The Practice of Faaaloaloga and the Congregational Church of Samoa

by Rev Kara Siaosi Ipiniu

Date added: 28/06/2017

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Presentation Topic: Fafaga Model: A Pastoral Care Approach to Revisit Fa’aaloaloga in the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa mission today

By Rev Kara Siaosi Ipiniu, Congregational Christian Church of Samoa

1.0 Definition of Terms and Practices

1.      Fa’aaloalo - defined as the ‘alo atu alu mai’ or ‘face to face’ relationship and reciprocal respect that shapes Samoans’ understanding of their “life [and] their way of thinking” (Vaai 2006, 162; Efi 2008[i], 71)

2.      Fa’aaloaloga – customary (involves bark cloth or siapo and fine mats) and food related gift. The latter is known as the fafaga in this paper.

3.      Faalavelave – literally it is anything that interferes with the normal life and requires special activity. Faalavelave in this thesis refers to the special events such as funerals, building dedications, weddings, and more. It is the understanding of the paper that whenever there is a faalavelave there also exists fa’aaloaloga.

4.      Fafaga – feeding or feasting but is also used herein as to describe the food related gifts in fa’aaloaloga.

5.      Faifeau – refers to the pastor or minister.

6.      Tagata lotu – lay person, laity, congregation and parishioners.

7.      Tautua - is a kin group or household community in all its dimensions: the environment, the heavens, the people and God, nothing or no one is excluded (Tofaeono 2000, 295)

8.      Clergy – refers to the pastors and wives.

9.      Laity – refer tagata lotu.

10.  Pastoral Care - defined as the shared responsibility of both the pastor and the congregation to genuinely take care of each other.



2.0 Fa’aaloaloga: Significances and Challenges


2.1 Traditional and Organic     


Traditional, fresh, organic plantations, sea produce and farms supplied all the food contents or fafaga for fa’aaloaloga. In doing missionary work in one of the villages, Henry Bassett states “the natives began to bring in presents of food, among which were taro, palusami[ii], pigs, chickens, large fish, bundles of small fish, [and] several bunches of bananas” (1940, 161). Taro, yam, coconuts and bananas are grown in the plantations, located inland, whereas breadfruit trees are next to the houses (Krämer 1995, 153-181).  Pigs, chicken, and cattle are “raised by people in their own backyards and […] people did not spend money on buying pigs because they were raising their own” (Fuata’i 2007, 176). Moreover, Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, the prime minister of Samoa, argues that traditional farming is not only what sustained Samoans in the past but also an important solution to Samoa’s current health issues such as non-communicable diseases (Samoa Observer 2016, June 27). Traditional organic farming is affordable, convenient, and healthier in that it is fresh, untreated, and keeps Samoans fit through the exercise associated with farming.

            The ceremonial contents are produced with resources and materials available locally. The ceremonial items are mainly fine mats or ietoga and tapa cloth or siapo. The ie toga has many names depending on the event and who it is given to, but in the context of fa’aaloaloga it is known as ie o le malo (fine mats of the state) and lafo (fine mat given to the talking chief after a speech). It is made from the laufala plant, which is common and easy to grow in Samoa. The tapa cloth is made from the u’a or bark of the mulberry tree. The designs are embedded on the u’a by using a wooden mould, and the colour is from the red soil or ele (Krämer 1995, 350). Significantly, the customary items of fa’aaloaloga are readily available within Samoa; it also indicates that the need for foreign items is not necessary.


2.2 Globalization


            Globalization has significantly transformed the custom of fa’aaloaloga. According to Victoria Lockwood in Globalization and Culture Change in the Pacific Islands globalization is

a new form of social organization – an increasingly borderless world where flows of capital and new technologies are propelling goods, information, people, and ideologies around the globe in volumes, and at speeds, never previously imagined […] as a result, cultures, societies, and identities around the world are rapidly being transformed (2004, 1)

Considering this, some of the major cultural transformation Lockwood refers to is the traditional food used for fa’aaloaloga. The pusa apa or carton of tinned fish, corned beef, povi masima or salted beef, frozen chicken and turkey tails are substitute for fresh pigs, cattle and chicken (Fuata’i 2007, 176). The green coconuts that were usually used as su’iga/vailolo or drinks that accompany the sua during fa’aaloaloga is replaced by fizzy drinks. The amoamosa/ta’ailepaepae (cooked chicken) is substituted with a 3lb (pounds) corned beef. Ie sii atoa or ie papalagai (foreign or palagi materials) replaces the siapo or tapa cloth, the lafo or fine mat for the orator is traded with teutusi or ‘envelop with money.’ Significantly, the custom of fa’aaloaloga is transformed from traditional, untreated, fresh, healthy food that did not need money to purchase to that, which is the complete opposite.

            Moreover, the reliance on foreign products such as the frozen, treated, salty, and greasy food is medically proven as one major cause of Non-Communicable Diseases (hereafter called NCDs). 


Figure 01


Source (Ministry of Healthy, 2017)


As it is clearly noted in figure 01, the MOH analysis for 2006-2016, the two highest NCDs are abnormal high blood pressure and diabetes that experienced more than a 400% increase in ten years. The former increased from 677 – 3,183 patients, and the latter from 482 – 2,075 patients. Essentially, unhealthy food consumption habits, in general, play an important role in the increasing cases of NCDs in Samoa. Palanitina Toelupe, general manager of the Samoan National Health Services (NHS), reiterated the importance of traditional sources and methods of sustenance that most Samoans have neglected. Of particular concern, Toelupe continued, is the mentality that foreign food is “meaai lelei” (good food) while the indigenous and traditional food are just to complement it. Amongst other reasons such as the lack of exercise, tobacco and alcohol consumption, the eating of unhealthy food is an increasing cause of NCDs in the Pacific and in Samoa (Toelupe and Ualesi 2016, Interview by author).


2.3 Samoan Culture


The local and traditional Samoan culture also has significance and challenging affects on the custom of fa’aaloaloga. Culture from a Samoan perception is basically sacred. This has to do with what Lalomilo Kamu (1996, 37) in his book The Samoan Culture and the Christian Gospel describes as

a gift from God handed down by their forbearers, tua’a (ancestors). [Culture] is representative of the interaction with God the creator, his people and the environment in which they live. [Culture} has been handed down to them through traditions, and it is their rightful heritage linking them to the past and present. [Culture] gives them identity, solidarity and direction as well as a basis from which to move to the future.


The Samoan culture in which fa’aaloaloga is an integral part links one to the past in light of the present realities. Since the understanding of culture is that it is handed down from God and ancestors, it is very difficult to change the people’s mindsets. The next section looks at some of the key cultural elements behind fa’aaloaloga and their challenges to the mission in Samoa.  


2.3.1 Communal Contribution

It is necessity for the individual families to have their own plantations because in times of faalavelave, where fa’aaloaloga is arguably the climax[iii], every one contributes and participates. Samoa is a communal society as noted in the words of Efi (2008, 157);

I am not an individual, because I share a tofi (inheritance) with my family, my village and my nation. I belong to my family and my family belongs to me. I belong to my village and my village belongs to me. I belong to my nation and my nation belongs to me.


In light of such understanding of the Samoan communal living, fa’aaloaloga is not done individually. To support and help in times of fa’aaloaloga is the role of the aiga or cosmic family not the individual members. Every member of the aiga contributes and offers support towards fa’aaloaloga. The aiga according to Amaama Tofaeono, a well-known Pacific theologian especially in his work in ecological theology, is a kin group or household community in all its dimensions: the environment, the heavens, the people and God, nothing or no one is excluded (2000, 295). The concept of tautua or ‘those who serve from behind’ play an integral part in the supporting roles that the aiga play in fa’aaloaloga. Tautua is usually interpreted as the service of those at the bottom or behind towards those at the top or in front of society creating a master-servant relationship where the servant suffers while the master benefits. Part of the reason why tautua is interpreted as such is to think of it as an anthropocentric concept, people serve other people for them to be rewarded. As indicated by the proverbial saying ‘ole ala ile pule ole tautua’ or ‘the way to authority/power is service.’ The untitled men are to serve the chief and they will one day possess similar authority. As Olive Samuelu argues, “Central to the concept of tautua is the taulealea or aumaga, the untitled men, [who] work painstakingly to provide for the wellbeing of his aiga, and especially for the matai” (2010, 77). Similarly, Huffer and So’o (2000, 30) compares the notion of tautua to the child-parent relationship in Exodus 20:12 ‘honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long.’ The children are the servants to their parents. Such interpretations imply that only people are doing the tautua, hence falling short of the contribution of the whole aiga or cosmic family.

The danger with making tautua an anthropocentric concept is that people only rely on other people to contribute and support fa’aaloaloga.[iv] In making tautua an anthropocentric idea, a number of issues occur. Most Samoans mainly rely on private remittances to improve their wellbeing and reduce poverty (Huffer and So’o 2000, 73). As a result, Samoans excessively depend on remittances to cater for fa’aaloaloga when faalavelave transpires. From experience with families overseas, this is a burden for them who struggle to make ends meet and having to save money to send. Moreover, Samoan’s dependence on remittances forces them to borrow money for faalavelave from loaning institutions when families overseas do not respond. Consequently, families live in debt after most faalavelave. Lastly, the reliance on other people to provide for fa’aaloaloga encourages those in authoritative positions to depend on others under their authority. The chiefs and pastors, for example, depend on the taulealea and the parishioners to contribute to fa’aaloaloga while he/she does not play a part. Therefore, to make tautua a people-centered concept results in the problems, especially financial ones, that most Samoans are facing today when it comes to supporting and helping out with fa’aaloaloga.

To view the contribution towards fa’aaloaloga as one’s tautua to the aiga builds supportive and reciprocal relationships rather than collapsing it. Tofaeono’s (2000) definition of aiga mentioned abovesuggests that when it comes to fa’aaloaloga the environment, the heavens, the people, and God also play a part in the tautua. The environment’s tautua is signified by the value of the forest, land, air and sea. The forest and land are cultivated for crops such as taro, banana and breadfruit; the sea is utilized to fetch fish while the air birds. The tautua of the heavens are represented by the function of the rain and sun, which are essential elements to the wellbeing of crops, animals, and fish used for fa’aaloaloga. The people’s tautua is to nurture and work on the land and fish in the sea. That is to provide for their daily necessities and support each other as the environment and heavens have supported them. The tautua of God is that he created (Gen 1) and provided everything for the aiga to utilize and in turn, the other members contribute by their tautua to God. Accordingly, tautua is a supportive and reciprocal system (fafa-) between all members of the aiga and not an oppressive one.

2.3.2 Public Declaration of fa’aaloaloga

The public announcement of fa’aaloaloga leads to competition. Derek Freeman, an anthropologist, in his book Margaret Mead and Samoa claims that Samoan chiefs compete for rank because there are certain benefits that rank offers (1983, 142). The missionaries utilized such competitive aspects by introducing the announcement of gifts given to support their mission. The public declaration of gifts is a practice normally done outdoors during special occasions and brought inside the church to encourage giving. According to Meleisea “the family heads would call out the amount of [coconut] oil [and starch or masoā] their family had made for the church […] families, villages and districts competed for the honour of giving the most for the church” (Meleisea 1987, 54-55). Along the same line of thought, a former Malua College lecturer and current pastor of one of the biggest parishes in the Pulega Faleata-i-Sisifo (hereafter known as PFS), in an interview argued that announcing fa’aaloaloga honours one and shames others. Announcing gifts contradict with Biblical texts such as Matthew 6:3, “when you give […] do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (NIV). Matthew’s Jesus, in part of his sermon on the mount, warns the historical audience and contemporary reader against the public announcement of religiosity especially that which fundamentally aims at winning respect and approval from men and not from God (Plant 2004, 549). Publically declaring gifts such as fa’aaloaloga sometimes forces people with fewer resources to give more than they can afford to assuage the shame of having nothing or little to give (Samuelu 2010, 61). In essence, announcing fa’aaloaloga forces people to compete and as a result, those with sufficient resources are honoured while those with little or nothing are publically humiliated.

On a positive note, the public announcement of fa’aaloaloga promotes transparency and accountability. Transparency and accountability are important in fa’aaloaloga because it avoids corruption and the unequal distribution of items to all family members who contributed. As earlier all members of the aiga play a part in fa’aaloaloga. Since fa’aaloaloga is done reciprocally, also discussed later in this chapter, family members who contributed expect something in return. If they do not get a fair return on what they gave for fa’aaloaloga the leaders or chiefs are criticized for the mismanagement of family resources and selfishness. Moreover, announcing fa’aaloaloga is to preserve the relationship between chiefs and family members, pastors and congregations based on trust, dependence and support for each other. In times of future faalavelave, all family members are happy to contribute again knowing that the previous one is properly handled and managed.


2.3.3 Hospitality and Generosity Culture

Hospitality and Generosity are some of the key elements behind the custom of fa’aaloaloga. Hospitality and generosity are inseparable. For Fereti Seve, hospitality and generosity is realised in the Samoan open house for hosting guests or fale talimalo (2009, 12-17). The open design of the fale illustrates openness to strangers not to mention the time, space and resources that the host sacrifices in order to take care and be kind to his/her guests. Such hospitality and generosity culture is one significant factor that motivates Samoans to perform fa’aaloaloga towards guests and strangers like the missionaries and later, the pastors. Pastors are believed to have left their possessions and families to do the ‘work of God.’ George Turner (1884, 114-115) witnessed the Samoan hospitality culture towards strangers such as the missionaries. Turner (1884, 115) asserts that,

the Samoans were remarkable for hospitality. Travelling parties never needed to take food for any place beyond the first stage of their journey. Every village had its “large house,” kept in good order, and well spread with mats for the reception of strangers. On the arrival of a party some of the members of every family in the village assembled and prepared food for them […] After all was cooked, it was taken and laid down in front of the house, and, on presenting it, one of them would make a speech, welcoming them to their village […] Every man, woman, and child […] dress themselves in their best, walk in single file, each carrying a fish, a fowl, a lobster, a yam, or something else in the hand, [while] singing [they] lay down in a heap what they had provided for their guests […]


Three things stand out about hospitality and generosity in Turner’s report. Firstly, Samoan hospitality is relatively new to European missionaries. Secondly, large house and best house is reserved for the “reception of strangers.” Thirdly, not only is the accommodation free the whole community contribute in taking care of the visitors.

            Amongst the key motivating elements behind the custom of fa’aaloaloga are the titles and perspective of the church and village members of who the pastor is. The next section reviews some of the titles that are designated to pastors that play a significant role in why they are prioritized during fa’aaloaloga. Most of the titles are still in use today in the CCCS.

2.3.4 Faafeagaiga

The original meaning of feagaiga emphasised the va fealoa’i or ‘sacred space’ between a brother and a sister. Such space on the one hand meant that the sister eats first; she eats the good food while the brother cooks and protects her from other boys until she is ready to support a family of her own. To avoid domestic abuse such as incest brothers and sisters are not to use each other’s clothes and cannot sleep in the same house. This is why sisters stay in the fale tele or ‘big house’ while brothers live in the side or back houses. On the other hand, the sister eats first because her role is to wash the dishes and tidy up the eating-place afterwards. Although she is given the first and the best food, she is also aware that she needs to save some food for her brother. Knowing that she is looked after by her brother and lives in the bigger and better house, she is conscious of the responsibility she plays in upholding her dignity but also the reputation of the family. Without such sacred spaces in any feagaiga or covenantal relationships, anything is permissible. For example incest, abuse, violence, oppression and many other domestic issues that occur in families today. Significantly, the feagaiga is originally the sacred relationship between a brother and a sister that emphasises care, trust, and support for each other but is simultaneously not blind to the numerous issues that occur in many, if not all, relationships.

Some features of the original meaning of feagaiga between the brother and sister are used to establish the covenant between the pastor and the village or congregation. To talk about the pastor and church members’ feagaiga is impossible without the mention of the missionaries. The European missionaries not only brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ but they also brought material goods and technical support that persuaded the native Samoans to convert to Christianity (Tofaeono 2000, 89-91). Such benefits prompted Malietoa Vainuupo, Samoa’s reigning king at the time, to establish a new covenant between Samoa and the new God of the missionaries (Latai 2016, 36). Furthermore, the covenant was symbolically sealed with bestowing upon the European missionary of the title fa’afeagaiga (fa’a meaning ‘to be’ and feagaiga iscovenant hence ‘to be the covenant’) (Latai 2016, 36). When the European missionaries left, the native Samoan trainees continued the work of missionaries and also continued the title of fa’afeagaiga until today (Tcherkèzoff et. al. 2008, 271-272). Some scholars and researchers often misinterpret the re-designation of the feagaiga[v] title from the sisterto the pastor as a promotion of the pastors and wives in Samoan society while the original feagaiga (sister)is neglected (Refau 1991, 32; Kamu 2008, 125; Latai 2016, 36). Moreover, the title feagaiga meant that the pastor is served the way a brother serves his sisterand also prioritized in the practice of fa’aaloaloga. However, this is not the case because only the CCCS has the title faafeagaiga assigned to pastors whilst other churches such as the Methodist Church (hereafter known as MCS), Roman Catholic Church, and others do not use such title for their clergy. The reason being is that the CCCS conducts osiga feagaiga or ‘covenant ceremony’ symbolic of the wedding between bride and groom whereby only God can separate such covenant. In other words, the covenant ceremony is between not only the pastor and the congregation but also a covenant with God. It is when one does not emphasise the three-way feagaiga between pastor, congregation, and God that issues emerge in the ministry.

Other pastoral titles also exist such as feagaiga taulagi (covenant that reaches heaven), sui vaaia o le Atua (God’s representative), ao faalupega (head of all titles), just to name a few. All these titles, like faafeagaiga, have their cultural significances and challenges that contribute to the prioritization of pastors during fa’aaloaloga.

3.0 Research Problem

Fa’aaloaloga, especially its food related items, is a financial burden and a physical wellbeing issue for both laity and clergy hindering the mission of the CCCS today. The abovementioned discussion highlights a number of problems. First, most of the food related items of fa’aaloaloga is transformed from that which is traditional and organic to frozen, treated, and unhealthy. Second, the whole aiga or cosmological family contribute and participate in fa’aaloaloga. The issue is that it has become an anthropocentric custom and money-centered. Thirdly, the cultural aspect of declaring fa’aaloaloga is beneficial since it emphasizes transparency and accountability but it also encourages competition. Lastly, Samoan hospitality and generosity cultures prioritize the pastors during fa’aaloaloga. Thus, pastors receive most of the unhealthy food that leads to NCDs while the parishioners spend a lot of money when it comes to fa’aaloaloga.


4.0 Three Wave Fafaga Model: fa – fafa – fafaga





Fa – short for tofa, fa of taro

1. Wisdom (traditional + learnt)

2. Use no. 1 to peal of fa or mindset regarding fa’aaloaloga





Fafaga – to feed, fellowship, share

1. Theological Significance of fa’aaloaloga







Fafa – to carry, support, and care

1. Traditional understanding of fa’aaloaloga




Demonstration of Fafaga Model


4.1 Fafaga   

The term fafaga literally means ‘to feed’ or ‘to feast,’ used in this paper to refer to the food related items of fa’aaloaloga. Etymologically[vi], fafaga is divided into three distinct but interrelated terms found in the word itself, namely fa-, fafa-, and fafaga.

The common use of fa is the number four (4), to lose one’s voice (e.g. ua fa lo’u leo),[vii] and simply a parting salutation (good bye!). The use of fa in the fafaga model is bifold. First, fa is the stem or stalk of the taro (e.g. fa o le talo), which is  multi-layered. Farmers peel some of the layers so that the maximum capacity or size of the taro is utilized . Second, fa is the short form of tofa or the ‘wisdom and sleep of a chief’ (Pratt 1911, 335).  Fafa, the second wave of the model,means ‘to carry on the back’ or ‘to support.’ Fafaga[viii], the third wave,is ‘feed’ or ‘feast’ and as mentioned earlier, fafaga is used herein to describe the food related items of fa’aaloaloga.


4.1.1 First Step of fafaga model

Since fa’aaloaloga is deeply embedded in the faaSamoa, it is imperative that the ‘fafaga pastoral care model’ begins with addressing the mindset and the way people think. Such mindset result in the problems and issues outlined in chapter one (1). The first use of fa in the proposed modelas mentioned earlier is that of the multilayered stalk of the taro. The many layers of the taro’s fa or stalk represent the people’s diverse mindsets and understanding of fa’aaloaloga influenced by factors alluded above. For one to revisit fa’aaloaloga, some of these layers of thought need to be primarily removed in order to reveal the full capacity and value of the custom. Such removing or peeling stage requires careful and informed fa, the short form of tofa or moe (wisdom or sleep).

Tofa is that which is gained through tradition, experience and instructions. Tofa as in sleeping suggests that wisdom also requires space for ‘rethinking’. To ‘rethink’ indicates that it is not an “overnight” task but a thorough and repeated process of thinking, interaction and consultation with members of the cosmic aiga. Efi asserts that tofa or moe is not just sleeping but is a process in which the “gods and ancestors are able to assist the chief and orator not only in decisions concerning the self but also in decisions relating to family and community” (2008, 119). Fa the short form of tofa is integral in the Samoan understanding and decision making that makes it an appropriate starting point to revisit the practice of fa’aaloaloga by changing the mindset of people.   

Thus far, tofa is described as the traditional or indigenous wisdom but in this day and age one also has to acknowledge the contribution of scientific ‘knowledge’. Maori Marsden differentiates between knowledge and wisdom. He argues that knowledge is an “accumulation of facts” and is “a thing of the head,” whereas wisdom is a “thing of the heart” or “centre of one’s being” (Marsden 2003, 59 cited in McIntosh 2014, 296). Kevin Barr, a 21st century Pacific missionary and sociologist, disintegrates knowledge to scientific and experiential. In elaborating, Barr claims that scientific knowledge on the one hand is taught and is obtained from systematic training: academics, specialists, politicians, clergy and other trained experts. Experienced knowledge on the other hand, for Barr, is that which is gained informally from everyday activities (Barr 2005, 11). While Marsden distinguishes between wisdom and knowledge, Barr does not mention wisdom at all. Parallel to Barr is the traditional Samoan tofa or wisdom, whichfrequently neglect taught knowledge. Elders often call scientific knowledge “poto moto” or ‘unripe or immature wisdom.’ This is particularly heard when younger people try to undermine the elders decision made on a critical issue.

However, the use of tofa in the first wave of the fafaga model does not discard one and keep the other. It is a combination of both traditional wisdom and contemporary knowledge. Tofa is drawn out from not only life experiences but also dialogues with systematic knowledge because the two are inseparable in today’s context. As a result, one is able to think and rethink certain practices that are at the heart of the Samoan culture such as fa’aaloaloga in light of indigenous and scientific tofa. In other words, traditional wisdom supports systematic knowledge and vice-versa in the first step of the fafaga model.


4.1.2 Second Step of fafaga model

The second wave of the fafaga model is fafa-, whichis either to ‘carry’ or ‘support’ (Ma’ia’i 2010, 123). Fafa draws out both the positive and negative implications of something. On the one side, fafa suggests that there is someone in the bottom carrying or supporting the one on the top. Here, a hierarchical, oppressor-oppressed relationship is evident. Nevertheless, another side of the also exist, a side that is often unseen or overlooked but has positive implications. The one underneath is habitually assumed to be the ones suffering and oppressed. Such view completely misses the possibility that the one beneath is also offering support and backing to the one on top who is in need. Not in the sense that the one in the bottom enjoys being in the bottom but because the one on the top is in need of physical, moral and spiritual support. This is especially true in a parent-child, strong-weak, rich-poor, abled-disabled, chief-untitled men/women, pastor-parishioner, and other similar relationships. When a child or a disabled person cannot walk, the parent or the abled person supports and carries him/her. When the weak and poor are incapable of making ends meet the rich and strong support and help them. In the same manner when the untitled men and women or church members encounter physical, emotional and spiritual loss, the chiefs and pastors support and aid them.

The support and help prioritized by the second wave concurs with pastoral care as defined earlier in this chapter. Pastoral care is the genuine care and support that both pastors and members of the congregation give to each other. A strong and affectionate relationship between pastor and parishioner is the heart of this process. The absence of such qualities in a pastor-parishioner relationship leads to a common habit in Samoa called taufaavalea or anti-complemtary, showing cunning and deceitful behaviour. From experience as a pastor’s son and a graduate of Malua Theological College, I was able to encounter first-hand taufaavalea in the pastor-parishioner similar to the a’oa’o to faiaoga or teacher-student relationship. As an illustration, when a pastor or theological teacher concludes a sermon preached on Sundays, the students and parishioners would approach him and congratulate him for a job well done. The theological students and parishioners would praise and commend the efforts and the quality of the sermons being preached by the pastor or teacher. After the pastor or theological teacher departs the conversations, the students or parishioners would discuss amongst themselves their real and genuine thoughts of how ridiculous, long or inappropriate the sermon actually was.

Similarly, when the practice of tautua, as discussed in chapter one (1), is performed by the parishioners towards their pastor, taufaavalea also occurs. As discussed in chapter one (1), the frozen and fatty food imported from overseas is called meaai lelei or good food. When such food is given to the pastor, the parishioners would jokingly say ‘let us keep giving him this unhealthy food so that he will die soon.’ In other words, the real motive behind the giving is for one to suffer instead of supporting and helping out. This is why it is important that the second step of the fafaga model emphasise not only support and help, but also more importantly ‘genuine’ support and help between pastors and parishioners.

4.1.3 Third Step of fafaga model

The last wave utilizes the whole word fafaga, which is the act of feeding someone or something with food (Ma’ia’i 2010, 123), words and stories. The two connotations of the word fafaga are distinct but interrelated. As food, fafaga is feeding of a child, feeding of larger groups during bigger events such as faalavelave (funerals, weddings, and more)or Fono Tele (CCCS annual general meeting). Fafaga as words and stories, the Samoan saying ‘o le tama a manu e fafaga i fuga o laau a o le tama a le tagata e fafaga i upu ma tala’ [ix] epitomises the second nuance of fafaga. Fafaga does not only refer to the physical food but also the words and stories that parent and elders feed their children. In both the meanings, a sense of responsibility is required on the part of the one who feeds. The primary one being the responsibility to provide, that which is beneficial for the one being fed. This is primarily because not all the food, words or stories that parents or elders feed their children are good.

The feeding or fafaga of domesticated animals encourages one to work and utilize the traditional and available methods for sustenance. Highlighted in chapter one is that Samoans depend profoundly on overseas families and products for fa’aaloaloga. As a result, imported products are preferred over the traditional types of food. Families overseas send money via remittances to support families back in Samoa while they are struggling to make ends meet. In this wave of the fafaga model, the ‘local Samoans’[x] are encouraged and responsible to feed their own animals such as pigs and chickens, grow crops, and resort to traditional fishing methods. Moreover, the growing of traditional crops and the feeding of domesticated animals utilizes the land and sea that are readily available in Samoa. The locals need to work and not sit and enjoy the convenience of receiving assistance from overseas families and buying cheap imported, unhealthy food from shops and supermarkets. Therefore, it is not the goal to cut off communication and relationships with overseas families and cheap imported products because it is virtually impossible. These are only options, but the locals at least need to play a part by utilizing available resources and traditional methods before consulting other sources of income and food. In relation to fa’aaloaloga, everyone contributes and participates.       

Biblically, fafaga is an approach that Jesus often uses to relate and connect with people. For example, in Luke 10:8 Jesus says to his disciples ‘eat what is set before you.’ Jewish law is very cautious of what one eats because they are not sure whether it is prepared the right way or it has been properly tithed (Lev 11). Thus, Jesus command is inclusive and concerned more about the connection and relation with people rather than food. In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) a fatted calf was killed for a feast to celebrate the return of the younger son to his home after ‘squandering his property in dissolute living’ (v13). The food and feast is used as symbols of the endless relationship and connection that the father had for his younger son despite his sinful actions. Moreover, Vicky Balabanski, a New Testament lecturer and scholar, suggests that food or the preparation of it in Luke 10:38-41 is not as important as Martha thought (v40). The most important aspect, as prioritized by Mary (v42), is to “really connect with Jesus, and through Jesus, with God” (Balabanski 2003, 1) and vice-versa. In other words, food will always be available but relationships and connecting with each other is not always accessible and thus needs to be embraced when the opportunity arises.   

The Lord’s Supper is also a form of fafaga or meal that symbolizes communion and fellowship. The Lord’s Supper also known as the Holy Communion or Eucharist in modern day worship is a classic example. For John Macquarrie, a theologian, philosopher and priest, the Holy Communion is the most important compared to other sacraments (1997, 111). The last supper is common in the four Gospels in that Jesus breaks the bread, takes the cup, and refers to his future coming. Furthermore, Macquarrie observes that the Lord’s Supper also takes place in the time of the Passover Feast (1997, 107-109). The Lord’s Supper therefore is viewed in light of the Passover Feast. In other words, the Lord’s Supper is a symbol of lateral communion and fellowship between Jesus and his disciples done by sharing of food and drinks. Similar to the way it is practiced today in the Eucharist where bread and wine are shared amongst the worshippers.

This  socializing  aspect  of  fafaga or feeding  reaches  its  fullness  in view of the  connection  between  the  Lord’s  Supper  and  the  importance entrenched  in  the  Passover.  Israel starting practicing the Passover in Egypt according to Exodus 12:2-11. Moses teaches the people when and  how to observe the Passover, with  the  sacrifice  of  a  year  old and unspoiled lamb,  essential  to  his commands.  In the same way, Moses in Deuteronomy  16:1-2 re-emphasizes  the command to offer the Passover sacrifice from the flock and herd that the Lord chooses, and reminds them of the purpose of the annual celebration, their  deliverance  out  of  Egypt.  If Jesus is mindful of the social events around him, then his timing of the Lord’s Supper and the Passover meal echoes with his anticipated death.  The  Passover  being  the celebration  of  God’s  deliverance  of  his  people  and  the  Lord’s  Supper  omitting  the presence of a lamb, then theologically speaking Jesus was in fact, the lamb in the Lord’s Supper, who was to be sacrificed in order to deliver and save the world. Here Jesus not only uses the Lord’s Supper as a way of incorporating the social events, he opens its capacity from the local and familial relations to its unlimited ends.

The point that needs to be emphasised in the Eucharist, is that when it is observed correctly, it provides Christians with an opportune moment to come together in fellowship. Through the Lord’s Supper, Christians are invited to join Christ at his table in fellowship, and are able to invite others outside their usual circles, to share in God’s blessings.



          5.0 Application of Fafaga model to the CCCS Mission

The anticipated model inaugurates with revisiting the mindset and ways of thinking utilizing indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge. The dialogue of the two tofa (wisdom) exposes that most of the current food items used for fa’aaloaloga in the CCCS costs money and are unhealthy. The scientific tofa highlights that the unhealthy food are that which is imported, frozen, and treated. This is also what most Samoans refer to as “meaai lelei” or “good food.” The indigenous tofa underlines that fa’aaloaloga can be carried out using traditional methods of acquiring food such as farming and fishing. As such, the local Samoans are encouraged to work the land and rely on available resources instead of depending on foreign food. The people’s mindset needs transformation from depending on food that is unhealthy, money-centered, and anthropocentric to that, which is fresh, freely available. 

The second wave fafa (support or care) revisits the issue of genuinity when it comes to fa’aaloaloga. Reciprocity and participation of all in fa’aaloaloga is essential. Is it done genuinely? Is it done to take care or ‘get rid’ of the other? Moreover, support and care is not confined within the family and parish mission but shown to others who need help; groups and organizations such as the Victims Support Group, Elderly Community, Hospitals and prisoners. Support, contribution and genuine care are also employed by the fafa stage to extend its capacity to work in partnership with government ministries such as the health care providers. The support needed by the government from the church is that of addressing the rapid increase of NCDs. The CCCS can support the government’s initiative by addressing NCDs amongst its members and particularly pastors.

            The third wave, fafaga,is where the theological implication of the model is discussed. The time for food during fa’aaloaloga is inclusive unlike the other formalities. Such inclusivity in times of food symbolizes the fellowship, sharing and celebration in the sacrament of the Holy Communion. However, there are always those who abuse the food such as the “seekers” and the drunkards found in fa’aaloaloga and in the Holy Communion during Paul’s time in 1 Cor 11:17-22. To rectify such abuse, mutuality and responsibility is required on the part of the participants so that the significances of food is emphasized rather than the actual food per se. The first wave is repeated once the significance of fafaga or food related items in fa’aaloaloga are realized.








Toelupe, Palanitina. 2016. “Interview.” By Kara Ipiniu, 17 December.

Ualesi, Selaupasene 2016. “Interview.” By Kara Ipiniu, 13 December.



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[i] A keynote address that Tui Atua presented to the Pacific Fono “Moving Ahead Together” conference, Pataka Museum, Porirua, November 22, 2002 but officially published in Su’esu’e Manogi: In Search of Fragrance (2008).

[ii] Taro leaf baked with coconut cream, it is also called luau or rourou in Fijian.

[iii] In theological college, when a’oa’o (students) attend special occasions such as funerals, weddings, dedication of church buildings and others we would jokingly say to each other “a leai se ‘alo maia’ (refers to the opening words of the talking chief (tulafale) when presenting fa’aaloaloga to students – alo maia lau susuga ile a’oa’o) e ma’imau le taimi” (lit. ‘if there is no fa’aaloaloga for us it is a waste of time’). The scenario seems as if it is a joke but some students and pastors take this seriously. Part of this is further discussed in the last section of chapter one ‘Le Tali Faaaloalo’ (not accepting the fa’aaloaloga)

[iv] This does not mean that the elderly and the disabled cannot rely on other people since they are exempted when it comes to fa’aaloaloga. Their children, families and churches contribute for them.

[v] Other titles such as faifeau, ao faalupega, ‘faafaletuluia ma fale lē malu,’ and ‘sui vaaia o le Atua will be discussed in chapter two to highlight some of the reasons why culture prioritizes pastors and wives in the practice of fa’aaloaloga. 

[vi] The etymology of the term fafaga is important because like the custom of fa’aaloaloga, it is historically constructed and reconstructed by various factors such as globalization, foreign and cultural perceptions and interactions (Hermann 2011, 1). On that account, the significance of revisiting the etymology of fafaga brings out the historical significance so that it can be compared to how it is interpreted and practiced today.

[vii] Translated as my voice is off-pitch or dissonant.

[viii] As a model, fafaga is the lens in which I intend to revisit the practice of fa’aaloaloga. The most problematic items in fa’aaloaloga for both the parishioners and the pastor is food-related. As such, it is arguably the most appropriate term or practice to use as a model to rectify itself. The Samoan saying ‘e fofo e le alamea le alamea[viii]points to the significance of making the problem a likely solution per se. If the food items and how it is transformed, and the way in which it is presented and accepted in fa’aaloaloga is the problem than the way to address the problem is making it the likely solution. Simultaneously, justice is done to the practice of fa’aaloaloga because not the whole practice is an issue. Thus, it is not the intension of the fafaga model to remove this significant custom but to revisit the areas where change is deemed necessary. To achieve this, the fafaga approach is divided into three interrelated, continuous wave-like steps. It is interrelated in that each step informs the other and continuous because fa’aaloaloga is deeply embedded in the faaSamoa and requires constant attempts to rectify it.

[ix] This saying is roughly translated as ‘the child of an animal is fed with flowers of trees, but the children of human beings are fed with words and stories.’ Parents or elders when scolding or advising the younger ones mainly use the proverbial saying. It emphasises the importance of the directions and guidance of the words and stories that are used to feed them in either the form of scolding (ote/aoa’i) or advice for their futures.

[x] I refer to local Samoans to those who are currently living permanently in Samoa.

Rev Kara Siaosi Ipiniu

Rev Kara Siaosi Ipiniu



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