On July 22, 2107, 40 believers from the Wicklow Street Company voted to become the newest Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South New Zealand Conference. It was a high day for the new church, with the President, Pr Mike Sikuri, and the General Secretary, Mr Paul Devine in attendance. Pr Frank Boniface, the church pastor, officiated.
Following the Divine Service, attendees fellowshipped together as they enjoyed an array of appetizing food at one of the Church’s trademark vegan lunches, which have become well known around the Invercargill community.
Wicklow Street place a strong emphasis on the value of living a healthy lifestyle and have had good attendance at their educational cooking schools led by Thomas Joseph, a GP and church elder. The programme includes health lectures, practical demonstrations, and food tasting. Essentially however, it includes church members coming along and mingling with those from the community who God has impressed to come. Thomas believes that, “God has brought together all the resources we have needed and blessed them as we have put them to use – a beautiful church facility, finances to run it, but most importantly, people who are willing to put self aside and work together to reach others.”
Tim Matsis, one of the other leaders of Wicklow Street, believes that the community have not been the only ones to benefit from the health ministry of the Church: “Before we started being involved in the cooking school, some of us had only made limited progress in improving our diet, mostly because we had limited options of what to cook and only a vague idea of why it was so important in the context of the three angels messages. Now we have a great selection of menu items to choose from and more importantly, we have a clearer picture of God’s purpose to reach people through the health message.”
The church has started growing too, but both of the leaders are quick to point out that this is not their first priority. Tim insists that, “the church by definition is a gathering of those who have been called out from the world to live a life of faithfulness to God’s will. For the Seventh-day Adventist Christian, God’s will is revealed in the bible and amplified by the spirit of prophecy. So right from the start, as our little band have prayed and planned and worked, our primary goal has been faithfulness. The bible teaches that nobody can add a cubit to their height no matter how hard they try, but if we sow and water, it is God who brings the increase. Anyone who has been here, will testify that God has certainly been doing his part”.
So what does that actually mean for the members at Wicklow Street? Tim shares that in their experience, “it means faithfulness in preaching Seventh- day Adventist sermons, in supporting God’s Church, in Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle, doctrine, and of course, faithfulness in reaching others with our message. God says that unless the trumpet gives a certain sound, nobody will prepare for battle. As we looked around, we saw that people searching for God could get lukewarmness anywhere, but people needed something certain, something with meaning that would change their life and prepare them for heaven.”
This year Pr. Paul Cavanagh, a retiree and relatively new member at the Wicklow Street church, has been running a Revelation Seminar every Sabbath afternoon, mainly geared towards members. “If the church is going to live and share the truth about the times we live in, it has to at least know what it is!” says Thomas. “Pastor Paul has helped to deepen our study of prophecy and to consider things we perhaps just glossed over before. We are very blessed to have him here.” Tim is less enthusiastic, “sadly, I am no longer my wife’s favourite preacher” he says “I suppose it’s just as well I enjoy Pr Paul’s preaching as much as she does”.
The church is looking to expand its ministry with the recent addition of Carmen Connell as a literature evangelistic in the area and has long cherished the hope of finding a suitable bible worker. Thomas believes the future is bright: “God is leading his church forward in his own time and way, and we are excited about what he will do in the future, not just with our Church, or this Conference, but with the world wide movement of Seventh-day Adventists”.
-Tim Matsis, Wicklow Street Seventh-day Adventist Church, Invercarghill