Sister Clarsina Rivers-Berkel became the fifth female to be ordained to the Office of Elders of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church on St. Eustatius. The impressive ordination took place on Sabbath, April 14, 2018, at the St. Eustatius Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Commenting on the debate within the church over the ordination of female elders, Pastor Royston Philbert, Ministerial Secretary of the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) of Seventh-day Adventists, said: “The Seventh-day Adventist World Church, long ago, recognized the invaluable contribution that women have made in the Church and voted that servant leadership should be without distinction on grounds of gender. The World Church of Seventh-day Adventists voted to allow women to the post of elder in 1975, a move that was ratified in 1984.” Pastor Philbert applauded the outstanding leadership of Elder Veronica Gittens who served the church with dignity and excellence.
In the solemn atmosphere, Pastor Philbert encouraged Elder Rivers-Berkel to feed the flock and render sacrificial service, “You are called and set apart to serve God and His people.” He told the church that, “For one to be ordained as an elder, one must demonstrate in their lives that they have been called by God. One ordained as an elder should be able to demonstrate that they have a practical understanding of truth. When you are a good shepherd, the church will be nurtured and it will grow.”
Elder Rivers-Berkel has served in various departments of the church and for the past four years served on the Executive Committee of the North Caribbean Conference. A licensed nurse by profession, Elder Rivers-Berkel served in various countries and at home, for over 40 years. As a gifted leader she has many talents including singing, helping people and encouraging others when they are facing disappointments and discouragement. She presently serves as the Children’s Ministries Leader of the church.
Elder Berkel believes that selfishness should never be a part of the Christian experience; as such her number one request is for the church to pray for her as she continues to experience the joy of being a SLAVE for Jesus: “I have ascended to this position knowing that I have a humble beginning. As I look at myself leading, I know that unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it.”
Local church members celebrated with her and Pastor Virgil Sams welcomed her to the ministry of the church – he presented the ordination certificate and his wife presented her with the leadership pin from the Ministerial Department. The ordination service was part of a leadership training for elders, deacons, deaconesses and communication leaders which was conducted in the district of St. Eustatius and Saba over the weekend.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church on St. Eustatius has an active membership of 471 members and is one of three Dutch-dependents associated with the North Caribbean Conference. Adventism began in St. Eustatius, “Statia,” in the early 1900’s. It is reported that Pastor Clifton Garfield Van Putten, who was born in St. Eustatius, travelled to the United States of America and became a Seventh-day Adventist. After some studies in Theology, he returned to his native land to make a significant contribution to the birth and growth of the church on the island. In addition, the church has been operating an accredited elementary school, under the auspices of the North Caribbean Conference, since 2001. It provides a quality, Christ-centred education which caters to the social, educational, moral, physical and intellectual needs of students.
The communities of Saba and St. Eustatius are served by one SDA congregation on each island and enjoy the ministry of Pastor Virgil Sams and his family.