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
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.
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
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)