photo: procession during Hawaiian church services at The Cathedral of St. Andrews (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Anglican-Hawaiian History

The King and Queen’s Church Ka Hale Pule a Na Moʻi, ʻo Kamehameha ʻEha laua ʻo Kaleleonalani

For today’s church in Hawaiʻi, see Who We Are. For more history of the Cathedral, see Sacred Spaces

photo: Queen Emma (Hawaii); photo retouched by J.J. Williams
Queen Emma
photo: King Kamehameha IV of Hawaii
King Kamehameha IV


King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma were responsible for bringing the Anglican Church to Hawaiʻi. This invitation culminated in the consecration of Thomas Nettleship Staley at Lambeth Palace on December 15, 1861 as Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Honolulu. Initially the church was called the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church but the name would change in 1870 to the Anglican Church in Hawaiʻi.

Bishop Staley
Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley

The first services of the church were held on October 12, 1862, amidst a time of mourning for the young Prince of Hawaiʻi, the only son of the King and Queen who died shortly before the arrival of the Bishop. The arrival of the Bishop had been long anticipated and prepared for by the King, who had translated much of the Book of Common Prayer into the Hawaiian language and had written a Preface explaining this new Anglican Christianity to his people.

The King and Queen gave land, part of their royal garden, on which the Cathedral was to be built. While planning and fund-raising began, a small Pro-Cathedral was constructed of wood; this would remain in use for more than twenty years, the time it would take for the first phase of the cathedral to reach completion. The untimely death of King Kamehameha IV on St. Andrew’s Day, November 30, 1863, led his brother, King Kamehameha V, to dedicate the cathedral to St. Andrew as a fitting memorial to a King.

The Queen proceeded on her own to lead the project; she traveled to England to raise money, to commission architects, and to purchase stone from Caen in Normandy, which was shipped to Hawaiʻi as ballast in sailing ships.

The first twenty years were a struggle for money, men, and materials, but with the aid of staunch supporters, the first phase of the Cathedral was completed in time for Christmas 1886, in great part because of the support for the Queen’s vision of the Cathedral as a memorial to her husband. Queen Emma did not live to worship in the Cathedral. She had died the previous year on St. Mark’s Day 1885.

The King and Queen dedicated their marriage to serving the health, educational, and spiritual needs of their people. To these ends they founded The Queen’s Hospital (now The Queen’s Medical Center), several schools, including The St. Andrew’s Priory School for Girls (now The St. Andrew’s Schools, with separate programs for boys and girls) and St. Alban’s School (now ‘Iolani School), and were instrumental in bringing the Anglican church to the islands to provide access to a form of Christian spirituality that the King felt was eminently suited to the character and temperament of his people. In recognition and commemoration of these deeds the Episcopal Church of the United States honors King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma throughout the church on November 28, the anniversary of their Confirmation in 1862.


Later in the royal succession, when King Kalākaua traveled, Princess Liliʻuokalani, who had been a friend of Queen Emma, would serve as Regent. Upon the death of the King, she became queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii (January 29, 1891). When the kingdom was overthrown, she famously was imprisoned in a palace bedroom. She composed songs there that are still performed, still evoke memories.

Wikipedia reports:

Shortly after her release on parole, the former queen was baptized and confirmed by Bishop Willis on May 18, 1896, in a private ceremony in the presence of the sisters of St. Andrew’s Priory. In her memoir, Liliʻuokalani stated:

photo: Liliʻuokalani at Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee
Liliʻuokalani at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

“That first night of my imprisonment was the longest night I have ever passed in my life; it seemed as though the dawn of day would never come. I found in my bag a small Book of Common Prayer according to the ritual of the Episcopal Church. It was a great comfort to me, and before retiring to rest Mrs. Clark and I spent a few minutes in the devotions appropriate to the evening. Here, perhaps, I may say, that although I had been a regular attendant on the Presbyterian worship since my childhood, a constant contributor to all the missionary societies, and had helped to build their churches and ornament the walls, giving my time and my musical ability freely to make their meetings attractive to my people, yet none of these pious church members or clergymen remembered me in my prison. To this (Christian ?) conduct I contrast that of the Anglican bishop, Rt. Rev. Alfred Willis, who visited me from time to time in my house, and in whose church I have since been confirmed as a communicant.”

At Cathedral services, Liliʻuokalani always sat on the front pew. Sanford B. Dole, one of the conspirators in the overthrow of the kingdom, sat on the opposite pew. Their reconciliation is one of the important stories of this Cathedral.


A Diverse Congregation’s Worship Services

Historically, there were two congregations. One congregation was at first composed of Hawaiian-speaking worshipers, and the other was composed of English-speaking worshipers. Through the early years of the twentieth century both congregations came to worship in English. The “Hawaiian” worship service evolved a more Anglo-Catholic style than that of the “Cathedral” worship service.

In 1959, the separate congregations were dissolved and, of the resulting three services, the vestiges of the community of Hawaiian-speakers attended the Rite I Service with the balance distributed between a Said Service and a Rite II Service.

The Hawaiian language was reintroduced at the Ka ‘Eukalikia Hemolele (Hawaiian Eucharist) in the late 1980s. Elements of the Hawaiian worship traditions have been incorporated into the Choral Eucharist.

Current Schedule of Services

Holy Days and Special Services

Honoring Our Royal Heritage

The Cathedral owes much to its royal founders and patrons and actively honors the memory of their work in celebrations throughout the church year. In 2002, the Royal Patrons Chapel (Wahi Kapu, “sacred space”) was created within the Cathedral. The chapel is dedicated to the memory of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, and is a place in which one can reflect on their spiritual generosity and magnanimous accomplishments.

photo: ceremony honoring Princess Ka‘iulani (Hawai‘i)

In Hawaiian tradition, kāhili feather standards in the royal colors of red and yellow signified that the ali‘i (royalty) were in attendance. Today, kāhili at the Cathedral remind all of the royal patrons we continue to honor.