12 October 2022 | Dunfermline, Scotland [Vanesa Pizzuto with David Neal]
As Scottish Mission members started trickling in at 9:00 am, and seats were taken one by one at the Vine Conference Centre, the hall became warm and filled with joy and songs of worship. Located in Dunfermline, an ancient capital of Scotland, and recently conferred ‘city status’ by King Charles lll, for the record 500 members in attendance, this was to be a Sabbath of worship, fellowship, and mission focus.
The reason for the gathering was “Operation Enduring Faith,” a special Day of Fellowship and the first big meeting of Scottish churches since the COVID-19 pandemic. “It took the pastoral team over nine months of planning,” commented pastor James Botha, president of the Scottish Mission. But the efforts paid off as “80% of the Scottish mission members chose to be here in person, rather than stay at home and watch a sermon online. Choosing analogue over digital forges a different kind of bond.”
Operation Enduring Faith
Pastor Rolf J. Pöhler, Professor of Systematic Theology at Friedensau Adventist University, was the keynote speaker for this special 8 October Sabbath fellowship. His insightful message, titled Operation Enduring Faith, challenged those present to develop a resilient faith to better serve the world. “The real question is, am I a blessing to others? Is my resilience a gift of God that I want to share?” Pöhler asked, reflecting on the risks of consumer, self-serving Christianity. He also highlighted the difference between ‘endurance’ and ‘doggedness’, and the importance of showing both spiritual discernment and intellectual flexibility. “Like a skyscraper, firm at the foundation but moving at the top, we need to be people who are steadfast in our faith, but also flexible… to adjust to certain situations. This is what characterises a Christian,” Pöhler concluded.
“Resilience means not only that we are able to withstand the onslaughts today, but also that we are adapting for the future,” commented pastor Botha. “I want people to know that the church of God in Scotland is resilient. Not only as individuals, but also together as a church we are resilient and can go very far and do big things,” said Botha.
A Global Church
The afternoon programme was dedicated to furthering connections between the Scottish Mission and the global church. A variety of guest speakers were given the opportunity to present different mission projects and outreach programmes for Scottish Mission members to connect, support, and get involved.
Catherine Boldeau, Development Education Officer for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the UK, reported on the Africa-Scotland Action Project (ASAP), an environmental stewardship initiative that is mobilising faith-based organisations around the world to combat climate change. “ADRA UK, ADRA AFRO, and the Scottish Mission are collaborating on a year-long initiative to tackle the effects of climate change,” said Boldeau. Thanks to ASAP, 3,000 trees have been planted across Zambia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia, and other initiatives such as gully reclamation and clean up campaigns are taking place. “The Scottish Mission held tree-planting and litter picking events, including the 18th of September cleaning campaign, during World Pathfinder Day,” Boldeau reported.
Beverley Anderson and Adina Lupu, Scottish Mission Prayer Ministry sponsors, invited the congregation to pray for revival in Scotland. Taking inspiration from the renowned Scottish reformer John Knox, who famously said, “Give Me Scotland or I die,” they challenged church members to “move forward on our knees, asking for God’s will to be accomplished, and for His Spirit to be poured out!”
Pastor Christian Salcianu, Principal of the Adventist Discovery Centre (ADC), Bert Smit, CEO ADRA UK, and Adi Slobozeanu and Benjamin Bakina, from The Word on the Street, a social media initiative aimed at helping young people talk more about mental health, also introduced initiatives providing ample opportunities for members to engage and grow in their faith.
Hungry for God
To many, the highlight of the event was sharing with one another and being in the presence of God. “It was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that the Scottish Mission churches have come together,” said pastor Botha. “Our membership currently stands at 730, and we see more than 500 gathered here today. This is a testimony to a hungry church: hungry for God, hungry to be together, hungry for the Gospel. What I saw today with my own eyes in this place today is a miracle,” he concluded.
“The one thing that stood out for me was the awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the oneness of all who gathered,” said pastor Jacques Venter, Associate Executive Secretary of the British Union Conference. “The message of resilience was a powerful reflection of our focus to spread the good news of Jesus Christ across Scotland.”
With the population of Scotland at around 5.5 million people, the mission field for Scottish Mission members is expansive, even daunting. John Knox’s legacy in Scotland is almost lost and forgotten to most citizens. But there are a committed few who will still rally to the spirit of his cry, “Give Me Scotland or I die.” This is not a political calling, but a prayer to the Lord to reveal His presence to Scots people. It is in this spirit that the faith of the 730 Scottish Mission members endures and even grows!