USAG-HI Hosted Service in Honor of Queen Liliuokalani

15 09 2015

Service at Soldiers Chapel honors Hawaii's last queen on her birthday_20150911SCHOFIELD BARRACKS – While most of the nation celebrated Sept. 2 as V-P Day, or Victory in the Pacific Day – the day in 1945 on which Japan signed the surrender document officially ending World War II – a group from Oahu’s Episcopalian community gathered at Soldiers Chapel, here, for a service that also honored Hawaii’s last reigning monarch.

Queen Liliuokalani was born on Sept. 2, 1838, and ascended to the throne in January 1891. She was the reigning queen during the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on Jan. 14, 1893. She was also an Episcopalian.

“She stood for forgiveness, perpetual forgiveness,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Jeffrey Van Ness, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii. “So, today through prayer and music and eucharist, we seek to better understand her point of view. We seek to better understand the choices that she made.”

USAG-HI hosted the service, which was delivered in the English and Hawaiian languages.

In addition to honoring Hawaii’s last sovereign queen, the Sept. 2 service could also be seen as part of an effort to expand the community’s knowledge of Hawaii’s history, said Kaleo Patterson, vicar at St. Stephen Episcopal Church in Wahiawa, chaplain at the Iolani Guild, president of the Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center, and a member of USAG-HI’s Native Hawaiian Advisory Council.

Holding the service at Soldiers Chapel was significant because it was a gift from the queen.

Queen Liliuokalani and a group of “prominent citizens” raised the money for the chapel and ultimately gifted it to the Army in 1913, according to Ken Hays, architectural historian for the Environmental Division of USAG-HI’s Directorate of Public Works.

Hays, who was part of the team that won a Historic Hawaii Foundation Preservation Honor Award in 2011 for the restoration of the chapel, said he researched the chapel’s history, but has so far been unable to find documentation explicitly explaining why the queen chose to donate it to the Army.

The Iolani Guild donated a portrait of Queen Liliuokalani to Soldiers Chapel after a service honoring the queen on Sept. 2.

“But it does raise some thought-provoking questions about why she may have done it,” he said, adding that historical documents place her at the inauguration of the chapel, in the company of some of the people who had taken part in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Patterson, for his part, viewed the chapel service as a step toward achieving greater understanding between the Army and the Native Hawaiian community. He said it was fitting that the queen, who despite being dethroned, left behind a legacy of justice and nonviolence, would give a place of worship and prayer to Soldiers at an Army base in Hawaii.

“We need symbols (like this) that encourage us to live together in harmony,” he added.

At the conclusion of the service, Leimalama Lee Loy, president of the Iolani Guild, the devotional and philanthropic arm of the Society of the Episcopal Church in Hawaii, donated a portrait of Queen Liliuokalani to the chapel.

The overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom remains controversial. In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed the Apology Resolution, which was then signed by President Bill Clinton. It acknowledges that the United States played a role in the overthrow and that the people of Hawaii never relinquished their sovereignty. It has been the subject of debate ever since.

Soldiers Chapel was originally located in Castner Village (upper Schofield Barracks) and moved to its current location near Quad D in 1925, according to articles previously published about the chapel by the Army.

The entrance of the chapel is from the original structure gifted by Liliuokalani; a larger, standard church was added to this original structure later.

The chapel houses one of only two vintage pipe organs on the island, dating from circa 1931.

The chapel is a National Historical Landmark and part of the historic district at Schofield Barracks. It was featured in the 1970 movie, “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

To view the article with the photos visit the Hawaii Army Weekly website.


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