Sunday, November 27, 2005
Every October in Samoa sees the celebration of White Sunday. Started (I think) by the Methodist church maybe seventy years ago, and picked up by the other denominations in short order, it's like a Christian version of Father's/Mother's Day for children. For one day of the year they are accorded (a degree of) the respect and deference normally shown towards one's elders (such as being served food before anyone else). They all dress in white clothes, wear ribbons in their hair or pinned to their shirts and are showered with gifts such as toys, new shoes, clothes or the crowd favourite: ice cream.
More importantly, the children play a major role in the morning service in church. They sing songs of praise, perform skits relating parables from the bible and, as occured during the service I attended, share the responsibility of delivering the sermon to the congregation with the pastor. In the pastor's words, "it's important that the adults hear the word of God from the mouth of (their) babes."
To say it was a wonderfully colourful and vibrant event is a bit of an understatement. The songs were loud and upbeat, the skits numerous and (whilst delivering a serious message) light-hearted, and the childrens' sermons delivered with a fervour you normally see on television at 5am when you're suffering insomnia. It was quite the experience.
At the service I attended, I and two other Australian volunteers were guests of the pastor's daughter. As such we were accorded a degree of respect (and attention) I don't think we were quite ready for. We were given the best seats in the church for the service and were invited to join the pastor and his family for lunch afterwards. As the pastor provides spiritual nourishment to his flock, they provide material nourishment. Members of the congregation brought plates of food to their house after the service. Most of the food had been cooked in umu ovens (to the best of my knowledge the only above ground traditional oven throughout Polynesia and Melanesia). Taro, breadfruit, palusami, a couple of whole chickens, sides of pork and mullet, beef soup and oka (a coconut milk-based ceviche style dish with big chunks of fresh tuna) graced our table. Yummy stuff.