Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer
Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists in Jamaica joined their counterparts worldwide on Saturday in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the name Seventh-day Adventist.
The church, which received its name at a general conference of ministers in Battle Creek, Michigan, in October 1860, for use by its fledgling publishing house, as well as its local congregations, today has 16 million members globally.
The 117-year-old North Street Seventh-day Adventist, the island's first Adventist church, which hosted the main commemorative service, could barely hold the large congregation that turned out to observe the event.
The congregation was treated to musical items from the church's choir as well as baritone Noel Benjamin's rendition of The Holy City, which was well received.
Pastor Adrian Cotterell, president of the East Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, noted the significance of North Street SDA church to Jamaica, which he claimed at one point had the largest number of Adventists in the world.
He said the church, which has 250,000 members in Jamaica, has made significant achievements locally and throughout the world, despite being mocked and jeered for being Seventh-day Adventists.
"Brothers and sisters told me when they used to walk from August Town with a bottle torch in hand as they were going home at night and everyone would laugh at them. They were coming right here," Cotterell said.
Cotterell added that this has long since changed, noting that Seventh-day Adventists were now respected and envied by the world, as could be seen by the increasing number of persons seeking to become members.
Pastor Joseph Smith, whose sermon bore the theme "Remembering the past, moving forward in prayer", also spoke of how several other denominations were trying to fashion their lives off the Adventist church.
He described the church, which operates several schools and hospitals worldwide, as having a mission to bring the gospel to the world, its goals reflected in the four areas of its ministry - education, evangelism, health and welfare.
'This is a significant milestone, particularly when it is seen against the backdrop of the growth and development of this movement," said Smith as he retraced the church's growth and development from 2,500 persons 150 years ago to more than 16 million members in 203 countries today.
He said the church's support for education in Jamaica reflected itself in local institutions such as Northern Caribbean University (NCU) and Kingsway High School.
The Seventh-day Adventists church operates over 106 colleges and approximately 7,500 high and preparatory schools globally.