FUCH History

Our Church History

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 also 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, immigration reform, economic sustainability, reproductive justice, and other key priorities. Additionally, the Church accommodates two 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 the FUCH community and the stories of members who were instrumental in the work of the Unitarians of Honolulu and beyond.

60th Anniversary Booklet

Women's Heritage Project

Our Church Building

The mansion that houses our Church was built by Richard A Cooke and his wife Dagmar Sorenson in 1910 and enlarged thereafter to house them and their five children. After World War II, the house was sold. In 1954, the Bishop Estate, the new owner, converted it to a girls dormitory for 45 students of the Kamehameha Schools. The trustees named the house the "C.M. Cooke House," honoring Richard's father who was a pioneer Bishop Estate trustee.  (Charles M. Cooke was president of C. Brewer & Co. one of the leading sugar companies in Hawai'i at the turn of the century. He also served as one of the first trustees of the Bishop Estate. His father and mother, Amos Star Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke, arrived in Honolulu in 1837 as missionary teachers.  With S.N. Castle, Amos Cooke founded Castle & Cooke, later, the agent for the Matson Navigation Company).