Amidst the international dislocation to person and property spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak, the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) Administration hosted a virtual meeting with pastors and Bible Workers on Monday, March 30, 2020. During the video collaboration via Zoom, pastoral workers provided updates and disclosed ministry challenges and opportunities facing the ten (10) islands which comprise the Conference.
The North Caribbean Conference President, Pastor Desmond James encouraged workers to bolster their relationship with God, commended the efficiency of the pastoral staff, and reminded attendees that Zoom collaboration is the way forward for meetings throughout the NCC. Pastor James said, “I want to thank you for your unwavering commitment to ministry in this crisis time. I wish to highly applaud you, our frontline workers, our pastoral staff, our church leadership, and our principals and staff for your outstanding leadership. You acted swiftly and decisively, and turned this tragedy into triumph so that the churches and our educational institutions remain robust and relevant in delivering our mission in this time of crisis. We are a resilient people. Our history demonstrates that we have met formidable challenges before and, under God with our combined, dedicated spirit and committed service, we were more than conquerors.”
As the Seventh-day Adventist Church sought to respond to the challenge of ministering through personal encounters during the spread of the Corona virus, worldwide, the Caribbean Union along with its conferences and missions, including the North Caribbean Conference, urged staff to respect the social distancing virus containment strategy and seek creative methods to minister from home. Each island of the NCC is under one of three jurisdictions – American, British or Dutch – and each government’s virus mitigation efforts have been vastly different. While some islands were placed under curfew, others faced less rigid social isolation measures. Pastor Desmond James’ advice to pastors and church leaders was straightforward, “During this time, be thick with your Master. The gospel cannot be quarantined. Change your agenda. Ministry must now be needs-based. God has chosen you for this time of church leadership. You need not be daunted because we will eventually win, with God. Be more creative as you lead in the environment that we have now. This crisis is an opportunity for us to find other ways to fulfill the mission, to share peace in the fearful and anxious times many are living in and inspire our church members.”
The North Caribbean Conference has been assessing the situation prayerfully and practically. The Conference established a local COVID-19 Task Force in each of the 43 congregations and they inform the Conference’s COVID-19 Task Force which has developed a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the current and anticipated impact of COVID-19.
In response to governmental regulations to restrict gatherings, all church services were suspended and many leaders and pastors moved quickly to make adjustments. Offices and homes were converted into production studios to stream all worship services and other programs. The NCC Communication Director, Pastor Royston Philbert, commented, “Church communication leaders and pastors have gone to amazing lengths to produce content for the church members. Church Communication leaders utilized volunteer staff to set up equipment in order to broadcast and manage Sabbath services. I am proud of the Church in the NCC. We are seeing the investments and training, over the years, now being realized. Several churches streamed their services and some had to resort to holding worship services from pastors’ homes. But, for the most part, the Conference’s live-stream, coordinated by the Ministerial Association of St. Croix, has been available to anyone online. Churches are expanding their streamed services so that members can view prayer meetings, vespers, Sabbath worship services and prayer groups.”
Each island began hosting an online Sabbath service, mainly led by the Ministerial Association which facilitates programs for congregations. During the week, pastors cater to the spiritual needs of their members through streamed programs, cell phone ministries and the Zoom platform. The innovations are amazing! On Tortola, Pastor Jerome Bevans broadcasts an end-time series from his home with his wife as the co-host and his children as technicians. On Anguilla, Pastor Howard Simon records sermons and distributes them via WhatsApp to members. Again on Tortola, Pastor Ray Edwards disseminates spiritual nuggets from his home office, virtually. Many pastors use the Zoom platform to coordinate Sabbath School lesson discussions. Church Communication leaders have been assisting pastors to deliver content for these times.
As leaders, we have the responsibility to facilitate worship for members and the obligation to find ways to continue sharing the message of salvation. Currently, some ministry engagement routes are social media networks, cellular devices and radio. If we do not use these methods, the message will be locked in our homes. I believe God wants to teach us that the Church must be prepared, at every moment, for change. In the midst of uncertainty and fear, we should not simply cross our arms but research and seek to implement virtual ministry methods. Diligence, creativity and innovation should be the hallmarks of the message of salvation.
For a full listing of services provided by the church in the NCC see here: