Easter Sabbath for Adventists Holloway Seventh-Day Adventist Church, London, England, 19 April 2003

Article excerpt

Easter Sabbath for Adventists Holloway Seventh-day Adventist Church, London, England, 19 April 2003

Holloway Seventh-day Adventist Church is set into the commercial buildings that line Holloway Road in the Islington area of London. It has a rounded roof, a large window in the center of its façade, three double front doors, and two double side doors. The building has a certain Dutch rococo feeling about it, but the architectural style is probably best called "urban vernacular."

Inside, the church is built in the concert-stage style. It has a center rostrum-pulpit, with two rows of seats above and behind it. Above the top row are curtains, arranged so that the area of white plaster between them appears to be a screen. Each side of the chancel contains organ pipes. A piano sits to the right. On this Saturday flowers are symmetrically arranged at the center, left, and right of the chancel. The church's white walls have yellow details, with blue painted panels separating each window. Dark wainscoting runs the length of the walls. Framed by green curtains, the clear glass windows have round arches.

The church's pews and folding chairs seat perhaps 400 worshipers. At 11 AM on the day before Easter (a term the Adventist tradition does not use), it is parked. People of all ages keep coming in. Although the congregation is largely black, at least eight whites are among the worshipers. Most of the church's members are of West Indian heritage, with Trinidadians and Jamaicans predominating, but other members come from Africa. The two women sitting beside a visitor say they are the only Kenyans in the congregation. The socio-economic level of the congregation is not high.

Such diversity among the congregation is unsurprising. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has fostered vigorous mission programs, particularly in third-world countries. Adventist missions to nonChristian countries began in 1894, when missionaries entered Ghana and other west African nations. Having been exposed to Adventism in their countries of origin, many emigrants from Africa and the Caribbean brought that faith with them to London.

The service begins with a hymn from the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal led by a song leader wearing a gray suit. Approximately twenty members of the church's unvested choir sit in the two tiers of seats behind him. At the end of the hymn, the minister, an evangelist, and two elders enter from the back of the church and take seats immediately behind the song leader.

An elder leads the opening prayer, giving special attention to visitors attending today's service. A female elder then asks all visitors to stand. Of the twenty who do, six are white. Welcoming all, she thanks them for coming, and says that the church has prepared a special meal for visitors (given Adventist dietary teaching, it will surely be vegetarian) following the service. Next she asks the senior members of the congregation to identify themselves to the congregation by waving. "You have been faithful Sabbath after Sabbath," she declares. "Thank you for coming."

Led by the song leader and accompanied by the pianist, the congregation now sings the second hymn. Its refrain commands: "Bring them in from the fields of sin / Bring them in, Bring them in." Another hymn, "O Zion, haste," immediately follows. Most Protestant churches know its refrain well: "Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace / Tidings of Jesus, redemption and release." The congregation sings four verses of both hymns. Although the time is now 11:25 AM, worshipers are still entering the church.

So far the worship of these Adventists has been sedate, with no clapping or shouting. Hence the song leader asks the worshipers to sing "O Zion, haste" again, with more enthusiasm. As the organ and piano join in, he enlivens the singing by directing the congregation to sing the first verse, the women to sing the next verse, the men to sing the third verse, and the entire congregation to join in the refrain. …