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Community of Faith

Community of Faith: Bringing Ho'oponpono with

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I write this column from a stunning corner of the world called Hana, Maui, Hawaii. For the past six months I have been serving as the interim pastor at the Wananalua Congregational Church, United Church of Christ at this beautiful and remote eastern Maui site. I had been retired from parish ministry and hospice chaplaincy for the past few years and when a former parishioner of mine in Missoula called and asked if I would like to come and serve at his church in Hana I jumped at the chance. I am nearing the end of my time here and have found this experience to be quite wonderful. I had realized I needed a new “adventure” in my life and this time, and this place, and these people have supplied that for me.

Hana is in a very special part of Hawaii. They say it is as far from Honolulu/Waikiki as you can get. With a population around 1500 people, Hana is majority Hawaiian native. They have taught me a good deal, and I feel quite humbled and blessed to have had this time. Hawaiians are uniquely friendly, open, joyful people. Sometimes people say it is the aloha spirit, others say it is simply the way this culture has evolved, but I say it has been quite an opportunity to learn, to share, to love a new people and to be loved in return.

The church I am serving is very small in membership, but very, very large in history. Established in 1838 by early Congregational missionaries, it has withstood the test of time and become a true landmark for this part of the island. A good part of our weekly service is done in Hawaiian language and with that I have learned of the tradition of ‘Ho’oponopono.’

It is, I understand, a remarkable tradition in Hawaiian culture that speaks about the way to peace being the way of being in balance, of honoring community, of engaging the difficult work of apology and confession and forgiveness. It is not so much about right and wrong as it about restoration, and wholeness. It certainly isn’t about self-righteousness but it certainly is about a deeper understanding of what peace is all about.

Ho’oponopono sounds a lot like the work all Christian folk are called to in this Lenten season. As I journey toward Holy Week and Easter and soon thereafter back to Missoula, I shall try to bring ho’oponpono with me. Another gift of the islands, another gift received when we experience a differing culture with its many treasures.

Peter Shober is a retired United Church of Christ pastor who lives in Missoula. His email is

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