C.C.C.S Matavai Safune reinvents special service

State of emergency orders limiting church gatherings to five people did not stop the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) at Matavai, Safune from holding its traditional Good Friday service. But they did so with a twist.

In order to comply with the orders, only five members of the congregation were present at the church on Friday for a special ceremony marking Jesus’ crucifixion that was also broadcast to church members.

The service marks not only Good Friday but the establishment of the C.C.C.S. at Matavai, on the big island of Savai'i, and has been a long and integral part of the church's history since its foundation.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Reverend Lauititi Vaega of the C.C.C.S at Matavai, said the history of the church's special service and the occasion of Good Friday was simply too important to be unmarked.

"This year marks 187 years since the C.C.C.S church was established here at Safune," said Reverend Lauititi. 

"The church was established back in 1833, but the first [recorded special] service [... was held] in 1903 by Reverend Alefaio and his wife La'asaga.

"It is written that the service was led by women back in the days. So this year is the 117th year since the service was conducted."

The service had traditionally been held to coincide with the anniversary of the church’s establishment but, in the decades after the church was commissioned was moved to Good Friday. 

Initially the special service was conducted on 10 March, the date on which the church was first established. 

But the Reverend explained that the church later decided to move the date of each year’s Good Friday, so that members of the congregations' children could join them during Easter Holidays. 

"For this special service, we also [incorporate the offering of] donations that will go towards the development of the church and maintaining the church building,” the Reverend said. 

Although he described it as unfortunate that the entire congregation could not assemble on Friday, Reverend Lauititi said there were always solutions to life’s challenges. 

"There are a lot of different ways we can [get] things done. This service is important to us and especially to our children. We didn't want to miss out on giving thanks to our God for all His blessings for this village and congregation,” he said. 

"So we had to do it, but in the right way so we do not go against the orders from the government.

"Like I said, this service is very important because it was first conducted to unite our families and strengthen the bond within our families and our congregation. 

"It was conducted so our children will know about the origins of the church and how vital it is to maintain this special service for this particular church family."

Reverend Lauititi said the church supports that state of emergency measures brought in by the Government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

"It is sad that we don't worship the way we are used to by coming together as a church family on Sundays,” he said.

"But it is only temporary and it is for the better. There are other ways that we (church ministers) can do to make sure that we reach out to our congregation during these tough times."

During the special service on Friday, Reverend Lauititi and his wife, Vaimaila Vaega, were joined by three deacons of their congregation in a commemoration of the special service. 

Speakers were set up outside of their hall so families could hear the service from their homes. 

Matavai is a sub-village of Safune and the location of the legendary Mata o le Alelo pool.

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