The Bethel Seamen’s Chapel


The chapel was built in 1833 and destroyed in the 1886 Chinatown fire. The site of the chapel is now occupied by a building used by the Hawaii Pacific University at
1 South King Street on the Makai-Ewa side of King and Bethel Streets.

In the mid-1800s, many professing Christians migrated to Hawaii from South China looking for a better life working on the Sugar Plantations.

In 1868, Samuel Aheong, a Chinese plantation worker, began to display a passion for sharing the gospel with other Chinese which inspired C.B. Andrews to recommend him to the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, now the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ, to be commissioned as a full-time evangelist.

He departed on an evangelical tour of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island and as a result, Chinese throughout the islands began to attend the local native churches and sunday schools and many were beginning to request Bibles in Chinese and Hawaiian. It spurred the churches in Hawaii to support a greater outreach to Chinese here.

In February of 1869  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 there with twenty Chinese participants. It soon averaged between 60 to a 100 Chinese. Aheong returned to China in 1870.

In 1876,: A small group of 28 professing Christians arrived 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, who was considered the best Chinese evangelist in San Francisco and hired by the Honolulu YMCA to share the gospel throughout the islands, asked Pastor Damon to assist them in their Christian nurture. Pastor Damon responded by making the facilities of the Bethel Church available for Sunday afternoon services and personally taught a small group of Chinese English in a night school in the parish hall.

Side Note: The second building down towards the pier on Bethel Street has an engraving with the words “The Friend 1882”.

The Friend is the oldest newspaper in the United States west of the Rockies. It was first published on January 1, 1845 and its publisher/editor at the time was Pastor Samuel C. Damon of the Bethel Seamen’s Chapel who opened his church’s doors to the Chinese immigrants.

The Friend is still published today as the monthly news organ of the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ, successor of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the Hawaiian Evangelical Association.