It has always been inspirational to witness Adventism at its best. While that may be deemed a subjective experience, I know for certain that whenever we experience biblical, corporate worship, hearts are moved, and souls are lifted heavenward. No doubt, the Sixth Quadrennial Session of the St. Lucia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists provided such an opportunity.
In fact, Adventist conference and mission sessions are not solely characterized by listening to reports and engaging in discussions on leadership appointments; they are also occasions for biblical inspiration, spiritual renewal, and refreshing music.
As such, I applaud the music committee for including a range of music which revealed, not only talent and giftedness, but also an understanding of music and the effect certain melodies can have on the hearers. On Sabbath morning, the Maranatha Church praise team led out in hymns, including my mother’s favorite "Watch, Ye Saints". I remember singing that song in the days when we had no instruments in church, so the members would beat out the rhythm on the back of the pews and on the wooden floors. The session was a reminder of fundamental godliness among constituents. I seemed not to be alone in my awareness of the spiritual and emotional lift from the congregational singing of that powerful song. It was as if members had been waiting to sing the piece the entire year and had finally gotten their chance. I had never heard it done with more spirit! So much so, I refused to step away to regain composure. God’s living power was evident in that room.
Sister Shirleyann Cyril Mayers’ rendition of How Great Thou Art provided a fitting demonstration that the power of a hymn does not lie solely in its lyrics. Only when set to music do those lyrics become fully loaded with emotive intensity to reach the inmost soul. And that is my central point: We should know our hymns and we should be able to sing our songs.
There is something unique about a roomful of grown men and women opening their mouths and making sounds together. But the psychology of it is evident. It solidifies people, creates unity, strengthens resolve, brings comfort, deepens assurance, and enhances hope. We do it for the exhilaration it gives, the goosebumps it creates, and the confidence it produces. For one moment, I wondered what it was like for worshippers where the Sabbath convention was downlinked. Were they enjoying a similar experience?
The session theme, Going with God, Striving for Excellence, provided the right platform for any preacher to bring a word. And the devotional expositions of Pastor Exton Clarke, President of the Guyana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, did not disappoint 167 delegates and guests. The spiritual nuggets were refreshing and deep. In fact, Dr. Kern Tobias, President of the Caribbean Union Conference, commended Pastor Roger Stephen, the St. Lucia Mission President, for his choice of speaker. ‘You have not only chosen well, but you provided the correct individual to help me better connect with God’, Dr. Tobias said of the two days of exhortations.
Elder Philip Leon, a long-standing leader of the Sarot Seventh-day Adventist Church and a veteran session attendee, was openly moved by Pastor Clarke’s biblical examples of how to be a model disciple of Christ and to build a strong relationship with God. In one of his more strident devotionals, Pastor Clarke used the story of Elijah being fed by ravens to contrast nepotism and the pursuit of gain and achievement, with waiting at the brook to be fed by God. ‘Mister can really preach’, Elder Leon noted.
From my college days when I roomed with Pastor Elwin St. Rose, I was aware of the St. Lucian layman’s appetite for preaching. The session revealed the foundation. That foundation is laid on the involvement of youth; probably, we can call it youth power. Pastor Stephen spoke of the St. Lucian Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) youth being solid, brilliant, young men in whom the Spirit resides. Young people were leading in every aspect of the session. They displayed determination, love for the Church and a capacity for growing spiritually. There are not many places where youth can be found sitting through church services without being distracted – I observed many of them in one corner of the church, in rapt attention, especially on Sabbath morning when Quin St. Juste and McKern Auguste led the collegiate lesson.
I sat with Trevon Pierre, youth representative on the Executive Committee for the quadrennium, and I felt his passion for the Church and the need for integrity in leadership. Among other pursuits, he runs a program, Praise FM, on the St. Lucia Mission’s radio station. ‘I want to see young people make it to the kingdom’, Brother Pierre said. ‘The aim is to teach the Bible and help young people find their way to the kingdom of God’.
As the second largest denomination on Saint Lucia, the SDA Church embraces a strong Christian education philosophy. Its members are found at many levels of the St. Lucia government and, with a membership 14,964 and 52, congregations are located in virtually every village on the island.
There is something unique and unifying about the SDA message. Having served as a pastor for 37 years, this session reinforced the truth that wherever I go, Adventists are easily recognized. They preach the same message, sing the same songs, and believers take Christianity seriously. They believe that the Church’s clergy and laity should sound the clarion call of salvation through Jesus Christ. Seventh-day Adventists anticipate that the Church, under God, will triumph. It is no wonder, then, that more than 400 persons were baptized by the St. Lucia Mission’s laity, alone, during the quadrennium.
When the session ended, the resolve was that in the context of Revelation 17, the Church will remain pure as it strives for excellence in these last days. Representatives set out for home, determined that they would not intoxicate themselves with the music or the false doctrines of the apostate church, but would rather drink deeply from the Fountain of Life in order to overflow with the good old praise songs forever, in the presence of the Lord.