Dame Lois Browne-Evans (1927-2007). Celebrated on October 12 2008 as Bermuda’s first national hero. Pattiejean and I were there at the National Stadium as Dale Butler, Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation, welcomed us “to this singularly the most significant event in Bermuda’s history.” We were there as Premier Dr. Ewart Brown declared, “What’s natural is that Dame Lois should be the Island’s first national hero. As a woman of firsts this singular honour is rightly bestowed on her and it is the least that we can do as the beneficiaries of her struggle.” He continued, “It’s a proud day for the Government and the people of Bermuda when we can pause, united, and recall the life and contribution of one who so enriched this Island through her living.” United we stand: historic in Bermuda. United we stand: historic in the US. Senator Barak Obama’s run for president of the United States – perhaps “singularly the most sigificant event” in US history - regardless of the final outcome. A step in the direction of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream where a person would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. By 2050, should time last, researchers say that the so-called white majority in the United States will, for the first time, be in the minority. Historic. In the process, the children of new immigrants “will not only reshape American racial and ethnic relations but define the character of American social, cultural, and political life” (Harvard/City University research). Pastor Stefan Burton-Schnull, Director of Human Relations and Intercultural Ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bermuda, gave a report to its Executive Committee last month in which he emphasized that it was not only important for different ethnic groups to be reached for Christ, but that Jesus’ emphasis on oneness and koinonia nudges us towards worshipping together. We see this togetherness reflected in some other denominations. “It’s wonderful to see such a great increase of ethnic diversity in the Assemblies of God,” says Scott Temple, AG Intercultural Ministries Director. “I believe that this is an indication that many AG ministers and congregations of all ethnicities are no longer seeing each other as members of a certain ethnic group, but members of the body of Christ - brothers and sisters in the Lord.” We see this togetherness reflected in churches in Bermuda such as Cornerstone Bible Fellowship. So here’s my question: Can Seventh-day Adventist churches in Bermuda become intercultural?
It’s Annual Council time. What’s that? It’s when 300 church leaders from all over the world, mostly union presidents, meet to discuss church business. Once every five years they meet outside the North American Division. Conference presidents are told that when Annual Council takes place in their division, they can attend having both voice and vote. So I’ve been privileged to attend before; but not this time. This year they are in Manila, Philippines. World President Dr. Jan Paulsen told them that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is about mission, but it is also about unity. Elder Mark Finley preached that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is about the Bible. They will discuss topics ranging from the church’s structure to the appropriation of its funds, as well as progress made in the church’s mission efforts and its global AIDS ministry. So here’s my question: If you could be a fly on the wall at this the most significant annual meeting of the world church and in times like these, what would you hope our leaders are talking about?
A New York Times reporter said, “All of the island’s traditions are summed up and preserved in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, the lovely 36-acre public garden in the middle of the island that dates back to 1898.” I spent Sabbath afternoon there with the Adult Singles Ministries (ASM), directed by Christine O’Brien. What a great group they are. Facilitator Joanne Furbert led us around the beautiful formal gardens and asked us how what we were observing related to our lives. One of the participants asked me, “Why are you here? You’re married.” I said I am Family Ministries Director of the Bermuda Conference and ASM comes under my portfolio. I said I am the author of Single and Gifted: Making the Most of Your Singleness. And I said married people can learn so much from singles, notwithstanding the fact that many of us will be single again. People spoke about the suspicion that surrounds so-called platonic relations. A single woman said that she doesn’t ask a gentleman to come and fix her ceiling fan because he may one day want a favor from her that she is unwilling to give (if you catch her drift). Somebody said a married woman doesn’t want a single woman around her husband. Another person said she frankly enjoyed male company, on a wholesome level, and if people misinterpret her intentions then that was something they had to deal with. So here’s my question: Can single people have married people as friends – or vice versa?
The day that Kellon Hill was buried, the world - well, Bermuda - stood still. But this was bigger than just us. Our world church paper ran the story. Dr Delbert Baker, president of Oakwood University, flew to Bermuda and displayed to funeral attendees tributes from the “Class of 2012″ and presented a graduation medallion to Kellon’s parents. Dr Baker returned to Huntsville, Alabama, and shared the story of his visit with Bermudian students and the nearly 2000-strong student body, impeccably clad in blue blazer, blue socks, and pink Bermuda shorts. Our Premier, Dr Ewart Brown, halted Parliament and attended the funeral along with his whole Cabinet. He then held an emergency Cabinet meeting proposing sweeping changes to deal with community violence, including the establishment of a Clergy Commission on Violence. Dr Brown declared that the Commission would be chaired by a young pastor, one who would have an understanding of the times and know the best course to take. Imagine how proud we were when the news broke that Dr Brown had chosen for the position Director of Youth Ministries for the Bermuda Conference, Pastor Damon Hendrickson. Congratulations, Pastor Damon. Who knows whether you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this? There are Esthers and Daniels - they are on the inside. Then there are Elijahs and John the Baptists - they are on the outside, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord. So here’s my question: Are we Esthers and Daniels or are we Elijahs and John the Baptists? Should the church be giving advice on governmental issues? Is silence golden?
The current financial crisis caused me to write a letter last week to all our church members (Download letter here). The General Conference issued a statement stating that Market declines won’t affect the Adventist Church’s investment strategy, but the economy could affect tithe. In response to the current global financial crisis, The Church of England have offered two things: 1) spiritual counsel (a financial prayer, etc.), and 2) practical counsel (investment, budgeting, etc.). So here’s my question: Should the Seventh-day Adventist Church give any advice during this time of financial crisis?