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  • Hawai‘i Conference

Hilo Coast UCC's 130th Anniversary: Celebrating History, Ministry, and Community

By Pastor Cara Ann Maeda, Hilo Coast UCC

This event has been in the thoughts of our congregation for many years and when I came to Hilo Coast UCC a year ago, within the first week of my start date, I was told about the BIG 130th celebration happening on March 24th, 2024. I smiled and nodded, unsure of all that would entail but knowing how special it would be. Over the last year, so many wonderful ideas came up and everyone worked together to accomplish more than we thought and hoped for!

This celebration was in honor of Rev. Shiro Sokabe’s arrival in Honomu, Hawaii in 1894. During our weekend festivities, we remembered and celebrated the last 130 years of ministry happening in this beautiful town on the Hamakua Coast. We also had a descendant of Rev. Sokabe, Akiko Hoshino, come from Japan to represent the family and join in the events.

Our celebration started with a Community Market on Saturday where we invited local vendors to set up on our church grounds to sell their own products. In addition, we had our Thrift Store open and a booth of fresh mochi being made and sold. During the event, the Taiko Drummers and Shisa from Hui Okinawa performed for the crowd. We also had many raffle prizes to give away throughout the day which were donated from multiple businesses. It was an exciting day with many people joining in the festivities.

On Sunday, we had a beautiful celebratory worship service which started with the keiki waving palms branches for Palm Sunday and a service filled with songs of joy. Former ministers of Hilo Coast UCC (Rev. Ron Kent, Rev. Linda Petrucelli, and Rev. Larry Walter) helped to lead the worship service by sharing the history of Rev. Sokabe and the succeeding ministry of the congregation. After the worship service, we had a graveside service, which included a special message from Akiko Hoshino on behalf of the Sokabe family. Then it was a bento lunch with entertainment from Hui Okinawa along with special presentations from our Senator and Representatives. We are grateful for a Proclamation sent from Mayor Mitch Roth along with Certificates of Recognition from the Senate (from Senator Lorraine Inouye), the House of Representatives (from Representative Mark Nakashima) and the Hawaii County Council (from Council Chair Heather Kimball). As people left, we had “swag bags” to hand out along with a commemorative booklet made in honor of this event filled with stories, pictures, and cherished recipes.

When it was all over, we all stood back in awe, with thanksgiving to the Lord, for the ways in which all of the details came together and how much FUN we all had. Personally, it was an absolute delight to serve alongside so many wonderful people and to see the many gifts of our congregation be shared with others. What an honor to be continuing the legacy of Rev. Sokabe in the good work of sharing the light of Christ with others!


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