Coco Gallery


Guest Photographer - Penina Momoiseā

Churches in Samoa have always stood out to me as you drive through the villages in Samoa and have looked to be in such huge contrast to the simple fales that people live in.  

I jumped at the opportunity to be able to photograph these churches and in the process learned a lot about the history of Samoa at the same time.


Scroll down and click on the Menu Bars below to go to different churches and click on the images to bring them up full size ...

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    Pauline Fruean - Parishioner

    "I grew up here; my great, great grandfather was one of the builders. I don’t know if he was an engineer, but he helped to build the church. The priest at the time, they went on a boat and got them from Tokelau. The settlers in Tokelau were actually from Portugal, that’s where the name Pereira is from.

    That church stood for years until the tsunami cracked it, that’s why they had to rebuild it. And when they took it down it didn’t have any steel in it, they were surprised at the structure, it was amazing."


    This little wooden church propped up unexpectedly in the business district of Apia next to Aggie Greys was the very first English speaking protestant church in Samoa and one of the oldest - built in 1849. 
    The church provided a meeting point for the original palagi congregation and the many seafearers who visited Apia in the 1800's.
    The church was upgraded in 1895 and functions today as a transdenominational center of worship, popular wiht expats and those with long family ties to the original congregation.   
    Dawn Rasmussen long time parishner of Apia Protestant church has seen many family weddings and funerals at the church and says:  "I learnt a lot about stories in the bible when I was little at the church. Had a great bonding time at the Sunday school with teachers and all the Samoan children who came just to the Sunday school, as most didn’t have Sunday school or lotu tamaiti in other churches at that time. APC is a church where there is no pressure on anyone to give anything or a certain amount of money to the church. Nothing is announced so no shame. One gives of their own heart and only what they can."

    This Methodist church in LufiLufi famously overlooks one of the to tourist attractions on the Island – the fresh water cave pools.

    Established in 1868 in Lufilufi on the north coast of Upolu island after its initial beginnings in 1859 at Satupa'itea on the south coast of Savai'i island.

    The Methodist Mission in Samoa purchased the land at the Methodist leaning district and later named their training center Piula Theological College. The name Piula is a transliteration of  the biblical name Beulah which means married (to the Lord).

    In Samoa, the Methodist religion is referred to as Lotu Tonga through the early initial contact with converts and the church's mission in Tonga during the early 19th century.  

    The decision to set up the training institution came about from an annual church meeting held on Manono Island, a stronghold of the church at the time, on 21 September 1859.


    This is the church that just escaped destruction by the horrific 2009 Tsunami

    Felila Toese and Anthony Mauinatu who live next to the church talk about the devastation of the Tsunami on the surrounding areas and how lucky they were that their house survived as well as the Church.

    “ The wave came right up to the village but just stopped at this part of the hill where the church is.”

    A remembrance plaque stands outside the church with the names of those who died in the tsunami from Lalomanu.  


    Rev. Imoa Setefano - Lecturer in Theology, Malua College

    "Both my wife and baby reside on the premises. My personal connection is that I live here. I’ve had three tours here, my first was as a student, which started in 2002 and ended in 2005. Then 2010 was my second tour when the professor took my name to the board to see if they would accept me as a teacher, and they did. Now I’m back in 2017.   My PHD is being marked at the moment, if all goes well hopefully I will be capped as a Doctor at next year’s graduation.

    Family Connection:  My grandfathers brothers name was Eteuati and he was trained four years at Malua, then went to New Zealand and died there without getting a calling to a village. A calling is obviously when you get called to serve as a minister. As far as I know as well, my Grandmother, she’s from a faifeau family.

    On my father’s side, my father’s great grandparents were faifeau in Sili, Savaii.  Also my dad was raised with his grandmother’s brother, his name was Setefano and he was faife'au Lufilufi.

    My desire to become a minister came about after watching Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland, and they was preaching about Paul and Peter and I was thinking, “ I think he’s talking to me!”

    I woke up my wife and she said “hell no, we’re not going”, she knew more about the Malua lifestyle than I did, I had just heard about it. Then the next day I said to her, I will pray about it. I approached the faife'au straight away and he took my name, they take your name to the church and they have to accept it. The church accepted it, and I said I’m going to give it my all and we’re going to meet God halfway. If I give it my all then the rest is his, so that’s why I’m here.

    We are founded on God, so Malua is everyone’s; The pupil of Gods Church."


    There's been much controversy over the huge cost of building the church which was funded by donations, extensive fundraising and a multi million dollar loan from Samoa National Provident Fund.

    The church is one of the more recently built in Samoa, with siapo patterns embedded in the architecture and extensive night lighting.

    * Inside church shot via Samoa Times 


    This pristine blue and white church shimmers in the sunlight and is an unexpected sight down a driveway off the main road in Leulumoega, Upolu.

    In a classic replica of Roman Basilica architecture, the church was famously visited by Pope Paul VI when he visited Samoa in 1970.

    In amongst all the huge elaborate concrete churches in Samoa, the simplicity of some of the older ones stand out like this one built during the German administration in 1912.
    Following the popular Romanesque style of twin tower churches, this building has been immaculately kept over the decades. 

    Sapapali'i, Savai'i is widely regarded to be the home of christianity in Samoa as Sapapali'i is where John Williams and his team were welcomed to Samoa by forefathers of the village who then accepted Christianity in Samoa.

    The 24th of August 2022 will mark 192 years since the arrival on the vessel 'Messenger of Peace' in 1830.  

    To mark the anniversary this year, the Samoa Government and leaders of the CCCS will attend the special service this month as part of commemorating 60 years of independence for Samoa.


    Ita To'oala - Faga resident 

    "My daughter goes to that church, not me. She is five. It’s an easy access for her to Sunday school because it happens twice a week, sometimes three times.

    It’s safer for her to go there because it’s closer, instead of the Catholic Church, which is far. It is only a two-minute walk from my house."


    The LMS (EFKS/Congregational) church was built in 1865 but on the 31st October 1905, Mount Matavanu rumbled to life and covered the village (Saleaula) in lava including the church.


    The EFKS church built on the site of the early EFKS mission where the bible was first translated in Samoan in 1845.  

    The Samoan translation only took 8 years one of the fastest languages to have the bible ever translated.


    Charleen Loheni Stevanon - Wedding Memories 

    "When we decided that we wanted to get married in Samoa, the Catholic Church in Safotu was the first place we thought of. 

    My Grandmother was from Safotu and I remember going to the church when I was younger and thinking it was so beautiful.

    To have my family from Safotu decorate the church for us, and have all of the people we love the most, all together in that Church was amazing." 

    * Wedding shots - Charleens own


    No photo filter, no special effects just pure breathtaking natural features surrounding what remains of the historic Catholic Church at Falealupo which was destroyed by the massive waves of Hurricane Ofa in February 1990.

    With the village completely wrecked, the villagers swam to the Falealupo Primary School to the north and famously waited the night out in the water. 

    This church stands as a monument of courage and love for the people of Falealupo. Today the ruins are a popular tourist stop due to its haunting remains, and the harsh landscape next to the ocean that once upon a time saw its destruction. 


    New congregational church to replace the small wooden church blown away in 1990 by Cyclone Ofa.


    Famously known as the 'Prime Minister's church' this corner church has become a landmark in Si'usega.

    With a huge community and congregation around it, it's sits prominently in the landscape across from the Faleata Sports grounds where the Lady of the Rosary is iconic at the entrance. 

Penina Momoiseā - Childhood Memories 

"We lived in Sapapali'i when I was 10 yrs old on the western side of the village closer to Safua.  We didn't have a car or truck so had to walk to the big EFKS church on Thursday nights for prayer meeting and on Sundays for church.

It had always seemed huge & impressive when I was younger and it still stands just as majestically as you drive through the village today.

Back then it seemed to take my 10 year old self forever to walk to church and back and I remember sitting in church mostly wondering

if God really thought we shouldn't be able to swim on Sundays because technically swimming wasn't 'work'"

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