May 7, 2020 | St. Croix, US Virgin Islands | Royston Philbert / NCC Staff / IAD News Staff
The Seventh-day Adventist community on St. Croix was in solidarity with the leaders and members of the Peter’s Rest Adventist Church on May 5, 2020, as they watched their state-of-the-art church building consumed by fire. The building, located at a strategic location in the Peter’s Rest neighborhood, was considered a landmark by many on the island.
Several units from the Virgin Islands (VI) Fire Service responded and worked tirelessly to contain the fire, which spread rapidly through the structure. Footage from inside the gutted building revealed that the fire destroyed the entire upper level of the church including pews, platform furniture, and communication equipment recently acquired to offer virtual ministry. Sections of the massive roof collapsed taking with it the solar technology the church had recently installed.
“I was really broken when I saw the church,” said Pastor Earl Daniel. “But our God is still in charge and He is on our side.”
Pastor Daniel said that no lives were lost in the fire, and authorities are currently investigating the cause.
The building was built in 1985 and housed the main sanctuary, a media room, a mother’s room, a fellowship hall used for children’s Sabbath school classes, a kitchen and an office.
Daniel urged many of the members to continue to have faith in the God of hope. “Ask Him to take care of all of us and we will see Peter’s Rest Church restored to a more magnificent edifice. Keep that in mind and let us do all we can to rise to the occasion and let us work together for a finished work,” he said.
North Caribbean Conference President, Pastor Desmond James, was shaken to see the structure engulfed in flames when he arrived on the scene. “It’s one after the other,” he said referring to other catastrophic events the conference suffered over the past three years. Pastor James reminded the members that the administration of the conference shares in their pain.
“God is a God of hope, and we [should] look forward to bigger and better things,” said James. He said that church leaders from around the Caribbean Union territory had called to express their regrets and that they keep the congregation in prayer.
Senator Javan James, Sr., who is a member of the 33rd Legislature of the VI as well as a member of the church, was on hand to grieve with other members and shook his head in disbelief as he echoed, “This is a community loss.”
Elder Olson Wallace, a long-standing member of the church, tried to remain positive in his pain as he said, “The ministry continues. Adventists believe that the church is not the building. It’s the people and as long as the people are there, the church will continue.”
Another member, Larry Thomas-Lewis, was overwhelmed with emotion as he watched the flames raze the church. “Only last evening we were at the church preparing for this weekend’s service,” he said. The church had been streaming worship services in March before stay-at-home restrictions were tightened. Then the church had to resort to pre-recording messages at the church for the weekly broadcasts. “We lost a lot of equipment in the fire but it’s not the equipment, it’s the impact of the ministry that I am most concerned about,” said Thomas-Lewis.
First Elder Herman Ravariere of Peter’s Rest Adventist Church, said “It’s hard to stand and see your church go up in flames. By God’s grace, we will keep moving on.”
The Peter’s Rest Adventist Church currently has over 400 members. The congregation is among six Adventist congregations on the island.