During a groundbreaking ceremony on August 15, 2021, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the North Caribbean Conference, publicly declared a commitment to rebuild its oldest church structure on Anguilla, Shimei, which was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The members were delighted that the list of attendees included government officials, community friends and sister churches. The North Caribbean Conference administrators and leaders were among the on-line participants.
The leader of the congregation, Pastor Lester Jules, shared that members are eager to move into the construction phase of the $450,000.00 facility. He said, “The re-dedication of this edifice offers us the opportunity to recommit ourselves to being the lighthouse for those in darkness and a symbol of hope and peace in this community. This edifice will stand as a beacon.”
As chairperson and historian of the event, Sister Shirlene Hodge, welcomed those gathered, expressed appreciation on behalf of the members and described their joy that four (4) years after the hurricane, a new building will finally be erected. She recounted that the Shimei Tabernacle congregation, located in Long Bay, was organized into a company on March 20, 1942, by President E. G. Gackenheimer. In 1952, the church building was dedicated to the glory of God, as a beautiful place of worship for a small congregation.
Among those present was the Honourable Cardigan Connor, a District Representative of the Anguilla government. He told attendees, “If you build it, they will come. The membership might not be that great right now but if you build it, people will come. This location is a monument to those that drive on the western end of the island. Undoubtedly, what is going to be built is far better than what was there. Church centers were used as shelters in the past and going forward, this could be a sanctuary for those who could be displaced sometime in the future.”
Pastor Desmond James, the President of the North Caribbean Conference, thanked the leadership of the church and the planning committee for their ministry to God and the people of Anguilla. He said, “For this church to have been given this opportunity, over the past 79 years, to render selfless Christian service and ministry to the members of the church and the community, at large, is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment that every member of the church should be proud of. It is an achievement worth emulating. We dedicate the plans of this new building in honor of God’s commands and statutes. We hope that everyone who passes the building and enters … will find the Lord within these walls.” Pastor Desmond James offered the prayer of dedication.
Pastor Wilmoth James, the Executive Secretary of the North Caribbean Conference, delivered the homily. He said, “God has a purpose for His Church and this purpose will be met when the church reaches out to its community and brings people into a saving knowledge of Jesus. There should be an enthusiasm to finish the church of God. I am with you, said God. He will bring people to help you. Don’t be distressed by your small beginning. It is not how you begin; it’s how you end.”
Ms. Sanida McKenzie, the North Caribbean Conference Treasurer, signaled the Conference’s support for the project, with a monetary contribution. She said, “Although Hurricane Irma shook the foundations of the church, the members fought difficult challenges together. We thank God that, despite the devastation, Long Bay continues to play its part in fulfilling the mission of the Lord on Anguilla.”
In addition to a basement for community activities, ample parking per government regulations, the comfort of air conditioners, and sufficient seating for island events, the new complex will prioritize accommodation for individuals with physical challenges, as the congregation strives for a more inclusive worship environment.