What is recognized as the largest Seventh-day Adventist house of worship in South America was dedicated and officially opened on the campus of the São Paulo Adventist University, (UNASP) near the city of Campinas, Brazil.
“In this part of the world we do not build large churches,” commented Williams Costa Jr., communication director for the church in the region. “We are more inclined to have smaller congregations, and have more congregations at the same time. But this one is different. This is a university setting.”
On what was a high day for the local congregation, the official opening of the new church brought thousands of believers. Even before the dedication ceremonies began, there was standing room only. With a video link to another campus hall, there were 4,500 congregants joining in the convocation. The university church at what is known as Campus Engenheiro Coelho will house the 2,200-member congregation.
The ceremonies had a special touch as Pastor Jan Paulsen, Adventist world church president, participated in the event. He congratulated the congregation on their new sanctuary, saying it is “one of the most beautiful churches I have seen anywhere.” In a dedication sermon he challenged the believers to be involved with the community. Like Peter and the disciples, Jesus is challenging “us to get down the mountain and mix with ordinary people. Don’t go and hide away. Be social. Mix with people,” he said. Paulsen pointed out that the Christian’s journey is empowered by the Holy Spirit who “helps you to identify with Jesus Christ.
“Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus,” he encouraged the congregation.
Paulsen, on his sixth visit to Brazil, recognized the vibrant Adventist witness in South America and in Brazil, in particular. His visit was connected with two live television Let’s Talk conversations with youth of the church in South America. Several students from UNASP joined Paulsen in Jacarei on Sunday, April 23, for the live satellite broadcast of Let’s Talk .
The 2,500-seat UNASP church will be used by the local congregation and for university functions. There are more than 3,000 students taking courses at Campus Engenheiro Coelho, and according to the president of the three-campus university, Dr. Euler P. Bahia, about 50 percent of students are not Seventh-day Adventists. However, he said, “Many of them join us for our worship services and spiritual life of the campus,” he said.
There are more than 2.6 million Adventists in South America worshiping in nearly 19,000 congregations. According to church records about 659 persons there join the church each day. In Brazil alone, there are 1.6 million church members in 12,000 congregations.