December 12, 2020 | St. John’s, Antigua | Cindy Greenaway
The Sabbath School department of the South Leeward Conference (SLC) held a Reclamation and Restoration symposium on Sabbath, November 28, 2020, via the Zoom platform. Over 200 church leaders, including conference administrators, directors, pastors and Sabbath School officers, attended this comprehensive session. The main objective of the program was to share methods that can be employed to reduce the rate of attrition experienced in Seventh-day Adventist congregations.
Sabbath School director and host of the event, Pastor Orville Joseph, discussed the rationale for the symposium. Pastor Joseph noted that the idea for the program came out of the Conference’s focus, which designated 2021 as the year of Reclaiming Missing and Former Members. He added that “Sabbath School leaders, in particular, will be expected to play a crucial role in reclamation and restoration”.
A devotion, consistent with the theme, was done by Pastor Sherwin A.E. White. The devotion set the program off to a good start, but the crux of the symposium was a series of presentations from administrators and directors of the Conference. These presenters included Dr Carson Greene, president; Dr Wayne Knowles, executive secretary; Dr Mark Braithwaite, ministerial secretary and Pastor Kay White, Personal Ministries director. The presenters discussed topics such as “Reality: The State of Affairs Today”; “Welcome Home: Attitude of the Church Toward Returning Members”; “Planning Homecoming Events and Homecoming Sabbaths”; and “Reaching Out To and Contacting Former and Missing Members”. The program also featured a question and answer segment where attendees were given the opportunity to pose questions that were answered by the panel of presenters.
Comments posted on the meeting chat shared the similar view that the Reclamation and Restoration symposium was an important one. Statistics from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists state that for the period 1965 -2015, “there have been 34,385,004 church members. Of those, 13,737,025 (or more) have chosen to leave the church. In effect, at least four members have slipped away for every 10 who were in the church”. Additionally, it is not only the newly baptized who are leaving the church, but mature members are leaving the church as well.
Initiatives such as the Reclamation and Restoration symposium, the 2021 focus on reclaiming missing and former members and a newly developed conservation of members plan to be instituted in its congregations are some of the ways that the Conference endeavors to change the negative statistics for the better. Like the Good Shepherd, the South Leeward Conference would like to be able to declare, “Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep which was lost!” (Luke 15:6).