeless and in dire need of help.


Mills Institute

1892: Under Pastor Frank Damon, the Mills Institute is opened at his home on Chaplain Lane. Five Chinese and one Japanese were his first students. His school gradually outgrowing its downtown quarters, was moved to Manoa, and finally combined with the Kawaiahao Girls’ Seminary to become the Mid-Pacific Institute.


The Chinese Hospital

1892 Under Pastor Damon, the Wai Wah Yee Yin, the Chinese Hospital located on Robello Lane in the Palama are, is constructed.  It is moved to Palolo Valley in 1917 and is now known as the Palolo Chinese Home. The Chinese Church maintained one of the wards with six beds at the hospital as one of its missionary projects.


1892, June 10: Hawaii’s first kindergarten/preschool is organized in a new cottage on the Chinese Church premises as a classroom, Mildred Kinney with the assistance of Hattie Chang, a church member, gathered together 11 tiny tots, children of members of the church and residents of Chaplain Lane. The only equipment they had at first consisted of a “handful of wiliwili seeds and some bits of chalk.” Miss Kinney recalls that her pupils included several “whose bound feet required their fathers to carry them to and from the school.”


Mission stations are established in various islands as well as in the different sections of the growing city of Honolulu. On Hawaii, these included one in Kohala, another in Hilo. On Maui, there was one in Wailuku and another at Makawao. On Kauai, the three centers were Waimea, Hanapepe and Hanalei where there were thriving rice plantations.

In Honolulu, besides the Gospel Hall on Hotel Street, another was started near Aala Park, known as the Aala Branch Mission.

Kohala 1883                             Hilo 1901                             Wailuku 1901                              Waimea 1907

1906:  A gospel hall called the Beretania Mission was established under Elijah and Jessie MacKenzie at 74 North Beretania Street on Beretania and Maunakea Streets which attracted older Cantonese-speaking Chinese and many young people.


W.B. Olessen

1915:  Frank Damon dies and the Reverend William Brewster Oleson, former principal of Kamehameha School for Boys, temporarily takes charge of the Chinese work.


Norman C. Schenck

1915:  The Rev. Norman C. Schenck takes over as permanent head of the Chinese Work.


1915: A Gospel Hall was established on Beretania and Maunakea Streets under the guidance of Mr. and Mrs. Elijah MacKenzie. When the work grew, permission was granted to form a second Chinese Second Congregational Church, also known as the Yee Jee Wui or the Beretania Church of Christ. The cornerstone for the new structure was laid in 1917 and the new

Beretania Church of Christ

church building was dedicated in June of 1918 with the Rev. Tse Kei Yuen as its first pastor. It is now the United Church of Christ on Judd Street.


1919: The Fort Street Chinese Church attains the status of self-support, From that time on, not only did it not receive financial help from the Mlssion Board, but contributed its share of support to assist the general work as well.


1926: A new site was found at 1054 South King Street on the old Grandville Hotel property and the membership voted to sell the Fort Street property for $65,000 and buy the new site for exactly the same amount. It was Indeed a fair exchange.

The Chinese Christian Association

During the interim period of a year and a half, we borrowed the use of the Chinese Y.M.C.A. meeting hall back of the Central Fire Station for worship. It was during this particular time that many of our Church records were destroyed due to a disastrous fire.

At the new site, there were some old wooden buildings, but no place for worship. Thereupon, the membership pledged themselves to raise sufficient funds for a new sanctuary as well as a new Parish Hall. One two story wooden building could be converted to Sunday School classrooms. Pastor Schenck suggested asking for competitive architectural drawings for the new sanctuary, This suggestion was followed and the membership looked over many plans, Finally, the sketch by Architect Hart Wood was selected as it combined the architectural arts of old China with that of the newer west.


The First Chinese Church Sanctuary

For an additional $5,000, the congregation decided to add the pagoda-like bell tower, To the Chinese, the pagoda symbolizes a place where the evil spirits never dwell, To us as Christians, the reason for this is the Cross which is above the pagoda, The Cross represents our Lord Jesus Christ Who in His death and resurrection has conquered the wiles of the Evil One, even death itself to bring life and immortality to light through the Gospel, Every Sunday when the church bell rings, it peals out the Good News, calling people to come and worship.


Keeaumoku Church of Christ

1934: A group of its younger members left the Second Chinese Congregational Church to form the Keeaumoku Church of Christ or as it’s now known, the Community Church of Honolulu.


1948: The Beretania Church moved to its present site on Judd Street to be renamed as the United Church of Christ.


1957, Christmas: While we were practicing a play in the sanctuary, a member, Robert Yee, casually spoke to the minister that the old gymnasium at Fort Kamehameha was out for sale to make room for the new enlarged airport. That it was a steel structure which could be dismantled and re-assembled on the Church grounds. After a committee was detailed out to give it a close look, it was finally decided to bid for it.


Master’s Hall

1958: Towards the back part of the property, which was once a garage for the tenants in the front apartment building, the church constructed its new parish hall now known as the Master’s Hall. It is so called because it is dedicated for the glory of God and for the developing of well-rounded Christian personalities.The structure was 94 feet by 180 feet. Although the length was too long for our property yet the width was just right for our use. We bought the steel structure for $12,000 and sold the rest of the steel we could not use for $1,000.


Founder’s Hall

1964: Ground was broken in order to make room for the new building, four old wooden buildings were demolished. Of the four, only Damon Hall was built in 1928 as a new Parish Hall for the church, the other three were old Grandville Hotel buildings which were renovated for church use.


1965, November: The new structure named Founders’ Hall, was dedicated. To perpetuate the memory of both Frank Damon and Goo Kim, two of the larger halls were named after them.