Christian Congregational Church of Samoa

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Ekalesia Fa'apotopotoga Kerisiano i Samoa
Classification Protestant
Orientation Presbyterian
Polity Congregational-Presbyterian polity
Region New Zealand
Origin 1839
Manono Island, Western Samoa
Branched from London Missionary Society
Congregations 325
Members 70,000

The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) is an international Christian Church originally established in Samoa by missionaries of the London Missionary Society.

History[edit]

CCCS traces its beginnings to the arrival in 1830 of missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society (LMS), accompanied by missionary teachers from Tahiti and the Cook Islands and a Samoan couple from Tonga.

They arrived at a time of fierce warfare and fighting between local chiefs, and the people who were weary of violence and bloodshed readily received the missionary's gospel of peace.

When a renowned paramount chief of a much respected family lineage, Malietoa Laupepa, officially accepted the new religion, all his followers and kinsfolk immediately followed suit. Similarly, Tui-Manu'a, the sovereign ruler of the Manu'a islands also embraced the LMS emissary. The Kingdom of Manu'a became a LMS and Congregational stronghold. Within a few years, virtually the whole of Samoa was converted to Christianity. Huge numbers of people from simple and noble lineage soon offered themselves for overseas mission work. In 1839, only nine years after the arrival of the LMS, the first twelve Samoan missionaries left for mission work in Melanesia. Ever since then, Samoans have continued to take the gospel message to other Pacific islands, e.g. Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Niue, Tokelau, New Caledonia, Rotuma, Solomon Islands, Wallis and Futuna. Many of these early Samoan missionaries never returned home; they occupy many of the unnamed and unmarked graves in the islands of the Pacific. By the 1980s Samoan missionaries could be found in Africa, evangelizing on the streets of London, to remote villages in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica.

Malua Theological College was established in 1844, with the main objective to teach and educate local students so that each village of Samoa would eventually have a theologically educated pastor as spiritual leader. By the end of the 19th century, a pattern of ministry had emerged. It was modeled on the Samoan village structural organization and aimed at preserving, as much as possible, the value systems of the Samoan way of life. The church community functions in the same way as the village, where five main groups – matais (titled men), spouses of matais, untitled men, unmarried women, and children – each have their own individual and corporate roles and responsibilities for the maintenance of order and welfare. The village congregation is the basic unit of the CCCS with the pastor as the spiritual leader.

Church's focus[edit]

The Samoan church during the missionary period engaged itself in the "social redemption of humanity". This vision was based on the church's understanding of God's sovereignty. It saw the divine purpose of redemption not in individual terms only but also in corporate, social and political terms. The newly acquired faith had its focus on the transformation of life and society. That legacy remains a motivating force in the nation's idealism as well as in the church's commitment to active social efforts. The church has been able to maintain five high schools, one girls' college and one theological college.

Relationships with other churches[edit]

Since the second half of the 20th century, the Samoan church has continued to forge ecumenical relationships with other churches locally, regionally and internationally. Now it has become a transnational church with eight districts (synod or diocese) outside Samoa: one in the USA, one in Hawaii, three in Australia and three in New Zealand. It has one congregation each in Fiji and American Samoa. In the Independent state of Samoa alone the CCCS membership is over 70,000. In the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, the CCCAS has over 39,000 adherents. Samoan Congregational adherents account for nearly half of the Samoan population living abroad.

When the London Missionary Society combined with other missions to create the Council for World Mission (CWM) in 1977, the CCCS became a part of this global missionary effort as well. As a matter of fact, following the ecclesial schism that took place within the Samoan church in 1980, the Easter island group formed the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa (CCCAS). This now independent denomination became a member of CWM in 1994. The 2012 CWM Conference was held at the CCCAS headquarters in Kananafou. Fellow church members from over thirty-one Churches with LMS affiliations converged upon Kananafou to share in Christian fellowship. A CCCAS pastor, the Reverend Samuel T. Tialavea of the United Samoan Church in Carson, CA, was elected to be the moderator for the CWM for a period of four years (2012–2016). The Samoan Congregational church continues to play an active role in participating in ecumenical efforts that outreach to the world.

Bible[edit]

Within the first years of their work, the LMS missionaries developed a Samoan alphabet and put the language into written form. The setting-up of the first printing press in Samoa (1839), only the second in the Pacific region, was a mark of the missionary zeal to bring the people to understand the gospel through the written word.

The London Missionary Society missionaries, working with prominent and well-versed Samoan orators in the local vernacular, translated the Christian Bible into the Samoan language, and this Bible translation, "O le Tusi Pa'ia", is still in constant use today. It provides an important grounding in the philosophical usage of the Samoan language. By 1855 the translation of the Bible in Samoan was completed. The 1886 edition of the Samoan Bible was printed by the LMS in London. This edition used Roman numerals and the word, "Ieova", or Jehovah, in reference to the Lord throughout the Old Testament text.

In 1839, the LMS missionaries also introduced a monthly journal, Sulu Samoa, which the CCCS continues to print and provides online on its website - cccs.org.ws.

The London Missionary Society established a printing press (firstly in the village of Avao, Savaii and then in Malua, Upolu), and a theological college at Malua,[1] where the main centre of the Congregational Christian Church in Samoa is today with its main offices in the main town of Apia, Samoa. The Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa (CCCAS) has its headquarters and theological training seminary at Kanana Fou (New Canaan) on Tutuila Island in the US territory of American Samoa.[2]

References[edit]

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