Where It All Began

by Doris Burdick


“Out in the middle of nowhere”—amid the forests and fields of New Hampshire—stands a little white clapboard church.

               And yet something happened on that spot which lies at the heart of why more than sixty thousand Seventh-day Adventists from all over the world congregated in Toronto. There in 1844 a visitor named Rachel Oakes shared with Advent believers the beautiful truth of the seventh-day Sabbath. Bible study intensified and in January 1862, 15 members formed the very first Seventh-day Adventist Church on the globe.

               Exhibit visitors in Toronto found the church building displayed in miniature—on a 1:5 scale. There they learned that the Washington, NH, church not only lives on as a congregation but shines like a floodlight on the Sabbath.

               A quiet one-mile “Sabbath Trail” adjacent to the church now winds through the New England forest of maples, balsams, and beeches. Wording on 40 engraved granite markers traces the history of the Sabbath from creation of the earth to its ultimate re-creation. Benches along the trail invite rest and reflection interrupted only by the chatter of red squirrels and chick-a-dee-dee-dee calls. Over 500 volunteers—academy students, Pathfinders, and others—played a part in developing the trail over a three-year span. The Atlantic Union Gleaner featured the Sabbath Trail as cover story in its November 1998 issue and subscribers to the Adventist Review saw the Sabbath Trail as cover story for the December 24, 1998, issue, following its September 12 dedication that year.

               Visitors come in person to see the birthplace of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.“I’ve visited several times, and it is a real testimony relating to one of our fundamental beliefs,” says William Fagal of the White Estate. “It serves as a tangible reminder of ‘how God has led and His teaching in our past history.’” Through the power of the Internet, visitors also arrive via the World Wide Web. A growing number are taking a virtual walk on the Sabbath Trail at www.tagnet.org/washington.

               Standing beside the replica in Toronto, David Gay commented, “I found this on the Web and it looks like a fascinating place to visit in person.”  Retired now in Idaho, he has served the church in Rwanda, South Africa, the Philippines, and Pakistan, “but this is a place we have never been–yet,” he says.

               “This is God’s trail,” states Merlin Knowles, the driving force behind construction of the trail. He was pastor of the Washington, NH, church in the Northern New England Conference at the time. His stories of multiplied providences could fill this magazine. “It’s exciting to see how the Lord is using the trail to help restore the joy of the Sabbath,” he says.


Doris Stickle Burdick served for the past 13 years as director of public relations at Southern Adventist University. As of September she has accepted to serve at Christian Record Services as director of Direct Mail.


Photos should be available in the package of photos.