On 17 December 2023, the Executive Committee made the difficult decision to close the PEACE Centre of Evangelism. This decision, reached after extensive discussions and evaluations of the Centre's ongoing needs and viability, marks a significant transition for the Conference.
Inaugurated in 2010 in Birmingham, the PEACE Centre of Evangelism was established under the leadership of Pastor Adam Ramdin, with Sister Beulah Plunkett as Associate Director and Elder Craig Gooden serving as the Outreach Coordinator. Beginning with a cohort of 20 students from across the North England Conference (NEC), the British Union Conference (BUC), and various parts of Europe, the Centre has profoundly impacted those seeking a deeper relationship with Christ and the skills to share the Gospel effectively.
Elder Craig Gooden, now the Director of PEACE, reflects on the Centre's journey: "From the outset, PEACE has been instrumental in nurturing a closer relationship with Christ among its attendees. Our alumni, from various parts of the north of England, have formed a supportive network, continuously upholding the Gospel."
Despite PEACE's significant positive impact over the years, it has encountered challenges in student recruitment, reflecting wider shifts in the educational landscape. This difficulty, predating the COVID-19 pandemic, was exacerbated by the complexities introduced by Brexit, particularly the visa requirements for the full 4-month course, affecting the program's international reach. These obstacles, though substantial, do not detract from the mission and objectives of PEACE. We recognise that while the mission of the church remains constant, the methods to fulfil it can change. The NEC remains committed to this mission, actively working with the Personal Ministries and Youth departments to adapt and innovate. Whilst PEACE was a beloved program, it has found its natural conclusion.
In 2023, the NEC launched the Lay Evangelism Training initiative, a ground-breaking programme that saw over 80 individuals participate in multiple weekend trainings. These sessions were designed to equip attendees with the necessary skills for sharing their faith and supporting the growth of their local churches. The curriculum, while echoing many of the modules from PEACE, has been adapted to meet the evolving needs and challenges of our local communities.
Furthermore, our mission-focused endeavours were significantly bolstered by the introduction of 8 Global Mission Pioneers in 2023. This initiative, set to expand in 2024, aims to extend the reach of the Adventist church into previously unreached territories. The Pioneers are dedicated to a mission-centric approach, contributing to the growth and influence of our church in new and impactful ways.
To empower grassroots evangelism, the NEC has established a £150K fund dedicated to supporting local church evangelism initiatives, by providing financial support, we are opening new avenues for our churches to undertake evangelism projects that may have been previously beyond their reach. The synergy of these initiatives, including the lay evangelists and global mission pioneers, is aimed at equipping our local churches to preach the Gospel with renewed vigour and effectiveness.
Lastly, Newbold College of Higher Education has introduced the Year in Mission and Service programme, offering individuals a unique blend of theoretical learning and practical mission work. Designed for individuals passionate about making a global impact with the gospel, this innovative programme spans one or two semesters, equivalent to 3 or 6 months, respectively. In collaboration with ADRA Europe and Adventist Volunteer Service, it provides hands-on experience in serving communities and fulfilling the Great Commission. For those interested in attending a short, mission-focused course, they are encouraged to speak with Newbold College about the programme.
The success of PEACE over the past 13 years can be credited to a dedicated team comprising staff, cooks, volunteers, donors, and the churches that have been fundamental to its operations. We express our deep gratitude for their unwavering service and commend their hard work. As we look to the future, we stand united in our focus on the Great Commission bestowed upon us by Jesus. Together, in Christ, we are steadfast in our dedication to nurture and disseminate His message of love, hope, and salvation throughout our Conference.