Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 |
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The temple bell tolled for the last time Jan. 19 at the Papaaloa Hongwanji Mission.
About 20 people sat together during the last service at the Buddhist temple in the small former plantation village.
Due to dwindling membership, the congregation will be merging with the Honohina Hongwanji Mission in Ninole after 118 years of service.
Kamehameha Schools owns the property and will decide what the building will be used for at a later date.
Jerry Broughton, president of Papaaloa Hongwanji, and his wife and church secretary, Rose Broughton, were honored for leading the Mission into its final stages while making sure everything in the temple has a destination.
“It’s been hard and sad to go through this, but I think we’re all at peace with it,” Rose Broughton said. “We’ve gone from over a hundred members to about 21, and we lost seven members in 2021 alone. It’s been hard to keep going.”
Joining a new hongwanji will not be difficult, because Papaaloa has shared many activities and fellowship between the other three temples on the Hamakua Coast — Papaikou Hongwanji, Honomu Hongwanji and Honohina Hongwanji.
“We are all a community here, and we’re excited to join Honohina and take our memories with us,” Rose Broughton said.
Annie Bedford joined the temple about 20 years ago and has seen the congregation change dramatically during her time there.
“Many things have changed, because we lost so many wonderful family members, many who lived into their late 80s to 90s,” Bedford said. “This is similar to losing someone. It’s not just mourning. You think of the good things, too. It can be a celebration.”
Bishop Eric Mastumoto traveled from Oahu to serve as the main officiant for Papaaloa’s last service.
During the service, Mastumoto spoke about gratitude for all the time spent in fellowship in the temple, and the gratitude that will continue on through the congregation beyond the building.
“Whatever the future will bring, we can be grateful for the historic past and appreciative of the sacrifices of our ancestors as Papaaloa Hongwanji comes to a close,” Mastumoto said. “We are at the end, but also the beginning. Let’s continue the journey together.”
Many members and friends of the church with deep roots in the history of the temple were brought together on Wednesday to celebrate over a century of community.
Harold Uyeno, president of the Honohina Hongwanji Mission, served as the master of ceremonies during Papaaloa’s final service and spoke about the history of Papaaloa Hongwanji.
The temple in Papaaloa was built to serve as a safe gathering place for those working at the Hamakua Sugar Mill, and then it survived through tsunamis, wars and two global pandemics.
In 1941, the Bishop Izumi was arrested and taken to the mainland to an internment camp during World War II. While he was gone, the mission was forced to close, but a member, Tomo Sakado, decided to live there to maintain the temple.
According to Uyeno, Sakado’s dedication to the temple was one of the reasons it was able to survive such a tumultuous time.
Sakado’s granddaughter, Almara Abe, was a member of the temple through her childhood and joined the congregation on Wednesday morning.
“It’s sad that this is the last time there will be a service here, but there are so many good memories attached to this temple,” Abe said. “There is history here, and I’m glad we could be part of it for as long as we could.”
Uyeno’s father built the memorial for the 24 students and teachers lost in the 1946 tsunami, which stands outside the temple. Former member Eileen Usagawa’s grandfather carved the lotus flowers that surround the immaculate altar.
Uyeno also spoke of the 2015 theft of the cherished temple bell, which was recovered with help from the community. The 102-year old bell will now be used at the Papaikou Hongwanji.
Generations of families attended the church, grew up together and lived in the area their whole lives.
“You can’t separate the church from the community, and that’s the same for every church and the schools,” Rose Broughton said. “These are all vital parts of community and are spokes in a wheel that keep everything going. Even though we’re closing, that will not end.”
Jerry Broughton gave an address at the end of the service during which he painted a picture of the past and how much Papaaloa has changed since the temple was built more than a century ago.
“The 118-year old temple will fall into the past just as many things here have,” Jerry Broughton said. “But we were part of something beautiful and wonderful that has been a foundation for so many in the community.”
Hongwanji members will continue to hold their annual memorial service at Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park for those lost in the 1946 tsunami.
“It’s been amazing to participate in the history, but it is time to move on,” Jerry Broughton said. “Our bonds will only continue to grow outside the temple.”
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org
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