Samoan Church

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Almost a million Americans identify themselves as Pacific Islanders, many coming from the islands of Samoa. That means there may be more Samoans living away from the islands and in the United States than back home. One group offers a sure cure for cultural homesickness. Heidi Robinson has the story.    

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(Locator: Tacoma, Washington)

Even in the dead of winter, traditional Sunday clothing at Calvary United Methodist Church can mean sandals and skirts.

(Greeter at church door) “Talofa… hello...”

The Rev. Michael Seui, Calvary United Methodist Church: “No matter where we come from…this is what we look forward to.”

(Choir sings Samoan hymn)

These Tacoma, Washington residents, many born 5,000 miles away in Samoa, look forward to familiar hymns, traditional dress and dances, as well as readings from the Samoan Bible.

The Rev. Michael Seui, Calvary United Methodist Church: “Verse 15… (repeats in Samoan)”

The service has special meaning to elderly Samoans…

(Children singing)

…who speak no English. The congregation initially worshipped in another building with an English-speaking church, but…

Kalolo Krause, Calvary United Methodist Church: “…older folk could not understand a word. They like to worship, but they would like to understand what the pastor is saying.”

For young Samoans, who attend secular schools and speak English at home, this weekly service can be their only exposure to native customs.

Senai Gasetoto, Calvary United Methodist Church: “I think it’s important to keep our native tongue through our tradition. Basically just keeping it on from generation to generation so it’s easier for us to communicate with Samoans.”

Sefulu Taufeetee drives more than 40 miles to bring his family.

Sefulu Taufetee, Calvary United Methodist Church: “We understand English, we can speak English, but I think, to me it’s more effective when you listen to your own native tongue and you can feel it in your heart.”

Parents hope these children will carry on traditions learned here…

(Children singing and dancing)

...and pass their heritage on to future Samoan-Americans.

Joyce Taufetee, Calvary United Methodist Church: “When I come here, you know, everybody here, they’re always smiling. That’s what Samoans do. They smile. They give you hugs just to welcome you.”

The Rev. Michael Seui, Calvary United Methodist Church: “With warm hearts, open hearts, and open hands, we welcome anybody and everybody.”


So many families continue to flock to the Samoan service at Calvary United Methodist Church that the congregation will move to a new, larger building this year. If you would like more information about this service or the church itself, call 253-472-6343.

Also, see: Pacific Islanders fill pews to hear service in Samoan

Posted: Feb. 18, 2009