Built in 1958, it’s still pretty young in terms of “historic property” (50+ years old.) But in 2004, in my role as State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO,) I weighed in on the importance of keeping the structure intact.
You see, back then, the Navy was looking to redevelop the Moanalua Shopping Center – in it is Moanalua Community Church (originally built as Pearl Harbor Memorial Community Church.)
The church had its start as a chapel for sailors in World War II and now serves the surrounding community, including military personnel.
Its feature is a stained-glass window that covers one whole wall of the A-frame building; it’s described as the “largest connected stained-glass window in Hawaiʻi” and one of the largest stained glass panels in the United States.
Once you see it, you immediately recognize and appreciate its importance.
You get no sense of the uniqueness of the window from the outside; but once inside … Wow!
The unique stained glass window was designed in 1957 by John Wallis, formerly of the Wallis-Wiley Studio located in Pasadena, California. John Wallis was a prolific and notable stained glass artist who worked in the medium for over 70 years.
Designer John Wallis of California wove the ideas of the 1950s congregation into his creation. People from a variety of cultures surround a large figure of Christ over the quotation “For You Are All One in Christ Jesus.”
The artist describes it as, “The central feature of this window is a majestic figure of Christ drawing unto Himself people of all nations. They are shown coming to Him from all parts of the world as indicated by the varying landscapes, the streams and oceans of water and the different forms of architecture.”
“At His feet is shown the Anchor, traditional Christian symbol, representing the thought that Christ is the ‘anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.’” (Wallis)
A map of Pearl Harbor, aircraft and ships depicting battles from the Revolutionary War to World War II and military insignia are there, along with Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Confucian symbols.
An article in the Honolulu Advertiser dated October 26, 1959 called the window: “… a tribute to all of the men and women of our military services – both dead and living who have defended American freedom in times of national emergency”.
Stained glass in the window consisted of 140 separate sections, each filled with 12 to 20 individual pieces of hand painted imported and domestic glass. The entire A-frame front consists of the stained glass wall panel including the double entrance doors. The only other stained glass window in Hawaiʻi designed by Wallis is located in Saint Andrews Episcopal Cathedral.
The first service in the church was held on July 20, 1958; although the stained glass window was not it place at that time.
After the stained glass window was in place; a dedication ceremony for the church took place on Sunday August 24, 1958. On September 3, 1958, at a celebratory dinner, an elongated hexagonal-shaped “time capsule” was sealed in the pavement at the front entrance to the church and marked with the date 1958.
From 1941 through 1945, prior to the establishment of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Community Church, the congregation met at a WWII Navy chapel located in the Pearl Harbor Housing Area 1, later known as Hale Moku.
The congregation was officially organized on April 28, 1946 when the twenty-five member church council drew up a commemorative scroll and a Navy chaplain was installed as pastor.
The scroll, which currently hangs in the church, is entitled Navy Housing Congregation and lists the original twenty-five council members and over eighty signatures of the original members of the congregation. Approximately 250 attended the dedication service in a large Quonset hut, in addition to 200 children attending the Sunday school.
In 1948, the name of the church was changed from Navy Housing Congregation to the Pearl Harbor Community Church. The original congregation consisted of military families from the nearby Pearl Harbor Naval Base and the Marine, Army, and Air Force installations as well as civilians who were employed at these installations.
The church was the only Protestant church in the Pearl Harbor area serving the five major Protestant denominations. In the 1950s, approximately 15,000 people resided in the area including over 4,000 military families.
In the 1950s, Congress did not appropriate Navy funds for churches to employ chaplains or build houses of worship. As an alternative, the Navy offered 25-year lease terms for a plot of land in the amount of $1 to several religious groups.
In 1954, Rear Admiral CE Olsen referred to the church as the “Pearl Harbor Memorial Church.” The first formal suggestion to call the church the Pearl Harbor Memorial Community Church, in honor of those who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, was made by WM Adams, Chairman of the church Building Committee.
On January 2, 1957, a lease was signed between the United States of America and the Hawaiian Evangelical Association of Congregational-Christian Churches for a 3-acre lot in the “Johnson Circle, Interim and Public Housing, Moanalua Area, on behalf of the Pearl Harbor Community,” and adjacent to the newly constructed Moanalua Shopping Center.
On October 27, 1957, an official groundbreaking ceremony was held at the church to celebrate the beginning of the construction.
Prior to 1971 only one congregation, the United Church of Christ, occupied and used the church.
Then, Lutheran Church of Pearl Harbor, Seventh Day Adventist, New Cup of Freedom Church (known today as the Samoan United Church of Christ,) New Life United Pentecostal Church, Young Rak Korean Presbyterian Church, and Kanana Fou-United Church of Christ (Samoan Congregation) began to share the facilities.