Written by Anthony Moujaes
The Samoan community within the United Church of Christ is coming together in Los Angeles in a historic moment, gathering the leadership from five historical streams of United Samoan Ministries to work together in an effort to speak in a unified voice.
This meeting of the Samoan Historical Streams, the distinct Samoan voices and experiences within the United Church of Christ, involves discussion of the General Synod resolution "United Samoan Ministries in the United Church of Christ." It convened Thursday, July 24, at First Samoan Church of Los Angeles UCC.
The meeting, seen an opportunity for fellowship in the spirit of unity and collegiality, is bringing together the national officers of the UCC and the leadership of Samoan Historical Streams to hammer out the future of United Samoan Ministries in the UCC.
The gathering marks the first step of Samoan ministry members and church leaders in their work to carry forward the resolution passed at the 2013 General Synod to add Samoans as one of the church’s Historically-Underrepresented Groups (HUG).
"This should be a fruitful first round of discussion. We look forward to working with the entire Samoan community for the good of the whole church," said the Rev. James Moos, executive minister of Wider Church Ministries. Moos pledged his support to implement the resolution moments after it passed.
Moos is joined by other national leaders in Los Angeles, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of the UCC, and the Rev. Karen A. Georgia Thompson, minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations.
"Since the resolution is now in the ownership of the [national setting of the] UCC, it is therefore a moment of blessing to hear and to listen to the Collegium of Officers, the leadership of the Implementation Committee for the Resolution and also from the Samoan Historical Streams' Leadership," said the Rev. Sepulona Tanuvasa, pastor of First Samoan Church of L.A.
The five Samoan Historical Streams within the UCC include the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in the U.S. mainland, the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in America, the Council of Samoan Ministries, and Samoan Ministries Table of the Southern California Nevada Conference UCC. The majority of Samoan congregations are located in Southern California, and Tanuvasa said nearly all of them worship in the Samoan language.
The dialogue that takes place during the gathering at First Samoan Church should open the door to help United Samoan Ministries move forward as a Historically Underrepresented Group.
United Samoan Ministries was previously part of the Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries (PAAM) within HUG. Once the resolution is fully implemented United Samoan Ministries will have its own amplified voice in the church as a full member alongside eight other groups with the "historically underrepresented" designation.
The resolution also called upon church leadership to add United Samoan Ministries as a member of the Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries (COREM).
"We want to support [Samoan churches] in reaching some type of reconciliation and accord so they can move forward together as a ministry," Black said of the process.
"[The Rev. Felix Villanueva] and I will meet with members of the Collegium [Friday] to discuss the process going forward and how we all can support the Samoan leadership as they form this new HUG," said the Rev. Keith Clark, executive associate conference minister for the Southern California Nevada Conference.
"I hope that the meeting [Thursday] further unifies the Samoan community from the various five streams and allows them to more fully be representative of their beautiful culture within the United Church of Christ," Clark said.