The Rev. Benjamin Wyman Parker (born October 13, 1803 in Reading, Massachusetts) and his wife Mary Elizabeth Parker (known in Hawaiʻi as “Mother Parker” – of Branford, Connecticut) were in the Sixth Company of American Protestant missionaries to Hawai‘i, arriving in Honolulu on May 1, 1833 on the ship “Mentor.”
Almost immediately, they joined the Alexander and Armstrong families to open a mission in the Marquesas, on July 21, 1833. Their first and only son, Henry Hodges Parker was born there. They returned to Honolulu and were assigned to the “Kāneʻohe Station” on Windward Oahu.
“We reached this little nook after a voyage of two days in safety. This little bay – Kaneohe – is now our home. The people speak to us in an unknown tongue, yet are exceedingly kind. We have a large grass house to live in, without a window, partition or floor – not one fixture – not even a shelf.”
“Almost all we had was left behind … Surely we may live and feel like pilgrims without any difficulty. Our cookhouse is two stones sheltered only by the open heavens.” (Mary Parker, The Friend, May 1933)
When the Kāneʻohe Mission Station first opened in 1835, “high chief Liliha, who officiated as a sort of ‘Mother-superior’ of the place [Koʻolaupoko], located her ‘new teachers’ [Missionary Parker and his family] on a little bluff on the edge of a beautiful bay [Kaneohe Bay].”
In 1835, Parker opened a school for 60 children; and another for men and women. The following year, he had 100 children.
“The high Chiefess Liliha had located her ‘New Teachers,’ as she called them, on this bluff overlooking a beautiful bay. The locality was called ‘Aipaakai,’ literally an invitation to eat salt. Here they began the work of a lifetime.”
“The Hawaiians from Waimanalo, one extreme, to Kualoa, the other extreme of the district, numbered about 10,000. The barrier of language was soon removed as they learned to speak the Hawaiian language; and within a few weeks (Parker) preached his first sermon to his people.” (The Friend May, 1933)
The Kāneʻohe Congregational Church located on Waikapoki Road in Kāne’ohe is the oldest Protestant church on the windward side of Oʻahu established by missionary, Rev. Benjamin Wyman Parker.
After the division of lands known as the Great Mahele in 1848, the church was granted seven acres of land in 1849 by King Kamehemeha III. The first building was a hale pili or grass hut followed by other wooden structures located at the fork in the roads of Waikalua and Waikapoki in Kāne’ohe.
The last wooden structure was replaced by the present building, which was completed in 1956 and moved to the back of the property where it sits today on a little less than an acre of land. (Kāne‘ohe Congregational Church)
Throughout its history, the church has had numerous names, such as Kāne‘ohe Protestant Church, Lanakila Church, Kāne‘ohe Hawaiian Church and its current full name, Kāne‘ohe Congregational Church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
This church in Windward Oahu is Hawai‘i’s second-oldest continuously operated organization, based on date of incorporation. It received its charter of incorporation on November 19, 1849. The church was founded in 1834 by Rev. Benjamin Wyman Parker.
The majority of the lands were transferred to cemetery use in the early 1950s. Kaneohe Bay View Memorial Park started in 1954; the 7-acre site was organized by the Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery firm in Pearl City. (Hnl Adv Dec 19 1954) In early-1965, the Greenhaven Memorial Park took over the cemetery and renamed it as such. (Hnl Adv, Jan 19, 1965)
Rev. Parker’s first congregation in 1834 was called Kāneʻohe station, in 1849 after the land grant, the church name became Kāneʻohe Protestant Church.
The same message of Christianity that Rev. Parker brought is the same message that is being preached each Sunday at this church in Kāneʻohe. Throughout the years we have been blessed to have many esteemed faithful men of faith preach from our pulpit.
During World War II the church was a staging area for the military and was known for its benevolence to the community.
Today, this congregation’s outreach is its community service to Parker Elementary school, a woman’s shelter, community cleanup at Kalaupapa, visitation of the sick and elderly, and the provision of food donations to people in need.
As part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance it continues to fund and support missions throughout the world. (Kāne‘ohe Congregational Church)