Workers’ Meeting: Together in Ministry and Mission
Posted: September 30th, 2022
After two years of meeting online, Ontario Conference workers joyfully reunited for an in-person workers’ meeting in Hamilton from September 18-20. Pastors, Bible workers, teachers, directors, support staff and their families came from near and far (as far as Sioux lookout!) for a few days of worship, fellowship, learning and fun.
Robert Greaves (pastor, Ottawa, Hope Central) expressed a consensus – “This workers’ meeting was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
“Great series of meetings,” agreed Andrew King (pastor, Downsview).
Sunday’s banquet was a chance to reunite with colleagues and friends in a festive setting. Among the evening’s standouts were videos representing different cultures. For instance, attendees learned that the Ashanti (Ghanaian tribe) name for Saturday is “I am who I am” day, indicating their belief in the God of the Sabbath before colonization. Other highlights were introducing new workers, celebrating weddings, babies and retirements, and beautiful musical renditions by a Korean pastors’ singing group and Harold Novac (pastor, Cambridge and Toronto Hungarian) on the mandolin.
On Monday and Tuesday, workers gleaned wisdom from speakers Washington Johnson, director of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, North American Division, Paula (Fils-Aimé) Olivier, youth director at the Northeastern Conference and Toakase Vunileva, a pastor and educator with 16+ years of administrative experience. The speakers touched on wholistic wellness, uncovering and employing our unique gifts, reaching the younger generation and relying on God in tough times. Rounding out the insightful presentations were administrative reports and HR updates.
“By the grace of God, I fully believe that the presentations achieved the objectives prayerfully discussed and set for workers' meeting. The Spirit of the Lord spoke through the presenters, and their presentations were powerful and impactful even with online attendees,” concluded Gerry Pasikatan (director, Stewardship Ministries).
An informal survey of the workers revealed what they found special about this year’s workers’ meeting, including:
Presentations focused on youth and young adults. Toakase Vunileva shared invaluable tips on reaching young people and others with her presentation on discipleship in the home, church and school.
“I felt like Pastor Kase's presentation allowed us to dream again. It’s so inspiring and encouraging to hear testimonies about miracles, answered prayer and doing new things with God. I will try to take more calculated risks and look for ways to say ‘yes’ instead of immediately deferring to ‘no,’” said Elizabeth Pule (director, Family Life Ministries).
Paula Olivier’s presentation on intergenerational discipleship also touched several workers. Citing her presentation, Ida Smith (pastor, Willowdale) said, “We have to prepare our young people to carry on the mission of the church, and to do that, we need to walk alongside them by giving them a safe space, a grace space and a growth space.”
An emphasis on worker health. This workers’ meeting focused on wholistic health, including mental health. Pastor Charles Skeete noted as his takeaway: “Thirty-five percent of pastors qualify for a PTSD diagnosis. We need to be willing to ask for help and to be vulnerable to share our fears, concerns and delights” (North London Adventist Church, Living Truth Adventist Company). All speakers touched on mental health topics and destigmatized the need for professional support.
Engaging programming for children. As always, workers’ children weren’t left out. “The Children's program was a blessing. The presentations done by Pastors Elizabeth Pule, Edwin Martin, John Echavez, Dr. McClean, "Six in the House,” and the Chamelea Science Centre were well-received by the children. In addition, the staff of the Convention Centre showed extra kindness in bringing additional snacks for the children when the requested amount ran out,” said Allan Chichester (director, Children’s Ministries and Sabbath School).
Pastors and teachers together in ministry and mission. Traditionally, teachers join pastors for the banquet and day one of workers’ meeting before separating for their own meetings. This time, there was an emphasis on keeping pastors and teachers together throughout, up front and as participants. “The integration of pastors and teachers into all aspects of the program was a refreshing experience,” stated Reynold Hazelwood (director, Personal and Prison Ministries)
Time set aside for fellowship and relaxation. Tuesday afternoon, workers had three hours to engage in various activities before the closing ceremonies, including a visit to Paradise Fields, an Adventist-owned organic farm, Royal Botanical Gardens or Dundurn Castle or a mixed team (pastor/teacher) soccer game. The game, which ended in a tie, was a hit with participants, fostering good humour and camaraderie. Amidst jokes about needing Bengay as they recovered, workers expressed appreciation for one another’s soccer skills. Malik Smith (pastor, Brampton) was one of many electing Selburn Fray (pastor, Holland Landing, Shelburne) as the game’s MVP: “Very good goal-keeping. Brilliant! A real pro!”
The closing ceremony. Workers’ meeting closed at Really Living Seventh-day Adventist Church—an intentional move by the organizers to highlight the Ontario Conference’s first centre of influence. Several workers were inspired to see the possibilities of a combined community and worship centre for themselves. One teacher noted “seeing and experiencing Really Living Church” as a special moment.
Beyond the music led by teacher and gospel artist Dale Brown, workers left inspired by a closing charge by Mansfield Edwards (president). Speaking on our need for courage and a God-sized vision, he left the following takeaways:
- God sees the best in us (that others don’t see).
- A little in God’s hand is a lot.
- God said, I’ve not only sent you, but surely I will be with you.
At the end of the ceremony, as he gave acknowledgments, Executive Secretary Jakov Bibulovic concluded: “I felt that we are all one, for the first time, teachers and pastors together. I felt the spirit in the room. I saw us sharing and praying together. [We learned that] we’re never alone. We have Christ, and we have each other.”