Being Community While Social Distancing


Lots of Changes, Lots of Accomplishments

I am amazed at how much we all still seem to do and accomplish among all the changes over the past month and a half, especially while adhering to social distancing guidelines! At Koloa Union Church, our Deacons meet online almost every Sunday in order to check in with each other, talk about those in our congregation who have needs and how we might assist them, review the online worship service for the day, and discuss anything that has to do with worship, including preparations for reopening the church when the time comes. On Mondays or Tuesdays, I typically meet with our Administrative Assistant Penny Osuga on the phone to talk about everything that needs to happen during the week and also begin preparing my message and the worship plans for the following Sunday. On Wednesday afternoon, just about the time I have finished everything for recording the worship service the next morning, I participate in a weekly meeting with our Conference Minister, David Popham, along with other pastors and church leaders in Hawaii, for support and guidance during the days of COVID-19. On Thursdays, I meet with Chris Sweitzer at the church to video-record the worship service for the following Sunday. On Fridays, I review the entire worship service, and sometimes make suggestions for changes to Chris in order to have it all done and ready to send to you on Saturdays. Once it is all done, I double-check the order of worship; then Penny proofreads the bulletin and attached information by the end of the day on Saturday so that you can have it before Sunday morning. A good portion of most afternoons I spend checking in with church members and committee chairs, answering emails and returning phone calls.


Taking Care of Myself

What I found during these very full weeks since we have moved to online worship services is that Friday and Saturday no longer work for my days off, at least not for most weeks. So I have begun taking Mondays off whenever possible and then doing my best to take “a full-days worth” of downtime over the weekend, which typically is a half-day on Saturday and a half-day on Sunday but with flexibility depending on the needs of the church. One of the early messages we pastors and other church leaders in the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ heard from David Popham is: “Please do not burn out during this time. If you don’t pace yourself and therefore experience a major burnout, you won’t be of any use to your congregation at all by the end of the pandemic.” I have been adhering to his advice by having weekly downtime, exercising regularly, watercoloring most days and spending time with my son Palani and his girlfriend Isobel, who have been living with me for the past month and a half.

I was planning on being in Berkeley this past weekend for the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees at Pacific School of Religion. Needless to say, I did not attend in person, but participated in a day-long online meeting on Monday, May 11. That day happens to be Palani’s birthday, so we spent some time after my meeting celebrating his special day!


Reopening Plans

Another area where I am beginning to spend a significant amount of time is on our plans to reopen our church facility. The Hawaii Conference strongly urges congregations to put a team together for this purpose. Michael Horning, Penny Osuga, Penny Jessup, and I are the team that will be putting together the plan by addressing certain questions, which will include the following:

  • Church Office: What needs to happen before the office is open to the public and what will the guidelines be for staff and those visiting?
  • Outside Groups: What needs to happen before we allow other groups to use our facilities and what will their guidelines be?
  • Worship Service: What needs to happen before we can worship again in our sanctuary and what will the guidelines be for all who attend? When and how can we safely celebrate Holy Communion again?
  • Kitchen and Dining: What needs to happen before we can safely prepare food and eat together again in Moore Hall and what will the guidelines be for all who attend?
  • Communication: How will we let people know the reopening dates and the guidelines? How will we post these guidelines on the premises?

Although we have not picked a date yet to reopen, it will likely be the end of May or early June at the earliest. Our primary concern is the overall wellbeing of everyone who visits the church, including their safety and health. We will be paying close attention to recommendations from our Governor, Mayor and Conference Minister. The committee will report to both the Deacons and the Church Council, and we will let you know right away as important decisions are made.


No Newsletter for May

Penny Osuga and I talked around the middle of April and decided to not mail a newsletter for May. There simply was so little additional news to share this month that it didn’t make sense to put in the time and spend money on production and mailing. However, we wanted everyone to know we are still thinking of you, so we sent out a postcard last week to everyone on our mailing list to remind you that we are still sharing aloha with everyone even during these strange days of social distancing and worshiping online. We will also printed off major portions of the Weekly E-news and mailed them to our members who do not have computers or are unable to get our news electronically or watch our online services.


Good-bye to Kathleen and Chris

Last, but not least, Kathleen Dahill submitted her letter of resignation as Music Director, effective June 1. Also, her talented husband, Chris Sweitzer, will be leaving us at that time as our videographer and sound technician as well. They desire to pursue new directions in their lives and also be available for family needs on the mainland. Fortunately, they will both be available to assist us if we are still worshiping online after June 1. They requested that we not have a public expression of gratitude for their service. However, our Deacons agree that we want to offer a token of thanks and have chosen a meaningful gift which I will present to them at the end of the month. We will miss their over-the-top talent, joyful presence, and contagious smiles, and wish them well in their new endeavors. We have truly been blessed by their ministry among us!


In Closing…

So, now you know what’s been going on in the day-to-day life of the church and some of the changes that have taken place in recent weeks. No doubt, you too have been experiencing changes in your life. May you deeply feel God’s loving presence, the grace of Jesus and joy of the Holy Spirit as you live through those changes. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call me if you want to talk, or text or email me if you want to send me a note or information about something that is important to you.

Aloha nui!

Kahu Alan Akana

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“A Message from Kahu Alan Akana” is provided most weeks by Koloa Union Church, an Open & Affirming (ONA) congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a member of the Kauai Association and Hawaii Conference.

To see a video of a recent message by Kahu Akana, click HERE. You may see the Koloa Union Church YouTube channel to see many of his past messages and subscribe in order be notified when a new message is posted. Please share these videos with friends and invite them to church. Please feel free to “Like” any of the videos you see and share them on social media, such as Facebook, so that others will notice them.

You are welcome to join us on Sunday mornings! To see our Sunday morning schedule, click HERE.

Kahu Akana is also an accomplished artist! He specializes in creating vibrant watercolors of the flowers of Hawaii and hosts a Sunday afternoon reception in a gallery at his home, the Smith Memorial Parsonage. He also meets visitors by appointment. Most of the profit from the sales go for the maintenance and upkeep of the parsonage. To see a video about his art and gallery, click HERE. To see the gallery website, click HERE.