St Andrew's Cathedral, Honolulu (Exterior)

Cathedral of St Andrew, Honolulu, Hawaii


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Cathedral of St Andrew
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date of visit: Sunday, 30 August 2015, 5:30pm

The building

Dating from 1867, it is a Gothic Revival building, stunning not because of its size – it is no larger than many a large parish church built during the same time period – but rather because one does not expect to see a Gothic cathedral on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was commissioned by King Kamehameha IV and his consort Queen Emma, both good friends of England's Queen Victoria. However, the king died on St Andrew's Day in 1863 before construction had commenced; thus the dedication. The west front was altered in the mid 1950s with a floor-to-ceiling stained glass window that clashes somewhat with the otherwise authentic English look of the rest of the cathedral, although the box-shaped steel west doors do seem a bit incongruous.

The church

The Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church was formed in 1862 when Queen Victoria sent Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley to Hawaii to establish a mission in communion with Canterbury. (The window shown below depicts King Kamehameha and Queen Emma with Bishop Staley.) Also known as the Church of Hawaii, it was the official state religion of the Kingdom of Hawaii until the monarchy was overthrown in 1893. The United States annexed Hawaii as a territory in 1898, and the Church of Hawaii became the Diocese of Hawaii in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, now simply The Episcopal Church. Today the Bishop of Hawaii oversees not only the diocese but also the Episcopal Church in Micronesia, which has congregations in the US territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Cathedral activities include adult and youth formation classes, dean's forums and book studies, several social justice and outreach ministries, and noontime concerts. Morning and evening prayer and the eucharist are held at various times throughout the week, with both English and Hawaiian eucharists plus choral evensong on Sundays.

The neighborhood

The cathedral, located in downtown Honolulu, is about 10 to 15 minutes by taxi from the tourist area of Waikiki Beach. It is within walking distance of Iolani Palace, the former Hawaiian monarch's palace; Washington Place, the residence of Hawaii's governor; the state legislature; and the Roman Catholic cathedral.

The cast

The Very Revd Walter Brownridge, dean of the cathedral, wearing classic Anglican choir dress, complete with preaching bands, with no visible concessions to the tropical heat of Hawaii.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

About 25 congregants in a makeshift quire, consisting of collegiate-style seating, at the west end of the cathedral's nave.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I collected a service leaflet, which contained all of the liturgy except for two hymns and the readings, at a small table in front of the baptismal font. An usher was nearby, but I was neither welcomed prior to the commencement of evensong nor greeted at the end of the service (see below).

Was your pew comfortable?

Typical wooden pew with rather typical kneelers that were neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. The kneeler doesn't get much use judging by the amount of dust on it. (I was the only person who chose to kneel at the appropriate points in the liturgy.)

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Somber with no audible chatter whatsoever.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

Evensong commenced without any words of introduction.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A service leaflet, which contained all of the liturgy except the readings and the two sung hymns. Music was from the Hymnal 1982.

What musical instruments were played?

A stately sounding pipe organ, the largest in all of Hawaii. It is more or less an opus of the venerable Aeolian-Skinner Company of Boston, as augmented in 1994 by Roger A. Colby Organ Builders of Johnson City, Tennessee, and (digitally) in 1995 and 1996 by the Walker Technical Company of Zionsville, Pennsylvania. The Walker renovations include digital samplings from other Aeolian-Skinner instruments.

Did anything distract you?

When I screwed up the Apostles' Creed, as I was unfamiliar with the more modern wording.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Fairly well-done cathedral worship, which was somewhat surprising as I figured a homebrew liturgy might be used. While I would have preferred something out of the 1928 or 1662 books, this was really, really good by present-day Episcopal standards – one never really knows what to expect. It was pretty stiff and prim without being high church. The liturgy, including the Apostles' Creed, was sung, with the exception of the Lord's Prayer. The service was mostly taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979). The Lord's Prayer used the traditional language, but the Gloria Patri was contemporary. This resulted in a few stares my way when I opted for the more familiar traditional wording. Congregational singing was excellent for the two hymns that were included.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

4 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

5 – It was too short of a sermon, lacking any real substance, to evaluate the dean.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon consisted partly of an invitation to a post-evensong reception for two departing clergy and a reminder of the morning's readings and sermon, which focused on Christians living a Christian life by words and action.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The wonderful singing, despite the absence of a choir.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Not being welcomed by any member – clergy or lay – of the congregation.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I sat in my pew for a few minutes and twiddled my thumbs before having a glance around the cathedral, including the stellar stained glass windows. Not a single person said hello, even the dean as I walked right by him toward the west doors and the exit.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?


How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

5 – I would want to attend a eucharist to see if evensong was typical of not just the worship and churchmanship but also the attitude of the congregation toward newcomers.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Indeed, if only because it was a bit of traditional Anglican worship – notwithstanding the contemporary language – in the most unexpected of places.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The coldness of the dean and the congregation toward this newcomer, who is considering a return in seven days' time.

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