ST. JOHNS, Antigua – The Seventh-day Adventist congregations in Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts-Nevis, and Montserrat made history on Sunday 6th March with the launch of the South Leeward Mission (SLM) of Seventh-day Adventist.
Over 400 members and dignitaries including Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Hon Baldwin Spencer along with representatives from the Guyana, Grenada and the South Caribbean conferences, the St Vincent region, Tobago and St Lucia Missions and the Caribbean Union Conference gathered at the St John’s Seventh-day Adventist Church in Antigua to mark the historic event under the theme “Celebrating Our Heritage, Fulfilling The Mission.”
To solidify their union in the new Mission, the National Anthems of the three island states were song followed by the handing over of the three national flags and instrument to the new President of SLM, Pastor Desmond James by Pastor Silton Browne, president of the North Caribbean Conference (NCC).
Pastor Browne noted that based on changes in the church’s organizational structure, five of the 16 islands which made up the NCC are now being placed into the care of the SLM with headquarters here in Antigua.
Browne challenged the new president, “by the grace of God, to give caring, supportive servant leadership that is progressive and relevant.” He continued, “I challenge you to nature the flock, always keeping in mind our true purpose and mission so that ultimately Sir, when Jesus comes, you along with us will be able to give sound account of your stewardship to the honour and glory of God.”
In accepting the challenge, Pastor James who hails from St Kitts, pledged to “uphold the ideals of the new mission” which were entrusted to him. He stated that “This sacred trust we will pursue diligently and practically so that when we should be called to give account of those entrusted to us we might be found faithful.”
Before giving the blessing of the world church, President of the Inter American Division, Dr Israel Leito, noted that there were several factors which had to be considered before granting the five islands mission status.
“We had to see if the church can live without the tutorship of the NCC; we looked at the maturity of the membership and I can pleasantly offer that the Lord has a strong vineyard in this area,” Dr Leito declared.
He noted that the Division had to be assured that the islands would be able to finance the institutions (schools, elderly home, radio station, book stores etc) in the area so that the work would continue to progress.
In declaring SLM the 118th local field in the Inter American Division, Dr Leito said the mission would now report to the Caribbean Union instead of the NCC. He challenged the new mission not to remain at this level but “plan to become the SLC (South Leeward Conference).”
Dr Leito, who also delivered the keynote address focused on Eph. 4:1-7. He encouraged the membership to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received.”
“Don’t be distracted … be a testimony to others in the community. Let your life be under the control of the Holy Spirit; reach out not only to members of the faith but be the best neighbour to all around.”
Following the service, the inaugural session of the SLM was held. Persons chosen to spearhead the new mission are President James and Executive Secretary/Treasurer Pastor Carson Greene (both previously chosen by the Caribbean Union) along with directors Pastor Wayne Knowles, Pastor Kendol Doyle, Dr Eulalie Semper and Sis Sonia Smith.
Earlier that afternoon, the new Mission dedicated their headquarters building located on American Road. In his keynote address, Dr Eugene Daniel, president of the Caribbean Conference urged the membership to make their headquarters more than a mere building, but an embassy of God to all the people in this region.
Present at the dedication ceremony were Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda, Dame Louis Lake-Tack; Prime Minster Hon. Baldwin Spencer; Minister of Finance Harold Lovell, Minister of Agriculture Hilson Baptist, Senator Winston Williams and other government officials.
The SLM has a membership of 12,200 with six churches and two companies in St Kitts; five churches in Nevis; two churches and one company in Montserrat and 28 churches and three companies on Antigua and Barbuda.