Seventh-day Adventist leaders and church members on the Caribbean island of Anguilla recently took part in a ground-breaking ceremony for a larger, more modern, and inclusive worship center. The new facility will replace the Adventist Church’s oldest structure on the island, the Long Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, scattering dozens of members to worship in different, smaller locations.
Church members are eager to move into the construction phase of the new facility, Lester Jules, pastor of the 77-member Long Bay Adventist congregation, said. “This edifice will stand as a beacon,” Jules said. “The re-dedication of this edifice will offer us the opportunity to recommit ourselves to being the lighthouse for those in darkness and a symbol of hope and peace in the community.”
Built in 1952, the old church building seated 150, and plans are for a larger facility that can house 250, church leaders said.
Government officials joined church members for the August 15, 2021 event and encouraged the members to continue raising a church structure to bless others.
Cardigan Connor, a district representative in Anguilla, reminded attendees to move forward in building and see the church grow. “The membership might not be that great right now, but if you build it, people will come,” Connor said. “Undoubtedly, what is going to be built is far better than what was there. Church centers were used as shelters in the past, and going forward, this could be a sanctuary for those who could be displaced sometime in the future.”
Desmond James, president of the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) of the Adventist Church, thanked the church leadership and the planning committee for their ministry to God and the people of Anguilla. “For this church to have been given this opportunity, over the past 79 years, to render selfless Christian service and ministry to the members of the church and the community at large is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment that every member of the church should be proud of,” James said. “We dedicate the plans of this new building in honor of God’s commands and statutes and hope that everyone who passes the building and enters will find the Lord within the walls.”
In addition to a basement slated for community activities, ample parking, and sufficient seating for island events, the new complex will prioritize accommodations for individuals with physical challenges, as the congregation strives for a more inclusive worship environment, Jules said.
For four years since the hurricane destroyed the church, members have been meeting at small locations and currently have been meeting in a restaurant belonging to a church member. “Where we meet is not conducive to worship,” Jules said. There is no place for children to meet, and there has been a reduction in funds because of the pandemic, so greater commitment from members to pledge and raise funds will make it possible to rebuild, he explained.
“Don’t be distressed by your small beginning,” Wilmoth James, NCC executive secretary, said. “It’s not how you begin but how you end.”
NCC treasurer Sanida McKenzie signaled the conference’s support for the project with a monetary contribution. “Although Hurricane Irma shook the foundations of the church, the members fought difficult challenges together, and we thank God that, despite the devastation, Long Bay continues to play its part in fulfilling the mission in Anguilla,” she said.
With pledges, church members expect the church building to be completed by 2025.