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How the First Samoan UMC in Anchorage Came To Be Built

by Wayne Moy

A white church displays the United Methodist Cross and Flame emblem.
The First Samoan United Methodist Church in Anchorage Alaska.
Image by: GBGM Administration
United Methodist Development Fund

Image by: Evangelization and Church Growth

In June 2005, Global Ministry’s United Methodist Development Fund (UMDF) provided financing so the congregation of the First Samoan United Methodist Church (UMC) in Anchorage, Alaska could purchase their first church building. 

Asian/Pacific Islanders are the second largest and fastest growing racial group in Anchorage. In 2003, Samoans held the distinction of being the fastest growing group in the area. Therefore, this facility was vital in providing the Samoans with a place to gather, and worship.

Sailitai Maga of the California-Pacific Annual Conference first visited friends in Anchorage and Fairbanks in 1993. Over the years, he had been approached by local Samoans to consider starting an Asian/Pacific Islander fellowship.  After visiting many UM churches and the Alaskan District Superintendent, he was advised to call on Anchorage area pastors, which led to a meeting with Reverend Dennis Holway in the spring of 1994.  Everyone agreed that a shared ministry would work best if the Samoans partnered with the Turnagain UMC in Anchorage, where they would be able to maintain their cultural identity through services in their own language.  

The Samoan group, who would become known as the Samoan Fellowship, began meeting once a week for several hours. Both the original Turnagain and Samoan congregations gathered to worship together eight times a year, including World Communion Sunday, Ash Wednesday, and Holy Thursday.  The children of both congregations participated together in many fellowship activities, and a joint fellowship was held twice a year to work on local church projects.  It is a great and enriching cultural journey for everyone.

The Samoan Fellowship also established the Anchorage area Voices of Island People, which is an ecumenical group of largely Samoan fellowships who periodically gather and worship together to further understanding among this growing population. 

In 2004, the Samoan Fellowship was certified with 106 members as a UM congregation and began to search for their own worship space.  Prior to the purchase of the new facilities, the church was bursting at the seams, as the Turnagain Church also hosted a Moravian fellowship. As a matter of fact, the church was so active that congregations occasionally met outside the church to allow another group to use the interior space. It was apparent that the vital, energized Samoan congregation had outgrown its surroundings and needed more space.   

In June 2005, the UMDF provided the Samoans, who received backing from the Alaska Missionary Conference, with funding to secure their own property.  Subsequently, the First Samoan UMC group has settled nicely into their new home. One day the congregation hopes the property will include a multipurpose Polynesian Cultural Center, but they know “there will be lots of prayer and hard work before such a vision becomes reality.” They also know that UMDF will be here ready to provide help, advice, investments, and financing when this need arises.

Wayne Moy is Executive Director, UMDF, of Global Ministries


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Date posted: May 25, 2007