Unitarians in Hawai’i first came together in a lay-led fellowship founded by Rosemary Matson and Ruth Iams in 1952. The fellowship grew into a congregation that became a church with a minister in 1957. Some of the founders continue their active participation in the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu today.
The Church has been active in social justice issues from the beginning, with Rev. Gene Bridges marching from Selma to Montgomery with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. The attic of the Church became the sanctuary for famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Members of the congregation became founding members of American Civil Liberties Union Hawai’i, Planned Parenthood Hawai’i, League of Women Voters, Meals on Wheels, and Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE).
U.S. President Barack Obama attended Sunday School at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, as mentioned in his book “Dreams of My Father.” His Grandmother’s memorial service was held at the church in 2008.
Today, the church continues its social activism by advocating for marriage equality, racial justice, immigration reform, economic sustainability, reproductive justice, and other key priorities. Additionally, the Church offers Sunday morning services, adult and children’s religious education, offices, meeting rooms, and the Gallery on the Pali. Other religious, music, theatrical groups, and community organizations also convene here.
Below are links to PDFs of publications celebrating our community.
The 60th Anniversary Booklet tells the story of the history and growth of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu.
The Women’s Heritage Project tells the stories of members who were instrumental in building the Unitarian presence in Hawaii and beyond.