Stephen Hawking, late Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University was so interested in such matters that he wrote A Brief History of Time. Pursuing his interest, Hawking found Seventh-day Adventism engaged in a fascinating long wait for time to end. He noted how
William Miller, the founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists, predicted that the Second Coming would occur between 21 March 1843 and 21 March 1844. When nothing happened, the date was revised to 22 October 1844. When that passed without incident, a new interpretation was put forward. According to this, 1844 was the start of the Second Coming – but first, the names in the Book of Life had to be counted. Only then would the Day of Judgment come for those not in the book.
Writing long after the end Miller predicted, Hawking added wryly, “the counting seems to be taking a long time.”
Unavoidably, my life is entwined with that long wait. My own fascination with Adventism and its curious sense of time started when, at age twelve I left Adventist primary schooling to enter a state-run secondary school. Such was the sense of urgency transmitted by a church still expecting the end that by age twenty, I was supporting Adventism with one fifth of my monthly income.
Before age twenty, against this background of substantial time and funds being personally committed to my church, I took an extraordinary step. Given a choice of country, institution and course for tertiary education, I chose to leave Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. Selecting a four-year course in Latin American Studies at the University of Toronto, in 1969 I traveled to Canada.
That choice allowed me to combine my wish to prepare to serve the new nation of Trinidad and Tobago with an unusual study program offered by Adventist colleges. It permitted me to spend 1971-1972 in travel suited to my interest in the nuts and bolts of a church driven by its unending sense of urgency about the end of time.
I spent fifteen months traveling by any available means, including military aircraft in the Amazon. The itinerary took me from Toronto to Berrien Springs, Michigan, through the Bermuda islands to Caracas, and as far into South America as San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.
Extensive travel through Argentina and Brazil deepened my interest in the sequel to a phenomenon that caught Hawking’s attention – what is now approaching two centuries of time that fell outside the calculations of William Miller.
Travel and study left me intrigued by differences between Adventism as I saw it close-up in Latin America, and the Adventist mindset I absorbed from birth in colonial British West Indian Adventism. The experience started a lifelong fascination with differences between Adventism in the English-speaking world and Adventism outside that world.
As you may now begin to understand, my life is entwined with the story of a church that has been “expecting” for a phenomenally long time. This site, modelschools.live reflects on the history told by no one, nowhere else of what Adventists found time to do during their long wait for the end of time.
Stephen Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (Bantam Dell, 1993), 128-9.
I am the result of two continents blended into one island people. My last name, Scobie, points to European ancestry from years when most slave masters on my small Caribbean island were Scottish. Visibly however, I am African, descended from the Mossi of Burkina Faso, in West Africa. This union of north and south produced a hybrid. Like Mary Seacole, Bob Marley and most West Indians, I am the product of circumstances veiled in the mystery tombstone of “a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it” - at Plymouth, not in England, or New England but in Tobago.
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