Stanborough Park, the headquarters estate of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK and Ireland, was transformed on the weekend of August 11-13. In a major celebration of 500 years of the Protestant Reformation, the event saw a coordinated program involving all departments of the British Union Conference (BUC) church region working together.
The event received tremendous support from church members, but more importantly, from the local community, as over 2,000 people enjoyed one or more of the various programs offered.
“It was an opportunity to celebrate our heritage as a Church, as ‘heirs of the Reformation,’” said Eglan Brooks, the visionary behind the event, “and also ensure that we engage our local community with the unique message of hope found only in Jesus Christ.”
A Thanksgiving Service
Celebrations began Friday evening with a Thanksgiving Service at Stanborough Park church. Three presentations reflected on Adventist heritage, including one by retired minister Patrick Boyle, who gave a ‘Historical Reflection of Adventists.’ Boyle discussed the doctrinal formation that developed and emerged because of the Reformation.
“Our uniqueness and identity as an Advent Movement should be rooted and centered around nothing and no one else, but Jesus Christ,” said Trans-European Division (TED) President Raafat Kamal at the end of the program. “[It should be centered in] His life, His teachings, His death, His resurrection, His mediatory ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and His soon return.”
A Special Sabbath
On Saturday morning, the 1,000-seater big tent was filled almost to capacity with local members and representatives from across the British Isles. Choirs, singers, and a brass band added to a celebration of worship that blended orchestral, choral, and vocal music with powerful congregational singing.
Bringing history to life, BUC staff and supporting volunteers depicted the progress of the Reformation from Martin Luther until today, dressed appropriately for each relevant historical period.
“I thought it would be great to have a visual representation of the eras following the Reformation,” said BUC director for Health, Women's Ministries and Community Services Sharon Platt-McDonald, who came up with the idea for this segment. “However, rather than just highlighting historical information, I felt it was important to state the significant religious changes that took place within that period.”
An afternoon Bible Conference gave the opportunity to explore deeper biblical themes that emerged from the Reformation. Guests speakers included the Adventist Church Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department (PARL) director Ganoune Diop, TED pastor David Neal, and retired Adventist Review associate editor Roy Adams.
The day concluded with a delightful evening Hymn Festival featuring well-known traditional hymns that have a “reformation imprint,” and an inspiring homily by Ministry Magazine associate editor Jeff Brown.
Opening to the Community
On a sunny and warm Sunday, several hundred people from the local area enjoyed the relaxing landscape of the 42-acre park, visiting the numerous activities and booths. Booths were a mixture of Adventist displays, sports and activity zones, and community organizations. For those seeking a place of solace and meditation, there was a prayer tent, a welcome area where some from the community left their prayer requests.
In the big tent, a coordinated program offered several presentations on health and family topics. A drama group also gave a poignant portrayal of the reformers and martyrs who stood up for what they believed.
“I've never known much about the church here and what happens, but I'm so glad I came,” said Mary Barlow, who lives just across the road. “I will read up on all the material in the gift bag I received.”
Several other community guests and members asked for Sunday activities to be repeated, a possibility that regional leaders are already entertaining.
“It was a joy to see so many people, especially from the community, turn out to what was a wonderful fun-filled day,” said BUC president Ian Sweeney. “This is something we will consider doing again.”
The afternoon ended with a performance by The Whittlesford Community Gospel Choir, as a local praise team led out in several gospel favorites.
“I thank...the planning team for the hard work they put in behind the scenes,” said Sweeney. “And ultimately we say, ‘to God be the glory.’”
For the longer original report on the BUC Reformation weekend events, visit the BUC website.