This year’s tour got started with a bit of a bang early Sunday morning, August 2. Just as the bus pulled out of the Howard Performing Arts Center parking lot where students had boarded, one of the students fell ill and had to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital. His seat was filled by another student who had come just in case a spot opened up. Later it was reported that the hospitalized student was doing okay, but was being kept for observation and testing.
After this bit of excitement, the bus full of students re-began the journey to tour Adventist History sites in New York and New England from August 2-9, 2015. This is an annual event for students of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Many find it a way to connect with the roots of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Arnell McCoy reflected on his experience and said, “The sights combined with the lectures really gave me a new appreciation for what the pioneers sacrificed in order to follow the call that God put on their lives.”
On Monday morning, in Rochester, New York, the starter on the Andrews University bus broke down, however, the study tour was not delayed. The students were shuttled by hotel transportation to the Mount Hope Cemetery to see the graves of Mary Andrews, Angeline Andrews, Carrie Andrews, Nathaniel White and Anna White, and Frederick Douglass. A city-type bus was chartered from the University of Rochester to pick up the students and Dr. Burt , take them around the city to see historic sites, and then back to the hotel. While the group ate lunch in the parking lot, the AU bus was repaired, and by early afternoon, was back on the road to the next stop in Massachusetts with only a slight delay to the schedule.
On the following day the study tour went to Old Sturbridge Village and sites related to Joseph Bates. Old Sturbridge Village puts people into the mindset of life in the 1830s. That was a few years earlier than the events we focus on during the tour, but a good place to start to get a feel for how daily life was lived for our Adventist pioneers.
Joseph Bates, one of the co-founders of the Seventh-day Adventist church, grew up in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. His childhood home was near enough to the Atlantic to see the ocean-going vessels in the harbor and it is easy to understand how Bates developed a longing to go to sea. Bates spent 20-plus years at sea and retired as captain of his own ship with a comfortable fortune. The tour went to the home that he built upon his retirement which was later sold to fund the spread of the Millerite Advent message. Along the rocky water’s edge, where the old Fairhaven Bridge once stood, participants heard the story of how the Sabbath being the seventh day of the week came to the Millerites and to Joseph Bates. Bates then wrote three tracts on the Sabbath, one of which James and Ellen White read and were convinced to start keeping the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath.
The next day the tour went to Maine; the house was pointed out where James and Ellen White were living when they accepted the Sabbath. This was in Gorham, Maine, while the Whites were living with Ellen’s parents in 1847. Gorham, Maine, is also where Ellen was born. She spent many of her growing up years in Portland, Maine. The tour visited many sites in Portland, but because of a fire in the 1860s and construction of newer buildings, many of the sites are uninspiring. For example, the spot where Ellen Harmon was baptized is now a parking lot because the city reclaimed land from the bay.
The day following the Maine sites was spent in New Hampshire. First was a visit to the Washington, New Hampshire, Seventh-day Adventist church, which features the Sabbath Trail on its property. After a morning of stories and songs, followed by lunch, a walk along the Sabbath Trail, and taking pictures of the graves of the individuals featured in the stories earlier in the day, the tour went to the childhood home of Uriah Smith and his sister Annie Smith. Annie’s grave is in a cemetery nearby, near her family members.
That evening, the group ate at the Country Life Restaurant in Keene, New Hampshire. This is an independent, Adventist owned, vegan restaurant. Many on the tour considered it to be the best meal of the trip. It was a learning experience for many who were not familiar with the health ministry of these restaurants. It served as an anchor for the lectures about the health message given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Friday was spent at the William Miller Farm and chapel. Elder Nix presented the story of William Miller in the chapel. With passion and exhortation he described Miller’s conversion. He held up a cannon ball as a visual aid in describing the war of 1812 and the battle in which Miller took part. Later Elder Nix presided over the tour through Miller’s home.
Sabbath morning the group was at the Roosevelt Seventh-day Adventist Church for the worship service and then Sabbath School. Dr. Burt spoke for the worship service and the church was blessed to have the group. A very delicious lunch of Thai curry was served and a mediterranean feast was prepared for a to-go supper. A visit to the Roosavelt Cemetery and then to the Hiram Edson barn was in the schedule before heading back to Rochester, NY for the night.
Sunday’s journey back to the University was uneventful; all were thankful for safe travels and the good weather experienced over the whole week.