November 30, 2018

Memorial Medallions Honor Service of Seventh-day Adventists

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them,” reads Hebrews 6:10 (NIV).

In just about every war, individuals who have defended our nation have been recognized for their service. Many times, that recognition has come after they are deceased, and it is very much deserved.

What if a similar form of acknowledgment could be used to recognize Seventh-day Adventists who served on the spiritual battlefield, winning souls for Christ? Just as men and women in the U.S. armed forces receive medals, what if something similar to a medal could be placed on the grave markers of Adventist clergy and educators in recognition of their service?

Why a Medallion?

R. Steven Norman III, Southern Union Conference communication director based in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, United States, came up with the idea for such a medallion.

“I was walking in a cemetery and noticed a medallion for Methodist clergy,” Norman said. “There are also medallions for U.S. military veterans. I decided to develop a medallion that can be placed on the grave markers of Seventh-day Adventist clergy and educators who give so much of their lives building the kingdom of God. It is a tribute to their service and a way to express the church’s gratitude to their families.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Clergy Memorial Medallion was developed by the Southern Union Communication Department in collaboration with Roger Hernandez, Southern Union ministerial director, and Debra Fryson, Southern Union education superintendent.

Inscribed at the base of the medallion is the phrase, “’Til He Comes.” Norman explained how the inscription came about. He said Charles E. Bradford, retired North American Division president, mentioned including a reference to the second coming on his mother’s grave marker.

“I began to look through cemeteries everywhere, and saw angels, crosses, and lambs, but no mention of the Second Coming,” Norman said. “So the medallion says ʽ̓’Til He Comes’ to commemorate the hope of every educator and minister who died in Christ Jesus. It is a silent witness.”

Hernandez said that one of his hardest moments as a ministerial director was “participating in the funeral of a pastor.”

“When we are able to give the medallion to a grieving family, and we are leaving the place of rest, the medallion will stay as a testament that death is not final, for we have a blessed hope,” he said.

Fryson agreed.

“The memorial medallion provides a way for the church to acknowledge the dedicated service teachers and pastors have given to ministry,” she said. “Families value knowing that the toil and sacrifice of their deceased loved one are appreciated and have not gone unnoticed.”

Medallions will be presented at the funeral or memorial service of all clergy and educators who served the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Families will then arrange to have the cemetery or funeral home affix them to the deceased’s grave marker.

First Medallions Given

The first two medallion installation ceremonies were held recently to recognize George I. Butler and Anna Knight. Butler died on July 25, 1918. After his funeral in Oakland, California, his body was shipped to Bowling Green, Florida, where he was buried that August. One hundred years later, church leaders from the Florida and Southeastern conferences, along with several from the Southern Union, gathered at his grave at 11:00 a.m. on August 28, 2018, to pay tribute to Butler’s service to the world church as president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (1871-1874 and 1881-1888), as well as president of the Southern Union (1902-1907) and Florida Conference (1901-1904).

Tim Goff welcomed the visitors to the ceremony, and R. Steven Norman III presented a biographical profile. Gregory Mack, Allan Machado, and Roger Hernandez placed the newly minted Seventh-day Adventist Clergy Memorial Medallion on his grave marker. The brief but historic service concluded with everyone joining Clarence Wright in singing the hymn, “We Have This Hope.”

On September 17, 2018, at 11:00 a.m., a medallion ceremony was held for Anna Knight in Soso, Mississippi. Knight died June 10, 1972. In her church career she was the first female missionary, a teacher, an assistant director of education, a Young People’s Missionary Volunteer, and home missionary secretary for the Southeastern and Southern unions from 1909 until her retirement in 1946.

Those who attended Knight’s ceremony included South Central Conference president Benjamin Jones; Soso Adventist church pastor Meshach Mauia; and Dorothy Marsh, one of Knight’s nieces.

“My sister Florence and I express our sincere appreciation and thanks for recognizing our aunt Anna with the Educator Memorial Medallion,” Marsh said. “It is truly a testament to her legacy.”

Norman emphasized the witnessing opportunity the medallion represents. “Imagine walking through a cemetery and seeing ‘Seventh-day Adventist Educator’ or ‘Clergy’ and ʽ̓Til He Comes,’” he said. “What a testimony to Christian service and a witness to Christ’s second coming!”

The original version of this story appeared in Southern Tidings.