news editor, Adventist Review, with reporting by Columbia Union Visitor
Seventh-day Adventists are planning a variety of family-focused activities to coincide with Pope Francis’ high-profile visit to the United States next month.
The pope will arrive on Sept. 22 for a six-day trip that will include talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, speeches at U.S. Congress and the United Nations, and meetings connected with a Roman Catholic Church-organized faith and family congress in Philadelphia.
Adventist pastors from Philadelphia and surrounding areas are planning a major outreach initiative to take advantage of the interest and publicity surrounding faith and family that is being stoked by the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families.
“As we consider the prospect of the pope’s upcoming visit, the Pennsylvania Conference is eager to reach out to the residents of Philadelphia with a positive message of faith and family,” conference president Ray Hartwell said.
Scores of church members will prayerfully walk through Philadelphia on Sept. 12, going house to house and leaving door hangers (see sample here) that offer Bible studies and information on growing stronger families. The Pennsylvania Conference also has created a website, faithforfamily.org, and is planning family-related events at local churches.
Area pastors and churches will follow up the outreach initiative by offering small groups and seminars on family topics. The campaign will culminate with Spanish- and English-language evangelistic meetings on Nov. 13 to 15 in Philadelphia and Reading, Pennsylvania.
Hartwell said the effort was in line with the advice of Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White, who wrote in her book Christ’s Object Lessons: People “are to be turned from their false worship, not by hearing denunciation of their idols, but by beholding something better. God’s goodness is to be made known” (p. 299).
In a parallel with the Pennsylvania Conference’s effort, the Adventist Church’s Allegheny East Conference, which comprises historically African-American congregations in Philadelphia and the eastern mid-Atlantic region, will distribute 30,000 copies of a special issue of Message magazine focused on the family.
Church members will hand out the magazines on Sept. 26 and 27, the two days of the pope’s visit to Philadelphia.
“This event is a great opportunity for us to be a witness,” said Henry J. Fordham, president of the Allegheny East Conference. “In a world where the definition of family has been modified, our members share what we believe as Christians.”
In addition to articles on strengthening the family, the magazine will include information on programs at local Adventist churches and contact information to request Bible studies, receive more information about a service, or simply ask for prayer.