After 50 years, a new chapter opens for the Methodist Church
A new chapter for the Methodist Church of Samoa began on Tuesday morning, as Reverend Elder Apineru Lafai bowed out as President after 50 years' service to the Church.
Reverend Faulalo Leti Paaga was sworn in as the Church's new President. His wife, Fialelei, also began her term as the new President of the Au Uso Fealofani (Methodist Women's Council).
The new Secretaries for the Methodist Church and Au Uso Fealofani were also ordained by Rev. Elder Apineru, with Reverend Dr. Eteuati Epa Tuioti and wife, Maselina Tuioti, taking over the roles previously held by the incoming Church President.
This morning's special ceremony also signalled the official opening of the 2019 Methodist Conference at the Faleula Church Compound.
Retired Rev. Elder Apineru has been serving in the Methodist Church for more than 50 years, graduating from Piula Theological College in 1972. He held the Presidency role for four consecutive years.
His life and that of his family has been deeply entwined in the Church.
Four months prior to Reverend Apineru's retirement from the Presidency, his wife, Seti Lafai, passed away.
But as his journey in the Church's leadership ends today, his eldest son's is just beginning. Apineru Jr. Lafai graduated from Piula Theological College with a Diploma in Theology on Saturday.
He worked in the Methodist Bookshop until 1976, until he left for Australia and graduated with a Diploma in Christian Education.
For two years, from 1977 to 1979, Rev. Apineru taught at Piula Theological College. He also spent three years in Fiji carrying out various church duties.
He returned in 1982 and became head of the Methodist Bookshop. He then served as a faifeau at Asau for five years. Rev. Apineru was then appointed Treasurer in 1995.
However, 60-year old Reverend Faulalo from the villages of Sale’imoa, Nu’uuli and Manu’a, American Samoa was elected to the president position last year during their annual conference.
Reverend Faulalo was humbled and filled with gratitude to the Lord for the opportunity He has made available for him to further serve the Church.
Prior to delivering his very first sermon as the Church's president, he delivered a speech dedicated to God, those who came before him in the President's role, as well as his mentors during his journey in the Church.
"I also want to express my gratitude with a full heart before the Lord to Rev. Elder Apineru Lafai, for the many years you led the Church," he said.
"Well done and thank you for your cooperation, thank you for your encouragement and thank you for sharing in everything as you may all have seen how they turned out in the many good works done, witnessed by this Church.
"May it not be something for us to take pride of, because heavens are watching the wonderful works of your important contributions in the development of the Church throughout these many years with [Seti Lafai] who has gone ahead to be with the Lord".
Rev. Faulalo also gave thanks to his and his wife, Fialelei's family for their support, prayers and believes they had a big part to play in the selection of them in the presidency role.
Rev. Faulalo brings almost 40 years of experience to the church and last year, Reverend Faulalo told Samoa Observer that becoming a Church Minister wasn’t necessarily part of his plans.
"In the past I have tried to get into the Navy, the Army but it was unsuccessful. It was not until when I sat the entry exam to get into Piula Theological College where I made it in that it dawned on me that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be," he said.
Asked what he loves the most about his calling as a Church Minister, Rev. Faulalo said it is the opportunity to make a difference and save lives.
He started as a Church Minister in 1981 when he was called to serve at the Methodist Church in Massey, Auckland New Zealand. He was there for five years.
From there the father-of-six progressed through the Church structure until 2014 when he was appointed as Secretary of the Church.