Samoans share sights and sounds of the South Pacific
Written by Micki Carter
June 30, 2013

The south end of the lagoon of the Long Beach Convention Center was baking in late afternoon sun Saturday when it began to throb to the beat of the Pacific Island dance drummers.

Hundreds of General Synod 2013 delegates and guests were already lined up at the four buffet tables laden with luau bounty, and Samoan aunties, many in bright saffron-colored dresses, were huddled under huge umbrellas. Costumed children and dancers with oiled and tattooed bodies practiced their routines in the sparse shade.

Everything was ready for the Sights and Sounds of the South Pacific, a gift of dance and music from the 29 congregations of the Samoan Ministries Table of the Southern California Nevada Conference. A great turnout was expected, with 435 tickets to the event sold.

"We are celebrating the great diversity of United Church of Christ at this General Synod," said the Rev. Sepulona Lee Tanuvasa, who serves as moderator of the SMT. "We are bringing our young people to perform as a gift to the conference. The money raised will go to the conference."

The gathering prayer was offered by the Rev. Felix Villanueva, SCNC conference minister, wearing a traditional lava-lava. Then the luau's honored guests — General Minister and President Geoffrey Black and Synod Moderator Libby Tigner — were led to the stage and seated while an elaborate Ava ceremony was performed in their honor by descendants of the Samoan monarch who converted to Christianity in 1830.

Then six different groups of young people from the participating congregations threw themselves into performances of the traditional dances of New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawai'i and Samoa — all in brilliantly detailed native costumes.

At the end, at sunset, guests walked back around the lagoon, buzzing with sensory overload from an abundance of music, dance, color and good food.

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