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Soldiers Chapel hosts regal commemoration

(US Army Garrison-Hawaii) Hawaii’s Army, Christian and Native Hawaiian communities gathered at the Soldiers Chapel, here, on Sept. 2, 2017, to celebrate the birthday of Hawaii’s last reigning monarch in the chapel she had built for U.S. Army Soldiers more than a century ago. 

They recited prayers and sang songs in English and Hawaiian, shared sermons and bestowed lei on a portrait of the queen. 

Alii Sir Edward Akana of the West Oahu Chapter of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, spoke of the queen’s kindheartedness and the love and affinity she showed to her people.

“You are not frozen in time … your spirit is with us today,” he said.
Chaplain (Col.) Steve Peck, head of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii’s Integrated Religious Support Team, noted the historical importance of the service.

“Few Army bases have as significant a connection to history and culture as Schofield Barracks,” he said. “And one of the most unique connections is to the queen. She gifted (the Soldiers) this very chapel, and it’s certainly the only chapel given to the Army by a reigning monarch.

“I want the Soldiers here to know that this place is different from other bases,” he continued. “This base has an amazing history connected to the Hawaiian culture and the culture of the larger Pacific.”

Unlikely benefactor
Queen Liliuokalani was born on Sept. 2, 1838, and ascended to the throne on Jan. 29, 1891. She ruled until the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on Jan. 17, 1893.

In 1913, she raised money for the construction of Soldiers Chapel on Schofield Barracks. It was the first church on the post and housed a bell donated by the 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment in 1912. 

It’s unclear why she chose to give the church to Soldiers who were from the country that played a role in her overthrow, but some believe it was an example of her generosity and ability to forgive. 

Peck said that from what he had learned about the queen, she did exhibit an admirable ability to forgive and love her fellow man. 

“In my personal opinion, there is evidence of the Holy Spirit in her life, transforming her into a person of grace and forgiveness,” he said. “It let her maintain her dignity as a person and a Christian.”

Barbara Vlachos, vice president of the Iolani Guild, a devotional philanthropic society of the Episcopal Church in Hawaii, said she was moved to be able to attend a service in a church that the queen had built.

“She would have loved to have been here worshipping with the Soldiers,” Vlachos said. “She would have loved creating a house of worship where everyone could be worshipping together.”

The Right Rev. Robert Fitzgerald, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii, which oversees the church Queen Liliuokalani belonged to, concluded, “We’re celebrating a saint in one of the houses she built for us all, but particularly for those lonely men and women from all over the United States and world who don’t even know they’re being prayed for today in this place.” 

Chapel History
Soldiers Chapel was originally located in Castner Village in the “Upper Post” area of Schofield Barracks, near the Waianae Mountains. 
In 1920, another chapel was merged with the entrance of the original Soldiers Chapel to create a larger church that could accommodate more congregants. It was moved to its current location, near Quad D, in 1925. 
In addition to the original chapel entrance and the bell donated by the 5th U.S. Cavalry, it also houses a rare 1931 pipe organ, one of only two of its kind in Hawaii. 

Soldiers Chapel is on the National Register of Historic Places.

First published by the Defense Imagery Video Distribution System


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