The Congregational Churches constructed in Hawai`i during the missionary period (1820-1863) are rare and fragile historic resources in need of community attention. At first consideration, people might view these buildings and ruins solely as reminders of Christian missionary efforts. However, they represent much more.
Although the subtitle of this book carries the adjectives, "American missionary," it concludes with the preposition "in Hawai`i." These last two words are most important. For these churches were Hawaiian, erected for and by Hawaiians at a time when Hawaiians not only formed the majority of the population, but ruled the islands. Although the building forms and their religion were foreign to the Islands, their materials are primarily local - coral, lava rock, `ohi`a and koa. Many of the congregations still remain predominantly Hawaiian, sanctuaries from which Hawaiian hymns, if not sermons, can still be heard on Sunday mornings.
As such these buildings and ruins relate to more than architectural forms, or even religion. They are about a people, a culture. Constructed at a juncture of major transition and accommodation, they represent a heritage which still continues today.
To aid the preservation of these churches the State Department of Land and Natural Resources has published this book to enhance the public's understanding and appreciation of these buildings and their place within Hawaiian History.
excerpts from introduction