Avondale University College academics and alumni recently shared research about pioneering Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific as part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Heritage Sabbath, which in 2019 was celebrated on October 19.
Presentations at the Adventist Heritage: Here for Good Colloquium were based on articles the authors were writing for the new Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists.
Senior lecturer in international poverty and development studies Brad Watson spoke about Australian indigenous missionaries. He is collaborating with the church’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries (ATSIM) on a research project about Mona Mona Mission in Kuranda, Queensland, Australia.
Vice-president for academics Stephen Currow spoke about missionary Captain Griffith Jones, who started the work of the Adventist Church in the Solomon Islands. Historian Lynnette Lounsbury, who spoke about Adventist education in the Solomon Islands, has close ties to the archipelago—her grandmother, father, mother, and brother have all worked there, and Lounsbury has volunteered over a decade as part of a teacher education program.
Historian Daniel Reynaud spoke about the impact World War I and II had on the church. School of Science and Mathematics head Lynden Rogers and alumna Marian de Berg profiled more contemporary pioneers — historian Arthur Patrick and evangelist John Benjamin Conley, respectively.
The encyclopedia project’s regional editor, Barry Oliver, the former president of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific, spoke in a video produced for the colloquium about Avondale’s influence on the project. Sixteen of its lecturers have written at least one article, he reported. Twelve of its conjoint associate professors have also contributed. A total of 323 articles have been written by Avondale academics and alumni.
“Just in case you think these articles are just a few sentences, a couple of paragraphs, no way,” Oliver said. “The article on Avondale College, for example, is 25,000 words.” Oliver said he is grateful for the willingness of those in the Avondale community to contribute. “They’re not getting remunerated. They’re not getting any kudos from this except for contributing to the history and all things Seventh-day Adventist.”
Currow described the colloquium as an inspiration and as a challenge.
“Reconnecting with the vision and sacrifice of our church’s pioneers inspired me. But considering issues in a different time and place and reflecting on why we haven’t learned the lessons from history challenged me,” Currow said.
The colloquium coincided with a visit from a panel representing the Adventist Accrediting Association. David McClintock, Adventist Education director for the church in the South Pacific, said his fellow panel members commented favorably about the spread of topics and the depth of research. “A comment that resonates with me is the desire to share more of the encyclopedia articles given the obvious expertise of the Avondale staff.”
The Avondale Researchers: Here For Good Colloquium, which aligns the mission of Avondale with its research agenda, is the first in an Adventist Heritage series. Associate dean for research Carolyn Rickett plans for more each October.
“We want to share and showcase this research to continue important conversations with our wider community about the mission and ethos that shaped our past, informs our present, and directs our future.”
Adventist Heritage Sabbath falls on the Saturday closest to October 22, when, in 1844, the people known as Millerites waited expectantly for Jesus’ second coming, later realizing they had misinterpreted Bible prophecy. The leader of the movement, Baptist preacher William Miller, influenced a group of Christian believers who, in 1863, established the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The day is now an opportunity for the church to actively participate in preserving its “dynamic” heritage.
“One of my favorite descriptions of our church was used by our early Adventist pioneers — the Great Second Advent Movement,” said David Trim, director of the Adventist Church’s Office of Archives, Statistics and Research (ASTR). “Sometimes the way we do church tells people, ‘It’s OK to be a spectator.’ And actually, our church is about being engaged and moving forward. Our faith isn’t something that stands still; we play an active role in transmitting it from generation to generation.”