Six months after a fire wreaked havoc on the landmark Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church in St. Croix, worshippers returned for the first in-person Sabbath service on November 7, 2020. With strict social distancing regulations in place, seating in the fellowship hall of the church could accommodate only a small fraction of the 350 active members and many young people attended. Members were delighted to see each other and praised God for keeping them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The congregation had begun to worship online in March, 2020, as a result of the pandemic and government mandates to limit gatherings, for safety reasons. On May 5, 2020, a devastating fire gutted the entire upper level of the church, including pews, platform furniture and communication equipment recently acquired to offer virtual ministry.
The leader of the congregation, Pastor Earl Daniel, explained that over the past six months, in addition to ministering online, the church’s leadership had been preparing the site for in-person services. He stated, “Our services were held online. We sought to minister to the members while we diligently began to organize for the rebuilding of the church.”
The Sabbath service coincided with the start of the annual Week of Prayer and Pastor Daniel had the responsibility of delivering the Sabbath message. His enthusiasm was contagious, “We are all excited about the day. The members love their church and it was important that, since the regulations were being relaxed, we organized for bringing the members together.”
Worship services will continue in the church’s fellowship hall. Pastor Daniel added, “We received clearance from the fire department to proceed with our plans. They inspected and gave the clearance. Part of our preparing included painting the walls and making sure that the surroundings of the church were in readiness for the service. It’s going to be uncomfortable for a while. There are still several hurdles for the church to overcome. But by the grace of God, I will continue to deliver ministry as together we make it to God’s Kingdom.”
The First Elder of the congregation, Elder Herman Ravariere, emphasized the determination of the members, “It was hard to see the church go up in flames six months ago but this is God’s church and it will move on . . . I am delighted to see this day in the life of the church. By God’s grace, we will keep moving on.”
The church’s leadership is cognizant of ministry needs and has a re-construction timeline. The North Caribbean Conference (NCC) oversees ministry on the island and the conference administrators are committed to rebuilding this church which has more than 950 members on record. The NCC President, Pastor Desmond James commented, “We will do what we can to assist and make it comfortable for the members.” The church at Peter’s Rest is one of eight (8) influential SDA congregations on St. Croix.