Under the theme “Transforming Lives from the Inside Out,” conference and local church Sabbath School directors, superintendents, teachers, and secretaries throughout Atlantic Caribbean Union (ATCU) gathered during April 14-15, 2023, for the first ATCU Sabbath School Congress. Designed to train Sabbath School officers to effectively serve and fulfill their responsibilities in carrying out the church’s mission through Sabbath School work, the historic congress featured Pastor Jim Howard, Sabbath School director of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and Pastor Samuel Telemaque, Sabbath School director of the Inter-American Division.
The congress’ main goal was to highlight the importance of Sabbath School in accomplishing the mission of the church and in nurturing the members’ spiritual lives. The event also aimed to motivate Sabbath School leaders to continue to work to grow their Sabbath Schools, especially after COVID-19.
“The Sabbath School exists to teach and proclaim the gospel of Christ in response to the call of God to share the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14,” explained Jennifer Kerr, ATCU Sabbath School director. “The main objective is to win, retain, and disciple men, women, youth, boys, and girls in preparation for the second coming of Christ.”
Pastor Samuel Telemaque noted that the Sabbath School Congress was designed to transform the thinking, beliefs, and attitudes of the participants. “We want to give you three things at this congress: new skills, new knowledge, new attitudes. The goal is transforming our lives from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit,” he stated.
Featured presenter for the weekend, Pastor Jim Howard, shared on the Development of the New Sabbath School Curricula for Children, Youth, and Young Adults; The Mission Philosophy of Sabbath School; and How to Revitalize Sabbath School. He also informed about the motto of the department, Sabbath School Alive, which promotes three principles: Bible study and prayer, the mission of the church, and fellowship.
In highlighting the importance of Sabbath School, Howard encouraged the use of Christ’s method of personal witnessing. “Anytime we are moving toward a personal interaction, we are getting closer to Christ’s method of personal ministry, and Sabbath School is the perfect place to reach people using Christ’s method.” He implored attendees to make the Bible the focus of Sabbath School and not to conduct Sabbath School as a club for the members. “The purpose of Sabbath School is to be evangelistic, to make disciples out of members and out of those who have never received Christ fully. When done properly, Sabbath School should be growing our churches.”
The weekend was punctuated with song, testimonies, and reports from the conference Sabbath School directors (Pastor Maurice Chambers – Cayman Islands Conference (CIC); Pastor Chirnus Isidore – North Bahamas Conference; Pastor Leonardo Rahming – South Bahamas Conference; and Mrs. Sonia Heastie-Malcolm – Turks and Caicos Islands Conference (TCIC)) highlighting what has happened in their fields over the past four years in Sabbath School and sharing the goals they seek to attain during the next quadrennium.
Shondell Murray from the TCIC was excited about the presentations and shared some of the principles that impacted her. “Being a superintendent, I must structure the Sabbath School program, bearing in mind that lesson study is the focus of the Sabbath School and not the superintendent’s remarks or preliminaries. I must be careful not to preach a sermon before the sermon,” she said.
The congress closed with an awards ceremony for 217 members who completed the Advanced Sabbath School training. Each awardee received a certificate and pin. Among those being awarded was Nelda Rose Dracket, former Sabbath School director for the CIC, who was honored for outstanding leadership in the CIC by ATCU.
With a membership of 28,182, ATCU, which is headquartered in Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas, comprises four fields, namely, the Cayman Islands Conference, the North Bahamas Conference, the South Bahamas Conference, and the Turks and Caicos Islands Conference. In addition, Northern Caribbean University, which is in Mandeville, Jamaica, is jointly owned and operated by ATCU and the Jamaica Union.