Captain Cook and the first Christian service in Hawaii?

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  • #2933
    Lawrie Phillips
    Participant

    I have seen a claim on Wikipedia that on 28 January 1779 Captain James Cook performed the first Christian service ever held in the Hawaiian Islands – at the funeral of one of his men. If the report is correct then the event and the date are worth recording but I do not want to perpetuate a myth. Can anyone offer comment?
    Lawrie Phillips

    #2934
    Frank Scott
    Participant

    The answer to this would seem to be part historical, part theological. If the event took place it should be recorded in [Cook’s] Journal, but Cook was killed just over a fortnight later (14 Feb 1779), and as I remember it the last month of his journal is missing. For all this you would need to check Professor J.C. Beaglehole’s magisterial The Journals of Captain James Cook: The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery, 1776-1780, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1968).1
    The theology could be more of a problem. Even if the event can be proved to have taken place, a decision would still need to be given as to whether it could be considered a proper Christian [presumably] (Anglican) service. I think that the Chaplain of the Fleet might be you best port of call for that question.

    Reference:
    1. The second volume of this edition of Beaglehole deals with the period leading up to Cook’s death in Hawaii; Beaglehole’s edition of Cook’s Journals was also published in five volumes by the Hakluyt Society from 1902
    Frank Scott

    #2935
    S. Ragnall
    Participant

    Lieutenant James King wrote the description of the service in vol III of the official publication of the expedition A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean… [digital copy in several online formats available at: http://archive.org/details/cihm_17641%5D.
    In his description King wrote : ‘At the request of the king of the island, he [William Watman] was buried on the Morai, and the ceremony was performed with as much ceremony as our situation permitted.’
    The ‘Morai’ was Hikiau Heiau, a temple on the SE corner of Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, and there is a monument to Watman by the remains of the Heiau referring to his interment as the first Christian service in Hawaii.
    Steve Ragnall
    Reference:

    James King (ed.), A voyage to the Pacific Ocean : undertaken by command of His Majesty for making discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere : performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke and Gore, in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779 and 1780 (1784)

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