More than 700 Meet in First-Ever
Event in Providence

assistant to the president for communication, Atlantic Union Conference
ore than 700 Seventh-day Adventist pastors and teachers held a first-of-its-kind session in Providence, Rhode Island, at the beginning of August, aimed at uniting educators and ministers in Christian service for young people and their families.
Before presenting his keynote address to the gathering at the Rhode Island Convention Center, George Knight, a retired Adventist pastor and educator, applauded the Atlantic Union Conference's leadership for the “understanding that brought both pastoral clergy and educational clergy under one roof for a shared professional convention.”
According to Donald King, Atlantic Union Conference president and ministerial director, “The purpose of the convention was to reemphasize the important values we treasure as a church movement—pastors and teachers working together to advance the kingdom of God and provide Adventist Christian schools where children may be taught of the Lord as we await His soon coming.” That focus was kept in the forefront of the meeting with the introduction of a commitment card that posed the question, “What is next after Rhode Island?” Each pastor and teacher was asked to consider making a commitment to work together to ensure every school-aged child receives an Adventist education.
TOGETHER IN MISSION: Donald King, Atlantic Union president, and Astrid Thomassian, education director, welcomed the more than 700 Seventh-day Adventist pastors and teachers to the union’s first-ever joint convention in Providence, Rhode Island. [Photos: Atlantic Union Conference]
The convention program included early morning prayer sessions and prayer walks sponsored by the Atlantic Union Conference Prayer Ministries Department. Morning devotions featured pastors Clifford Jones, Ron Clouzet, and Donnett Blake. Noted Adventist educators and speaker Samuel Betances; North American Division Education director Larry Blackmer; Bermuda Institute principal Lois Tucker; and Dedrick Blue, senior pastor of Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Harlem, presented the general sessions. Gary Thurber spoke at the banquet. More than 90 seminars, with 59 presenters, covered various topics for pastors, teachers, and spouses, respectively and jointly. At the closing dedication service conducted by King, the commitment cards were collected, everyone was asked to hold hands, and King presented the pastors and teachers to God as an act of rededication and recommitment.
“The Pastors/Teachers Convention in Rhode Island was great! The preaching was inspiring. The workshops were instructive. But the best part was the renewed sense of oneness in mission and message we all felt,” said Phil Vasseur, pastor of the Merimack Valley/Billerica, Massachusetts, church district.
Teacher and seminar presenter Lileth Coke, from the Northeastern Conference, added, “The pastors and teachers convention has been a great blessing to me. The messages, workshops, and banquet were great. We, pastors and teachers, definitely need to work together in rescuing this generation for God.”
The convention caused some to move to action like Van Sailo, newly appointed pastor of the Framingham/Waltham, Massachusetts, church district who said, “When the speakers mentioned the verse in Isaiah (54:13) over and over again, which says, ‘All thy children shall be taught of the Lord,’ I felt a strong impression that we should establish a church school at a new place where I am going in the near future. I immediately contacted the local Spanish pastor about the need to have a Christian school and how we can work together on this project when I come to town, and he fully agreed. Praise the Lord for a new direction!”
The idea for this convention was planted in the spring of 2003 when then education director Rosemary Tyrrell and the Atlantic Union Conference education administrators met in Niagara Falls, New York, at what is known as the “Niagara Summit.” Clifford Jones, associate dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, representing the seminary, was present at the meeting.
DISMISSED WITH BLESSING: At the convention’s end, delegates joined hands as a prayer of dedication was offered for pastors and teachers.
Atlantic Union Conference administrators and ministerial leaders King, Carlyle Simmons, Leon Thomassian, Dionisio Olivo, and Louis Metellus, and the Office of Education leaders, Astrid Thomassian, Jerrell Gilkeson, and Marlene Alvarez, along with the ministerial directors and superintendents of schools in each of the six conferences and Atlantic Union College, recognize the seriousness of the times and are committed to moving forward after Rhode Island and continuing to work to unite pastors and teachers to promote Adventist education and ensure a vibrant church in the future.
“As a pastor, I thoroughly benefitted from the speakers and workshops dealing with relevant issues that I am confronted with on a daily basis. My greatest satisfaction was that both pastors and teachers could be trained and equipped together to help in the mission of character building,” said Stanley Dixon, Trinity Temple pastor.
Alicia Biek, a teacher in the New York Conference said, “The biggest thing I left with was that we are ministers as well as teachers. So, if there are two ministers in the church, it only makes sense for [us] to work together to accomplish our goals.”

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