On the afternoon into the evening of Wednesday 20th July, 2022, the constituency of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Caribbean commenced the Seventeenth Quinquennial Session of the Caribbean Union Conference (CARU). The session – delayed for one year by the most trenchant phases of the pandemic – was convened as an in-person gathering of denominational leaders, delegates, members, specially invited guests and friends of the church. It returned to a familiar place, the main campus of the University of the Southern Caribbean. This time however, the new, fully completed University Auditorium is the well-appointed epicenter of the important business meetings and worship experiences of the session.
The President of the University of the Southern Caribbean Dr. Colwick Wilson was at hand to welcome all attendees to the campus. The attendees represent a significant cross-section of the leaders and influentials of the church in the meso-hemispheric field. The President of the Inter-American Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists (IAD), Dr. Elie Henry and other members of the IAD leadership team, that would supervise the session; leaders of other union fields of the IAD as observers, leaders and workers of all of the conferences and missions of the CARU and its institutions – many of them as delegates – are the key participants of the three days of business meetings that will end on Friday.
The opening ceremony which began at 3:30 in the afternoon, secured as its feature speaker, the first citizen of the host country, Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes ORTT, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. In her address Her Excellency commended the work of the church, particularly noting the ways in which it has made progress in re-orienting its approaches to serving humanity in the face of the pandemic with the attendant disruptions and miseries it has visited upon us. She observed that the church, like many other organizations had to quickly find “new ways of doing old business.” Her Excellency advanced the view that, “in the midst of disaster, people tend to look to the church for guidance reassurance and support” and “for some, the church was the sole source of comfort and direction when all seemed lost.” She further described the church as a “pillar of strength in society” that shapes and transforms lives through its outreach and fellowship and as “a touchstone for social and moral values” that is “called to lead by example.” “The church (Her Excellency said), must stand ready, willing and able to serve tirelessly, diligently and sincerely no matter the circumstances.” She concluded by wishing the Caribbean Union constituency a “fruitful, powerful and transformative meeting”.
Her Excellency’s address perfectly anticipated the sermon that IAD President Dr. Elie Henry presented when his turn at the podium came. Basing his sermon on Psalm 100, the power idea of his appeal was for the church, its institutions and its members to serve the Lord with gladness. He warned against the hubris of truth-possession and enjoined that “we have to open ourselves to others in humility and love. Quoting from the pen of inspiration, Dr. Henry encouraged his congregation that we should let our daily prayer be: “Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.” (Ellen G White Steps to Christ p.70).
Dr. Henry shared, and briefly but helpfully explained the three pillars of the IAD’s current strategic plan as evangelism, education and service to community and made the case that passionately and lovingly seeking the interests of others, and sharing truth with love is what serving the Lord with gladness should looks like. Describing service as a synonym of life, Dr Henry layered-on that the way we praise God must be manifest in the how we serve Him and the “least of these” that our God so readily identifies himself with.
Harvard University professor, Dr. David Williams, an illustrious alumnus in whom USC is well pleased, will be the main devotional speaker at this union session. The public activities of the Seventeenth Quinquennial Session of the Caribbean Union Conference can be followed on the Caribbean Union Conference’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=caribbean+union+conference