The Progress of the Encyclopedia Project in the Inter-European and Euro-Asia Divisions
The spring of 2018, at least in Germany, seems to be unusual. For me, a Nigerian, seeing snow on the first day of spring was unusual. It is not only unusual; it brings a flood of memories for me when I think of my ongoing job in connection to the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. It was in spring, precisely April 14, 2015, that the the General Conference Executive Committee at the Spring Meeting approved a budget for the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA), a five-year global church initiative directed by and based at the GC Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.[i]
The idea behind a new encyclopedia was to roll-out a brand new resource that would replace the 1996 Seventh-day Adventist Encylopedia (SDAE). Until till now, the 1996 SDAE has been the only available official SDA Encylcopedia. In fact it is a revised edition of the first volume published in 1966. Simply put this resource is outdated.
Comparing the exponential growth of the church, there is need of a new resource that would reflect the recent trends of growth, shifts in global membership, and the possibilities of the digital age. Talking of a digital age, the “ESDA will…be available as an online edition that is regularly updated, corrected and amplified. It will include web-only content, such as video and audio, and additional articles will be added as the denomination grows.”[ii]
With this conviction, an editor and a managing editor were given the wheel. Then word was sent out. Regional offices were set up in almost all divisions. In those regional offices, consulting editors and regional/assistant editors were appointed. This was how Friedensau Adventist University came to be seen as one of the regional offices of the GC’s Encyclopedia Project. Dr. Stefan Hoschele and Dr. Daniel Heinz accepted to serve as the regional editors of the Inter-European Division and Euro-Asia Division sections respectively.
The work is enormous. Hence the regional office at Friedensau decided to get a research assistant. This was where I came into the project. I first started working as a volunteer research assistant. That was not even the focus for me. I did not care about being a volunteer. I cared about the massive project that had the following goals:
Supply reliable and authoritative information on Adventist history, crucial events and themes, organizations, entities, institutions, and people
Strengthen Adventist identity in a fast-growing worldwide movement, heightening awareness of distinctive doctrinal and prophetic beliefs
Provide a reference work for those new to our faith, mature in the faith, and not of our faith, to learn about all aspects Adventism
Bring out the role of the denominational organization in fulfilling the church’s mission
Highlight the missional challenges still remaining in order to “reach the world”
Reflect the nature of the world church today, both in subject matter and in those who write and edit the encyclopedia.
For me, being part of a project that had distinct goals, has being awesome. That I would in some way contribute in helping my church to realize this project made me dream about the next day of work. And come to think of it, I am not just researching for one division, but two!
So we started compiling a list of names, administrative units, institutions, issues etc. in accordance to the instructions of the GC editors. We envisioned these would serve as biographies, history of institutions, places, ideas, administrative units and even theological cum social issues.
By the time we were done with the lists, we had about 500 entries. Then we began the uphill task of finding authors. Who will write these entries? It was at this moment that I realized the magnitude of what I had gotten myself into. But I was not ready to bulge because I was not alone. In fact just as the African proverb says: if you want to walk fast walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.
Together with the two regional editors at Friedensau, I went full plunge into the river of encyclopedia production, albeit part time. Then the first EDCOM meeting in January 2016 was held at the GC. There I got to meet other reliable scholars and some retired administrators involved with the project. There I got to see the whole picture. It was not just about the EUD and ESD, but about the other 11 Divisions—the world. This meant about 10,000 entries/articles for the said project.[i] There, the privilege of being the youngest member of the team sent viral adrenaline into my head. I came back from the first EDCOM meeting stoked, energized, empowered and feeling “well, this wall will come down someday!”
As months came rushing by, the Friedensau Regional Office also made progress and began expanding. We started commissioning authors, got a website.[ii] Then we discovered that Dr. Heinz had gathered a lot of information in the past on several entries. A German student assistant was hired and later replaced by a Ghanaian. To add to this workforce, a Graduate volunteer research assistant with a good academic background and knowledge of Adventist history (graduating from Friedensau) will come on board this April.
Articles have started coming in. Some finished. Others in review! At the moment, although a larger part of the entries are in the process of writing/research (ca.200), the EUD and ESD section has about 40 articles under review with about 10 completed articles. To finish some of the articles, the Institute of Adventist Studies has dedicated its Third International Biannual Symposium (April 23-26, 2018) to some “Issues” entries specifically related to Adventist history in Europe. The papers to be presented will be in three main areas: (1) European Adventists and the Public, (2) European Adventists and “the Others,” (3) European Adventists and the Adventist Tradition. The conference language is English. In addition, an Encyclopedia’s Writer’s workshop will be held on the day the symposium begins.
It is two years since the first ESDA EDCOM meeting. Two were held in 2017 and another in February 2018. These years have been unusual. Just like the spring of this year, I still cannot believe I am part of the ESDA team. I still cannot believe the success we have recorded so far. Because I doubt all these, I have rested on the fact that this project has been taken care of by God through the agents pushing it towards completion. Yes, we still need authors, volunteers, assistants to do a better job. The funding may not permit all these. But if you are reading this, you can share it. Spread the word like wildfire. If you are interested in this project and wish to help in some way, contact us. Most importantly, pray for us that God will keep this task going to completion for his own glory.
[i] See “Over 10,000 Entries Planned for New SDA Encyclopedia,” Interview with Benjamin Baker by Alita Byrd, https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2016/02/01/over-10000-entries-planned-new-sda-encyclopedia, Spectrum, February 1, 2016, accessed March 19, 2018; Andrew McChesney,” New Adventist Encyclopedia Gets Off the Ground,” http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story3617-new-adventist-encyclopedia-gets-off-the-ground, Adventist Review, January 15, 2016, accessed March 30, 2018.
[i]See Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, “The Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists Approved!” https://www.adventistarchives.org/the-encyclopedia-of-seventh-day-adventism-approved!, accessed, March 18, 2018.