Administrators, departmental directors, pastors, educators, and other workers and guests, entrusted with the responsibility of leading God’s work throughout the Atlantic Union Conference territory, gathered at the Hartford Marriott in Connecticut, April 4-6, for a first-of-its-kind union-wide workers meeting. The theme for the meeting was “United We Will Go.”
The overall purpose of the meeting was to “equip, inspire, and mobilize all workers to embrace a deeper sense of mission, evangelism, and church growth for 2022 and the post-COVID-19 pandemic era.” In addition to focusing on mission and evangelism, the program included “a pandemic-appropriate, in-person, interactive fellowship that facilitated relationship-building and networking among pastors and leaders” from the various conferences.
The speakers and presenters for the meeting included Henry Beras, Greater New York Conference president; John Bradshaw, It Is Written president; G. Alexander Bryant, North American Division president; Miguel Crespo, New York Conference president; David Dennis, Southern New England Conference president; Andrea Jakobsons, Kettering Seventh-day Adventist Church lead pastor; Abraham Jules, Northeastern Conference president; Debleaire Snell, Breath of Life Television Ministries speaker/director; Calvin Watkins, North American Division vice president for evangelism; Rohann Wellington, North American Division Professional Services director, and Ted Wilson, Seventh-day Adventist Church president.
The morning and evening devotions featured Holy-Spirit-inspired messages from John Bradshaw, G. Alexander Bryant, Andrea Jakobsons, Debleaire Snell, and Ted Wilson. In addition, attendees benefited from seven training sessions and an interactive panel discussion. Translation was available in French and Spanish. Topics covered included “Evangelism Techniques for Success,” “Doubtless: The Certainty of Evangelism,” “Evangelism and Prayer,” “Moving the Membership Into Mission,” “Digital Media: Communication, Evangelism, and Worship,” “Church Security: Best Practices,” and “Post-Pandemic Ministry and Technology.”
On Tuesday evening, following a full day of seminars, the group participated in a special retirement recognition and appreciation service for former Atlantic Union Conference president G. Earl Knight, who retired after 44 years of ministry in the Adventist Church. In addition to sharing fond memories about their time spent together in ministry, the administrative team presented Knight with a plaque and his wife, Yvonne, with a floral bouquet. Ted Wilson prayed for the couple as they start this new chapter in their lives.
Following the devotion on Wednesday morning, Paul Brantley, retired North American Division vice president, facilitated an “Interactive Outreach and Church Growth Symposium” with the training session presenters as the panelists. They briefly shared takeaways from their presentations and participated in a question-and-answer segment.
“We are here to share Jesus with the world,” said Miguel Crespo, “but there are other things we have to do that we can’t apologize for, and church safety is one of them.” He encouraged the group to take the safety of their churches seriously, including the safety of their children. He reminded them that the church has many resources, including Adventist Risk Management.
“We must be preachers of the Word,” Calvin Watkins said. “God has not called us to be stars. There are no stars in the Adventist Church.” He reminded the group that Jesus is the star, and he challenged them to be more than just the average, typical Adventist pastor who draws breath and a salary. “Preach the Word,” Watkins said. “If the Word goes out, people will come to Jesus simply by preaching the Word.” He encouraged them to tell the story of Jesus and to lift the Word from Genesis to Revelation. “Master your craft. Learn how not just to preach but to call.”
Andrea Jakobsons encouraged the group in all they do “to employ prayer, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.”
“Remember, what happens in your local church has a global impact because of the day and age in which we live,” said Rohann Wellington. “Adopt technology. It will change your ministry,” he went on to say. “Be intentional, think strategically about who you are trying to reach, and drive that in your local church.” He encouraged them to remember their teams. “Treat them with much love, they are the first to arrive and the last to go, and they make your ministry so much more effective.”
According to David Dennis, evangelism has to be based on relationship growing. He encouraged the group to “Move the mission away from the building. Get out of the building; get onto the streets; get into the neighborhoods. This is where people are going to be met. This is where their needs are going to be met.”
The final segment of the program included acknowledgments of those who worked to make the event a success, as well as a charge and prayer. “This historic workers meeting was organized by the union administration in close collaboration with all six conference presidents within the territory,” said Pierre Omeler, Atlantic Union Conference president. “I am grateful to many unnamed people who contributed to the success of the meeting. Presidents Ted Wilson and G. Alexander Bryant led the charge. Presentations by John Bradshaw, Debleaire Snell, Calvin Watkins, Rohann Wellington, and Andrea Jakobsons electrified the audience in combination with presenters from within the union. Response from pastors to the theme ‘United We will Go!’ was amazing. The Atlantic Union, the cradle of Adventism, once again aspires to set the tone for its territory and far beyond. To God be all the glory.”
Omeler recognized and shared appreciation for the individuals and fellow leaders who supported this training, including the Atlantic Union administrators, directors, and staff. He thanked all of the speakers and presenters as well as the six conference presidents: Kenneth Manders, Bermuda; Henry Beras, Greater New York; Miguel Crespo, New York; Abraham Jules, Northeastern; David Dennis, Southern New England, and Brad Cauley, then acting president, Northern New England. He also thanked the team behind the scenes, including the stage designers, audiovisual technicians, sound engineers, graphic designers, musicians, vocalists, Medical Cadet Corps, Pathfinders, Adventurers, photographers, and lay workers who helped to make this event a success.
In his charge to the group, G. Alexander Bryant used Matthew 14:24-31 as his scripture text and encouraged them to “get out of the boat and walk on water.” Ted Wilson shared final words of encouragement and offered the prayer of consecration.
Days following the meeting, the administrators received comments from many who attended. The impressions left with those who attended will make the most significant impact. “Be determined,” Debleaire Snell admonished the group. “As we grow in ministry, we grow in our anointing. Continue to persevere and not be deterred by even what we would perceive as failure. . . . If Jesus had room to grow, we have room to grow also.” Let us be united and go and proclaim the good news of the soon return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.