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Samoan & London Missionary Society Church History

by Rev. Sepulona Tanuvasa

     From the early 1800s to the present day, the history of the Samoan CCC is a fascinating one.
     On August 24, 1830, under the leadership of John Williams, Charles Buff and several islander missionaries from Tahiti and Rarotoga, the London Missionary Society’s (LMS) schooner, Messenger of Peace, anchored at Savaii, Samoa.  Respecting village protocol, the missionaries aboard chose not to come ashore until the arrival of the paramount chief of the district Malietoa Vainu’upo.  With their arrival Christianity came to the island and, under the auspices of the LMS church, spread quickly. The receptivity of the people to the gospel was rooted deeply in their respect for the political structure of their culture, a structure in which the religious leader is the top authority in all matters concerning the moral life of the village.  God, it could be said, was already in Samoa for the arrival of the Good News.
     Only fourteen years later Malua Bible College was established to train young men as village pastors and missionaries to other Pacific islands.  In 1963 the Samoan LMS church became independent, changing its name to The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) (Ekalesia Fa’apotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa – EFKS).   Several changes, departures and organizations later, the Samoan Ministries Table was formed for Samoan Clergy to come together to share their concerns and needs in the spirit of mutuality and collegiality.  This group is now a recognized ministry of the conference.  On September 18, 2007, the Samoan Ministries Table of SCNC met at The First Samoan Church of Los Angeles UCC to vote for the new officers who were to also become the Leadership Council of the Samoa Ministries.
     A major charge to church leadership is the “planting” of new Samoan churches.  To officially do so, the elder of the area must be informed and an Elders Committee convened and a  strategic plan (vision, mission and financial operation) created.  Tradition decrees that, based on the number of families and the leadership and confirmed through conversations among the families, elders and clergy, the elders determine if a church should be established. Each family must be under the leadership of an ordained deacon in good standing within the denomination.  The pastor chosen must either be ordained in the denomination or a graduate of Malua Theological College or Kanana Fou Theological Seminary. Following approval by the Conference Elders Council at the Annual Gathering, the new church is celebrated  in a service of worship conducted by the elders and member churches of the conference.  All the clergy and members of local churches of the conference are invited to participate in this, one of the most celebrated events in the life of the Samoan community.
     With this history in mind, I recommend that the Leadership Council of the Samoan Ministries and the Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, along with these associations’ church and ministry committees, should work together in planting, developing and revitalizing a Samoan church SCNC.
     In doing so, it is important to establish that stewardship is the responsibility of the members and that one of the many duties of elders and the pastors under their supervision is to hold pastors and local churches accountable in their obligations and responsibilities (an elder is mentor to the local church) and everyone in the church to a very high level of accountability in the community.  Samoan tradition also dictates that the local church participate actively in the local Association and give of its best in helping each other in fundraiser activities, meetings, gatherings and worship. Life in fellowship and partnership in mutual love defines the ministry and mission of the local church within a larger body.
     I conclude by pointing out that while money is always considered a necessary and important element, it is not the main one in planting a church.  Far more important are accountability of leadership at every level, faithfulness, the recognition of a divine calling to make the visible body of Jesus Christ a light in the darkness, love and compassion and the redemption of all by God’s love in Jesus Christ.


8 Responses to “Samoan & London Missionary Society Church History”
  1. terry lovelace says:

    Dear Rev. Tanuvasa,

    I learned recently that my great great uncle, TJ Lovelace, was a missionary on Tutuila sometime in the 1870s. The records I found are incomplete. Is there any way you can help me to verify a Missionary with LMS serving the Samoan people around that period? I was on-Island from 2005 to 2009 as a contract worker for the American Samoan Government. I never knew I had a family connection to the Island. Any help you can offer to help confirm his residence on the Island would be very much appreciated.

    I am disabled now following a stroke in 2010, but I intend to return to the Island for a visit in April 2013. Thank you again, peace and best wishes to you and the congregation under your care and guidance. Terry Lovelace

  2. tui nona says:

    Dear Rev. Tanuvasa,

    It was so interested to me by reading this wonderful speech from you about the SAMOAN and LONDON MISSIONARY CHURCH HISTORY.That the good and a important story or a brief history that you posted.

    Thank you, God give you peace with your care and guidence…..” GOD BLESS YOU”.

  3. george macy says:

    true dat

  4. sweet and sourz says:

    well, i think that you are totally right. thank you for publishing this page for us youngsters to learn. you update it and we read it

  5. george macy says:

    you know what rev. you are so true, and thank you for sharing this with us. god bless you ……

  6. Cecilia Wellington says:

    I am doing a family tree research on our ancestors who came as a (LMS) missionary to Papua back in the 1800’s. I would require assistance of where to collect this info maybe your archives with the LMS church dating back in the 1800’s when they sent out missionaries to spread and build churches in Papua (Papua New Guinea).

    I am visiting Samoa this year as I want to know more about my links to this beautiful island.

    Your assistance would be very much appreciated, God bless.

  7. jenny_pilot says:

    Dear Rev Tanuvasa, wonderful reading this information article. I am a descendant of the first LMS convert in the Torres Strait (Australia) and it’s fascinating to find so much shared history and connections throughout the Pacific. Is there an archival facility in Samoa that I can contact to research information regarding the LMS and the British and French missionary movement in the Pacific. Thanking you in advance. Sincerely, Jenny.

  8. Imakulata E. says:

    Talofa… I too am looking for some information leading to the whereabouts of my great grand father who was one of the LMS Missionaries worked in Papua New Guinea in the mid or late 1800s. I really need assistance in how to go about getting the information from the LMS church archives in Malua or Tamaligi. I went to the Malua Theological College Library and the librarian said that there is so much information stored in the micro films but it would take up a lot of time to try and locate the exact information of what I needed and plus the dates are kind a too far back. Er……. I was hoping that he would just press LMS Missionaries worked in Papua, New Guinea in the 1800s on the computer and it would just pop up with a list of names of all Samoan faifeaus/missionaries to New Guinea in what year and how many missions they went and so forth. I just pray that one of these days the Lord will show me the way or a sign or where to go to look for my hero, my great grand father from Ofu, Manua. God rest his soul.

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