Memories of Kekapa

I remember Pastor Kekapa is quiet person but he was a doer.

One day we are in the Bible study class, suddenly the rainstorm was pouring, and I saw Pastor Kekapa checking around the church facility under the rain. Through this action I can see and feel the tender, loving and care of his heart for the church.

I joined the ukulele class, I was so impressed, and learn so much; and very enjoy the class leading by his crew, with his stunning voice.

Especially when we visited the care home, that was a wonderful time, we praise the Lord! We sang worship songs. I thank God to give me the opportunity to participate. The patients were happy and the workers were fill with joy. At the end with Pastor Kekapa’s Hawaiian blessing, everyone was blessed. Our hearts fill with full of joy!

Pastor Kekapa,  We will remember you!

Vicky Siu

He was a very special man, chosen by the Lord to do His ministry.

I had asked him if he could bless my Moloka’i friend and her hanai daughter.  He did not know them.
He did not hesitate.  He came at the end of the work day, in the evening, and blessed my friend and
her hanai daughter at Queen’s Medical Center.

I asked again, if he had time to bless my mom.  I told him that she was raised as a Buddhist but also respected Christianity.
Without hesitating he came to bless her with the Lord’s protection and grace.  Doing the Lord’s work, smiling and
doing what he loved.  Never putting anyone or any other religion down.  He respected all religions and beliefs.
He respected the aina and all it’s people with his Aloha.

He breathed and lived by the Church.  God always lifted him up, just as Kekapa always lifted people up in the
congregation and outside of church, giving them hope.

Good memories of a man who dedicated his life to the Lord, living the Word he taught to others and just loving
life itself.  Remembering the strength and power in his voice and the songs as he sang them, yet the gentleness
in its delivery.   Singing Christmas Carols, a Celebration of Life.

This gentle, quiet and humble man is now at peace, called back by the Lord on a new Mission.  He is missed,
but lives on in our hearts and memories.

May you rest in peace, Kekapa, for a lifetime of work well done.

Willa Mae Loo

FCCC Ukulele Ohana

The FCCC Ukulele Ohana started late 2009, when Kekapa began working at FCCC. One mid-
morning, Kekapa joined us at our Sewing/Fellowship group and while having our “Tea and

Snack time”, a discussion about having a Ukulele class occurred. At the end of the discussion
it was decided to start a class the following week in the multi-purpose room with anyone who
wanted to join the group. Just come play and learn. There were only a few of us including
Happy and Elsie Chun, Darryl Chun, and a few others. As time went on, the group expanded
to over 30+ attending each week. There were over 60+ regular members on the roster. The
class was held every Friday from 10:00 to 11:30 each week for the next 9 years.
From a few song sheets to play in our folder, it increased to a 3 ring binder full of ukulele music
and when it became so heavy to carry, we all ended up using a wheel cart to carry our ukulele
and music and stand.
The ukulele group consisted of many of our church members as well as other members of
different churches and from the community. People were invited to attend class by other
members of the group or just hearing about it at church. Anyone was welcome to attend the
Kekapa enjoyed going out into the community to share his music and perform, and went to
many Care Home facilities to sing and play to the residents. He enjoyed going to Lunalilo
Home in Hawaii Kai. Our group became so large that we needed to find places that were able
to accommodate our performing group of over 35 members. We were contacted frequently to
have return performances for the residents. One treat the group enjoyed was to have lunch
after the performance. One of our favorite places was Lung Fung in Aina Hina and Fook Yuen
in McCully. Kekapa enjoyed eating Black Bean Bitter melon plate lunch at Lung Fung but
stayed away from the pig feet at Fook Yuen.
Kekapa included the ukulele group in many of his functions such as funerals and special
occasions to play and sing with him. On the second Sunday of each month, the ukulele group
was in charge of the music section for the 10:30 AM morning church service. Kekapa was
always there to lead the group and we knew if he was there, it didn’t matter how the group
performed, he covered up for us! For some of our members, this was the only time they
attended a church service and they enjoyed being part of the worship service.
Kekapa had his helpers, Manny Barretto, Darryl Chun, Dennis Ching to help lead the group.
Many times, Kekapa would stop in the middle of the song to correct our pronunciation of the
Hawaiian word or how we sang the song or explain the meaning of the word.
Kekapa had a beautiful voice and enjoyed singing and playing with the ukulele group each
week. He showed and taught us different styles of music from religious, Hawaiian, country,
rock and roll, etc. He encouraged the group to get involved during the class by having the
members dance the hula and sing.
After Kekapa retired from FCCC in 2018, it was difficult to find a replacement leader for the
Ohana group. Sadly, the FCCC Ohana group disbanded at the end of 2019.
For almost a decade, Kekapa shared his God gifted talents with the FCCC Ukulele Ohana
Group and we will always remember him as we continue to sing and strum our ukulele.

Katherine Chi
Coordinator for the FCCC Ukulele Ohana Group

Remembering someone special…

Kahu Kekapa was warm, kind, talented and genuine!

I remember calling on him to help with my father who was ready to return home to the Lord and without skipping a beat said I’ll be there as soon as I take these young people home to their parents. He was talking about the EGF group. He would load them up in his sedan and take them back to their parents sometimes making two trips. One may think well that’s what pastors do, but he was new to the church and had never met my dad or my family, that was the kind of man he was, so thoughtful, caring, generous and loving.

Kahu was so humble that he refused to be called Pastor or Reverend but just Kekapa.  He would often say that titles meant that he was better than others, and he would emphasize that he was just the same as we were. Being a Kahu (Shepard) was his calling and not his status. No special treatment for this Kahu, just one of the group!

I was present when a young man walked in off the street needing financial help and after listening to him, said wait here I’ll be back. Kekapa left saying I will be back, and proceeded to his bank to get the funds that was asked of him. Later that day I said, “he might be telling you a story, you’ll never get your money back”, and he said with a smile, “that’s okay it’s all good”. That was a lesson for me to learn, how to be compassionate. That didn’t mean that Kekapa  was a softy or a pushover, but an extremely compassionate, kind and generous man.

His warmth and kindness, his Hawaiian culture showed his Christian teaching of Loving God, Loving others and sharing the good news is practiced not preached, and that encouraged me to return to worship and serve Lord at The First Chinese Church of Christ after an absence of 25+ years.

A hui hou, Kekapa,


It was my privilege to know and work with Pastor Kekapa Lee for more than 25 years.

Highly respected among UCC pastors, he was always quietly humble, gifted in music, careful in speech, a compassionate listener, and genuinely Hawaiian.

When I served as pastor of the UCC churches on Molokai, we invited him to come from Maui to lead a workshop in music. His ukulele of course accompanied him, and following his resonant voice, our church leaders greatly benefited from his emphasis on the Hawaiian kanikapila musical style.

When he was installed as pastor of FCCC, he asked if I could decorate the sanctuary with tropical flowers. It was a privilege to honor him in that deserving way.

Whenever the Merry Monarch opened in Hilo, you could always expect this “Hilo Boy”, as he called himself, to be present.

He was a trusted source of knowledge for things Hawaiian, yes, but more than that, one who embodied Christian aloha. We will all miss him, yes, but his generous spirit will live on.

Mahalo nui, Kekapa!

Pastor Paul Brennan

We were sad to hear of Kekapa’s passing. The memory of his singing and prayer in Hawaiian language is still vivid in our brains.

We meet with the Chinese group of FCCC, but did have a few interactions with him.

Kekapa struck us as a sincere, faithful and humble servant of the Lord.

We miss him and wish that we could have spent more time with him.

K-L and Ann Chen

Kekapa was a kind soul whose ministry was unique. His ministry involved not only the elderly but the preschoolers and the youth as well.

Having established his office not long after being called to serve the English congregation, he was willing to work with the preschool children in their chapel time, playing his beloved ukulele, teaching the youngsters simple Christian songs, always ending the song with a loud AMEN,
telling stories, giving high five  signals as they returned to classes, laughing with them.

As the time went by in addition to his pastoral duties, he was willing to serve as an advisor for the newly formed youth group from Fujian, China. These youths called themselves EGF , Evangelical Gospel Fellowship and met each Friday evening.

Kekapa took an interest in the youth and began giving devotions, driving the boys home, cleaning up the gym. He even went camping with the youths. He did this for 4 or 5 years.

He would even visit the parents of a youth who was hospitalized, not knowing the Chinese language but came to minister in prayer to the family.

Visiting the members or family members, friends in the hospital or care homes was Kekapa’s first priority.

He also directed the choir a few times when help was needed.

Kekapa was a pastor who accepted his responsibilities, did his best to help bring the congregation together, never complaining he was overworked or tired. One of his goals was to lead the members, train them and let them carry on.

In humbleness with a generous heart, Kekapa fulfilled his responsibilities to the best of his knowledge, always giving God the glory.

Shirley Ching

Kekapa P. K. Lee was born in Hilo, Hawaii. In his teens he came to Honolulu to attend Kamehameha School. Then went to Vietnam, and California to attend Seminary.

Then he served as pastor at his church in Lahaina where he still held memorable ties.  He finally came back to Oahu, loved his short time in Haleiwa; then finally in Honolulu serving faithfully the UCC and the First Chinese Church of Christ.

Far and Wide, Kekapa shared his music and caring love for all…and yes, even a bit of rascal fun!!!  And we are all left with this vision of

Our Lord, with both His hands extended saying….

“Kekapa, you have served me well!!  Come and let me give you rest”

Connie Ko

The Chanter

One day a preacher came to our church just to stay for a short while. But after seeking others, the church thought that he should stay.
A humble man, he was. Quiet, some would say, of Hawaiian and Chinese, heritage.

From far off Hilo, the preacher had made his way, through the island of Maui, the Kahu taught and preached The Way. The Maui people adored and loved him, as he spoke like them, and lived like them. They were sad to say that he would leave and preach to the Chinese, so far away. The preacher had won a Hoku for religious music along the way.

For 10 years, the preacher taught, prayed, and loved the “kanaka Pake” congregation the Hawaiian way. He taught to “pule”, “mele”, and “ho’okani ‘ukulele, play the ukulele. He refused to be called “kahu”, but only a humble Kekapa.

People came from close and far, from different churches, to hear him pronounce and sing the Hawaiian songs. His soft voice would boom, and resonant, when he sang, or when he would correct the poorly pronounced Hawaiian words.

But he would also chant, at funerals, at special occasions, and all who were there would hear his prayer. All would stand quietly to hear what he had to say, even though they did not understand a word he chanted. But we knew what he said was good.

Now the sounds of his voice and his chants are silent. They do not echo through the pews, the hall where we sat and played, the choir loft, or through the trees or bushes, but rather in our hearts and minds.

He was a silent man, a godly man, a chanter.

Arthur Wong, in memory of Rev. Kekapa Lee, 11-20-20.

Such sad news. I thank God for Kekapa, his ministry and ask for prayers for all who loved him.

—Rev. Diane Weible, Conference Minister, Northern California – Nevada Conference UCC

– From the Friend, Hawaii Conference UCC, Honolulu, vol.36, issue 5, December 2020

I give thanks to God for the life and ministry of Kekapa Lee. When he sang, I felt as if the angels in heaven were among us. His spirit was an open and free one in which all around him felt the power of his love and kindness. I am sad to learn of his pass- ing, though I know that he has found the eternal love of his beloved Jesus.

–Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

– From the Friend, Hawaii Conference UCC, Honolulu, vol.36, issue 5, December 2020

This just takes my breath away and breaks my heart. Kekapa served in so many ways in the national setting during the many years I was there. I remember worshiping with him on a Sunday where the Samoan commu- nity gathered to joyfully bring their offering and commitments for the upcoming year. Kekapa helped organize a Samoan Choir from Southern California that offered a concert at the 50th Anniversary celebration in Hartford. So many memories of Kekapa who was a kind, gentle, thought- ful and caring soul. A wonderful smile and warm heart generously shared with so many. Prayers for his family that he loved so dearly; I heard many stories of them over the years.

–Edith Guffey, Conference Minister, Kansas-Oklahoma Conference UCC

– From the Friend, Hawaii Conference UCC, Honolulu, vol.36, issue 5, December 2020

Kekapa and I first worked together when he was on Hawai‘i Conference staff in the 1980’s and we worked on West Regional stuff together. Then there were many interactions over the years. He was a kind, gentle soul who taught me a lot about the Hawaiian culture through example. I continue to listen to his wonderful CD of music whenever I am driving around Tennessee!

–Rev. Char Burch, Transitional Conference Minister, Southeast Conference UCC and John Thomas, former UCC General Minister and President.

– From the Friend, Hawaii Conference UCC, Honolulu, vol.36, issue 5, December 2020

Kekapa Lee graduated from the University of Hawai‘i Hilo campus after serving in the U.S. Army. He then enrolled at Fuller Theological Seminary. “It was a feeling, a sense that God was call- ing to me,” he said in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser
in 2018. “I was trying to figure out what God wanted me to do. I prayed, and people prayed for me. God just opened the doors for me, financially and everything.”

Wayne Ibarra, Pastor, Makiki Christian Church

– From the Friend, Hawaii Conference UCC, Honolulu, vol.36, issue 5, December 2020

From the early 1990s toward the early 2000s, the Hawai‘i Conference expe- rienced a moment in time—Associate Conference Minister staffing through
a cohort of age and experience includ- ing Grant and Kekapa who were the heart and soul in many aspects of Conference life and mission. Kekapa was appointed to a number of national UCC special committees, and he
ably communicated the mana‘o of this Conference to the national setting of the church. Both Grant and Kekapa lived the sense of community that they preached and taught.


– From the Friend, Hawaii Conference UCC, Honolulu, vol.36, issue 5, December 2020

In Memory
Harvey Kekapa Pauole Kealakala‘i Lee, 74, retired pastor, passed away on November 19. Kekapa graduated from Kamehameha Schools—Kapālama and completed a four-year enlistment in the Army, before going on to graduate from the University of Hawai‘i Hilo. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1978. He was ordained and installed as Pastor of Waiola Congrega- tional Church in Lahaina, Maui, in 1988. He also served
as Interim Pastor of Lili‘uokalani Protestant Church and as Pastor of the English-speaking congregation of The First Chinese Church of Christ in Hawai‘i. For six years Kekapa served as Pāpā Makua of the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches and the State Council of Hawaiian Congregational Churches. Gifted with a beau- tiful singing voice, Kekapa was a Na Hōkū Hanohano Award winner for Religious Album of the Year in 1998 for Aloha Kekahi I Kekahi (Love One Another). He retired from active ministry in 2018.

– From the Friend, Hawaii Conference UCC, Honolulu, vol.36, issue 5, December 2020

Perspective from the Co-Chair. December 30, 2018

Good Morning, FCC Congregation. My name is Arthur Wong. I was co-chairmen
of the Pastoral Committee that called Pastor Kekapa as Senior Pastor of FCC in
Nov. 2009. Now that it is Pastor Kekapa’s last Sunday, it is appropriate that I
share a little about my perspective at the closure of his ministry.

Our search took about 2 years, and we had about 35 candidates. We learned
about our candidates through resumes, videos, phone calls. In my heart, I asked
the Lord for a sign that Pastor Kekapa was the person we were looking for.
Kekapa had two signs. The first was in his Statement of Ministry and later in the
interview in which he said he had “a vision of Jesus calling me to ministry”. “A
vision of Jesus calling me to ministry”. What a powerful statement!

The second sign was when I called one of his references. This person was an
elderly Hawaiian lady from the Waiola Church on Lahaina, Maui. Pastor Kekapa
was the pastor there for about 12 years. She told me about how the people of his
church didn’t want him to leave to accept a position as Papa Makua, or UCC
conference minister for 48+ Native Hawaiian churches, and that he was doing a
great job at Waiola.
As I closed the conversation, I remember distinctly how she chided me, almost
scolded me by saying something like you are not only getting a pastor, but you a
taking away our Hawaiian pastor. Right away, I knew this was the man for our
church. Only the Lord could have planned this. It was God leading Pastor Kekapa
to our church.

When Pastor Kekapa came to FCC, he taught us how the play the ukulele; how to
sing, pronounce, and understand Hawaiian words; and how to love one another.
He has truly blessed many of our lives.
When Pastor Kekapa leaves us, he will again return to work with the small
Hawaiian churches.
So Kekapa, if any of our Hawaiian brethren ask you why you left the Hawaiian
church ministry to preach at a Chinese church, just tell them you never left the
Hawaiian church, the Chinese just borrowed you for the past 10 years.
Aloha nui loa. God bless you in whatever you do. Visit once in a while, you will
always be welcomed here.

Arthur Wong


THANK YOU GOD for Your plans to send our Beloved Pastor Kekapa to be our Kahu [Pastor] at the First Chinese Church of Christ in Hawaii.

MAHALO for directing his life from his home in Ola’a, Hawaii and sending him to Haili Congregational Church in Hilo via a bus on weekends. He attended Sunday School & CE there, sang in the choir, learned play the ukulele and played volleyball in their large gym.

He graduated from Kamehameha School in Honolulu, Served in the U.S. Army; graduated from University of Hawaii at Hilo and Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master’s degree in Divinity.

He joined the United Church of Christ Conference staff from 1980 to 1987; served as Pastor at Waiola Church on Maui; was Temporary Pastor at Liliuokalani Church and in 2008 was Acting Pastor at First Chinese Church, and in 2010 was called to be our Senior Pastor at First Chinese Church of Christ.

MAHALO for his appreciation for his Hawaiian and Chinese heritage. He often shared with us that his parents were Elizabeth & Sun Wah Lee of Hilo and Grandfather was Lee Sha Gan who came from Buck Toy Village in Southern China; and Grandmother was Kahuaka’inui Lee. Pastor Kekapa’s real name was :
Kekapa’ahu’ulaokapo’ohiwi’okamehameha. Pau’ole Kealakala’i Lee which meant the “red feather cape covering the shoulder of Kamehameha”. His English name was Harvey.

MAHALO for his ministry at First Chinese Church. He flavored our church with Hawaiian words that remains with us today. He taught us to be an OHANA [family]. He taught us KULEANA [responsibility] in his weekly sermons that were emailed to shut-ins and printed for us on Sundays; taught Bible studies; shared Bible stories and songs to our FCCC Preschoolers [KEIKIs] every Wednesday in the sanctuary; led the Chancel Choir temporarily; visited our ohana in homes, hospitals, care & nursing homes with communion, devotionals and music; performed at weddings, funerals, blessings of homes, businesses and even blessing of animals on a special Sunday. He participated in community events like the Veterans’ Day services at Hawaiian Memorial Park, every Memorial Day.

He always lived by good words and deeds. He displayed KOKUA [helping] by working with EGF (Energetic Gospel Fellowship) on Friday evenings with high school students who came to play sports in the gym, eat a light dinner and he shared devotions with them. He also helped by driving some of them home. He worked by moving items and getting people in our church to participate with Party In the Park at Thomas Square with neighbor United Methodist Church to feed, clothe, and provide necessities for the homeless living in our neighborhood.

He helped in our Missions & Craft Fairs and also purchase10 lunches and shared them with the homeless around our church. He always reminded us to say these people were houseless , not homeless. He truly had compassion for others.

Every Good Friday he and members of both congregations carried a huge wooden cross from the church, down Ward Avenue, on Kapiolani Boulevard, up Pensacola and back to church. Some people stopped them and asked why they were doing this, and they got a chance to tell them about Jesus dying on the cross for them.

He started All Saints’ Sunday – Remembrance Sunday in November when families and friends were invited to light candles for family members or friends who had passed away from November last year to the present November – a touching service to remember as each name was called.

We will always remember and cherish his ALOHA [ love] for music. He had a beautiful strong voice. He started our Ukulele Fellowship on Fridays for our ohana and outsiders, conducting beginners classes and practicing with advanced players. They shared their ministry to care and nursing homes in the community, at funerals, in special church programs and being part of the Sunday worship service on the second Sunday of the month. Some of the recordings are on YouTube.

MAHALO for his encouragement of KOKUA [helping one another] in a December 9th sermon: “God, in Christ comes for us and uses us to care for each other, our neighborhoods, our church and the world”

MAHALO for the teaching of KULEANA [responsibility] to share the Good News of God’s love with others and for others to see God present in each of our lives. (I found one of his sermons recently that he gave on June 25, 2017 entitled: “WE ARE TO MIRROR GOD’S ALOHA!’ …)

who taught us with his life of loving and serving,

MAHALO NUI LOA [thank you very much!,
for bringing ALOHA [love that comes from within our hearts] to our Church OHANA [FAMILY]

A HUI HOU [until we meet again] …

Lynn & Gloriette