Calendar Shift Doesn’t Alter
Samoan Church Says
As date line is shifted, Adventists opt to follow weekly cycle
BY UILI SOLOFA
, president, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Samoa
hen Samoa woke up on the morning of Saturday, December 31, it found itself sharing the same day of the week, Saturday, December 31, with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific island nations.
Samoan time will have moved forward by a whole 24 hours, having skipped Friday, December 30, entirely. The change is the result of the Samoan government’s decision to change the positioning of the international date line (IDL).
In so doing, Samoa will be in the Eastern Hemisphere in terms of the reckoning of time, together with its near neighbors and trading partners. For most purposes the change will have no practical effect on people’s everyday lives. But by sharing the same time zones with these countries, the conduct of business and travel will be more convenient and less disruptive.
SAMOAN CHURCH: the Lalovaea church, one of the largest Seventh-day Adventist churches in Samoa, is based on the compound on the Samoas-Tokelau Mission.
For the Christian community, however, the change will have implications for the weekly day of worship. Sunday worship will continue uninterrupted for the majority, even though the day Samoans call “Sunday” will have moved from the first day of the week to the seventh. For Seventh-day Adventists, who observe the biblical Sabbath, the change presented challenges because of the longstanding association of Saturday with the seventh day of the week.
As its name suggests, one of the distinguishing features of the Seventh-day Adventist faith is its observance of the biblical Sabbath, which, according to Scripture, is on the seventh day of the week: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Gen. 2:2, 3).
Until the change, the seventh day of the week fell on Saturday, as it did everywhere else around the world. When Samoa repositioned the IDL on December 29, 2011, it also reallocated the days of the week so that the seventh day of the week will fall on Sunday instead of Saturday. The numbering of the weekly cycle remains as before, but the names of the days will change.
In line with biblical precepts on the subject, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Samoa will continue to observe the biblical Sabbath on the seventh day of the weekly cycle, irrespective of the change of name to Sunday. The naming of the days of the week after pagan gods is a relatively recent human invention, after all. The biblical record of creation refers only to: “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day”; “And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day,” etc. This formula for recording the days of the week repeats itself until the seventh day, when the Lord rested from all His labor (see Gen. 1:8-31; 2:1-3).
In arriving at this challenging decision for the average church member, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Samoa has taken every opportunity to consult its membership at home, as well as the wider church. The decision is grounded on Scripture and guided by established church policy. Similar changes to the IDL have already taken place with Samoa’s near neighbors, Kiribati and Tonga.
Consistency has been the hallmark of the church’s position in dealing with government-inspired changes in the recording of time. The biblical command of observing the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord has been the guiding principle all along. That’s why in Tonga today the biblical Sabbath is observed on the Sunday following the Tongan government’s decision to change the position of the IDL.
In Samoa this will be the second time that governments have introduced changes in time in relation to the IDL. When the Wesleyan and London Missionary Society missionaries first arrived in Samoa in 1828 and 1830, respectively, they adopted for their work in the South Pacific the British system of determining time. It meant that in Samoa, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, and other British territories, the seventh day of the week fell on Sunday.
In 1844 the IDL, the prime meridian, and the 180-degree meridian were established as the universally accepted way of recording calendar days by the International Meridian Conference held in Washington, D.C. In 1892 Samoa adopted the universal system for itself, and as a result the counting of days of the week fell into line with the rest of the world, with the seventh day falling on Saturday.
For faithful Seventh-day Adventist in Samoa, Sunday will coincide with the biblical Sabbath, the day of worship as commanded by Scripture.