Eight months after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the Philadelphia Adventist Church building in St. Thomas, worshipers returned for services in the lower level of the church on Sabbath, May 19, 2018.
Since the category-5 storm hit last September, the 1,400-member Philadelphia church merged with Shiloh Adventist Church, which did not suffer significant damage. The merger fostered a stronger relationship between the two congregations.
When asked about the working relationship, Pastor Jerry Languedoc of the Shiloh church said he is happy to share the ministry with Glendon Cross of the Philadelphia Church.
“Pastor Cross has been given a key to the church, and we share the services equally, to allow the participation of all,” said Languedoc. “Both church choirs merge to fill the sanctuary with praise on Sabbath, and the uniform groups share ministry on Sabbaths.”
“The worship services have been inspiring,” said Cross. “Pastor Languedoc and [the Shiloh] congregation have been very accommodating, and we have worked out a relationship that has benefited both congregations and the ministry.”
“It’s quite a model for ministry that has been going on,” commented North Caribbean Conference (NCC) president Desmond James. “Members have bonded, the ministry is rich, and services are great. Nonetheless, because the members have different needs, it is important that they provide ministry to the membership.”
Leaders said they are not sure when the sanctuary of the Philadelphia Adventist Church will be completely repaired but is in the process of getting plans for rebuilding. Worship services will continue to be at the fellowship hall in the lower level.
Meanwhile, NCC administrators are committed to assisting with re-settling a congregation with more than 1,400 members on the church’s records. “We will do what we can to assist and make it comfortable for the members,” commented James.
Leaders are cognizant of the needs to be met. As he addressed the constituency, Cross commented, “It’s going to be an adjustment and bear with us. There are still several hurdles for the church to overcome. But by the grace of God, we will continue to deliver ministry to God’s people.”
While the majority of the congregation settled at Shiloh, some members have been attending services at other congregations on the island.
“They are scattered,” said Gordon Williams, first elder at the Philadelphia church. “We want to bring them back together, so we can account for them and provide ministry for them.”
Members and teams of volunteers have been instrumental in rendering the Philadelphia site safe for worship. One of these teams included more than 50 volunteers from Andrews University in Michigan. This group took one day from a Caribbean cruise mission trip to clear debris from the property.
Also, members of the local Adventurer and Pathfinder clubs, Adventist Youth, Prison Ministries and Community Services have been helping.