Congregational Christian Churches in Western Samoa
The Congregational Christian Church in Samoa 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. Within a few years, virtually the whole of Samoa was converted to Christianity. Huge numbers of people 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, and up to 1975, Samoans have continued to take the gospel message to other Pacific islands.
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. By 1855 the whole Bible was translated into Samoan. The missionaries also introduced a monthly journal – the Church Chronicle – which continues to this day. 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 village congregation is the basic unit of the CCCS with the pastor as the spiritual leader.
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.
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.
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