Samoan church celebrates 50 years
A lot has changed in the 50 years since the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa's humble gatherings in a small Grey Lynn home.
Just 20 people attended services at its first New Zealand parish in 1962.
But today the EFKS church has more than 25,000 followers across its 73 churches from Auckland to Invercargill and is hosting a calendar of events this month to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Pacific Islands Affairs Minister Hekia Parata, Labour leader David Shearer and NZ First leader Winston Peters met with church elders at Parliament House to kick off celebrations with a traditional Samoan ava ceremony last week.
The Grey Lynn church is holding a memorial service today to mark the occasion a few streets away from where it was established.
Rev Elder Lucky Slade says it is a joyful occasion for the church and an opportunity to reflect on its achievements.
"This is a time to celebrate in the Pacific way and a time to acknowledge the work of those who helped to grow the church," he says.
"We came from very humble beginnings but we have people from all over the country coming together for this occasion."
The church provides a home and guidance to Samoans migrating to New Zealand, he says.
It was founded in Samoa by the London Missionary Society in 1830 and is now well-established worldwide with parishes in Australia, Hawaii, the United States and Fiji.
Planning is under way to establish a multi-purpose human development centre in Auckland to benefit all members of the community.
Rev Elder Tavita Taule'alo says the anniversary is a good chance to celebrate Samoan youth and look towards the future.
A youth conference, sports day, Fiafia night and golf tournament will be held in Auckland this weekend.
Mangere MP Sua William Sio and Maungakiekie MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will be on the field at Ngati Otara Park for Friday's cricket match.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders' Robbie Fruean, opera singer Joel Amosa and the Laughing Samoans will be making appearances at Saturday's cultural show before a final service on Sunday.
Auckland City Harbour News