by AT News Team
Correction added at the end of the story on July 2
An estimated 15,000 people crowded into the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in a Long Island suburb on Sabbath (June 29) to celebrate the NY13 evangelism campaign in New York City. The Adventist Review reported in an online bulletin Saturday night that "at least 148 were baptized" at the event and "nearly 2,000" had been baptized earlier in the year "as the New York City area hosted more than 400 evangelistic outreach events held by Adventist congregations." It is unknown how many of these baptisms were people who were already church members being rebaptized.
One of the events leading up to this occasion was the evangelism series led by Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (GC), in the Greenwich Village neighborhood on Manhattan. When the series began on June 7, "668 guests came," according to a report in the ASI News published earlier last week. ASI News is the newsletter of Adventist-Laymen's Services and Industries, the officially-recognized association of small business people and "supporting" independent ministries associated with the denomination. The source of this figure was not identified, nor is it clear if this is the attendance on the opening night or a cumulative attendance. A different source told Adventist Today that about two thirds of those in attendance were church members.
"Nearly 160 other evangelistic meetings too place concurrently in the Greater New York area," the newsletter reported. "To date 1,100 people have been baptized in the Greater New York Conference and 52 people were baptized on Sabbath, June 8, in the North Bronx Church as a result of meetings by Breath of Life." The North Bronx Church is affiliated with the Northeastern Conference and Breath of Life is an Adventist television ministry, both with an historic focus on reaching African Americans.
The ASI News had predicted that "approximately 1,000 people will be baptized" at yesterday's coliseum event. It also reported that "ASI involvement began [in] January, when ASI member Denzil McNeilus presented a one-day … training program to nearly 300" people at the Fort Washington Spanish Church. The participants were taught how to use DVDs developed by ASI. It emphasized that the campaign in New York City is "comprehensive outreach … including prayer, community service, health education, women's and youth ministry."
At the event yesterday, the mayor of the nearby suburban town of Hempstead, Wayne J. Hall, welcomed the crowd and Una S. T. Clarke, a former member of the New York City Council and mother of U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) was among the VIP guests. Bill DeBlasio, the New York City public advocate, praised the contribution that Adventists make to the city.
Wilson told the Adventist Review that he had “an amazing experience in Greenwich Village. The audience stayed with us the whole time.” He also emphasized that the day’s event was not the end of Adventist outreach in the region. He said, “We came to New York to highlight ‘Mission to the Cities.’ This is not a culmination today in New York City: the work is continuing.”
A statement from the GC Ministerial Association also underlined the wholistic and ongoing nature of the denomination's strategic focus on metropolitan areas. "Our mission to the cities is a marathon of compassion that must have an on-going and sustained presence in the cities, and must continue beyond 2013." Some 300 denominational employees from all 13 of the GC divisions have been participating in a Field School of Evangelism in New York City during June. Similar campaigns are underway in Sydney, Australia, and London, the UK.
There are two Adventist churches in New York City named North Bronx and the one where the Breath of Life ministry conducted an evangelism campaign is affiliated with the Greater New York Conference, Pastor Lloyd Scharffenberg told Adventist Today. He also stated that the 668 attendance figure reported above "was for one night. On several nights the church was filled with additional people in the fellowship hall watching via [closed circuit television]." Adventist Today has been told by other sources that the Manhattan Church seats about 800.