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Seventh Day Adventist Church grows, moves to new location

Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church founding members, from left, Robbie and James Leeland, stand in front of their church's new location, in the former Springfield Baptist Church building at 3001 Old Salem Road.

Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church founding members, from left, Robbie and James Leeland, stand in front of their church's new location, in the former Springfield Baptist Church building at 3001 Old Salem Road.

Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church will celebrate moving into its new home by inviting the community to attend a concert Feb. 9, featuring world-renowned singer Charles Haugabrooks and the 35-member group I Cantori from Tennessee.

"We just want to share the joy of our new church and everyone in the community is invited to come," Pastor John Stwwrickland said.

Strickland, who has pastored the church for eight years and whose congregation calls him "Pastor John," said the church is excited to have such talented performers come to Conyers for its celebration.

"Charles Haugabrooks has performed on television, in Russia and religious concerts," the pastor said. "He just happened to be open that particular day. He is just a powerful singer. I Cantori is a touring group from Southern Adventist University close to Chattanooga which has toured all over the country. They are young college-age people."

Both Haugabrooks and I Cantori will sing for the 10:45 a.m. worship service and for the special 3 p.m. service. There is no admission charge.

Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church began about 15 years ago at 1437 Ga. Highway 138, in Conyers and moved last month into the former Springfield Baptist Church building at 3001 Old Salem Road. Strickland said the church has grown from around 100 people to a present congregation numbering 600 to 700 people.

The upcoming concert marks a milestone in the church's history and even more activities are planned for the future as the church embarks upon new endeavors.

Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church is making plans to open a pre-K daycare sometime this year, Strickland said, adding that "hopefully by this summer or sooner."

By the start of the next school year, the church has set a goal to open a new Christian school for students in first through 12th grade.

As a graduate of Forest Lake Academy, a Seventh Day Adventist Christian school in Orlando, Fla., Strickland supports the value of Christian education.

A native of Florida, Strickland went to Southern Adventist University in Tennessee and entered the ministry. For more than a decade, he worked in administration for Kettering Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, serving as vice president of the retirement division.

Following his own retirement, he and his wife of 20 years, Christina, who grew up in Decatur, retired to the farm they bought years ago in Monticello. They attended Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church and eight years ago, Srickland became pastor of the church. The Stricklands have two children and two grandchildren.

Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church offers a number of services for people of all ages, including counseling, a food pantry, music programs for youth and adults, community services, mentoring, sports programs, Bible studies, a prison ministry, and health programs promoting a healthy lifestyle.

"One of the strong components of our church is our health ministry," Strickland said. "We have hospitals all over the world. As a matter of fact, one of our largest is Loma Linda University Hospital in California. It's a national research hospital."

Strickland said National Geographic once did a research project on why Seventh Day Adventists live longer than other people.

"It was really interesting," he said. "The study boiled down to the healthy lifestyle (we encourage). Our bodies are God's creation and I think we can stay healthy and happy and have a good frame of mind when you have faith in God and you're living by faith to please our God. He blesses us with so many wonderful things -- one of which we take for granted is good health."

Conyers Seventh Day Adventist Church has Bible study each Saturday morning at 9:15, followed by worship at 10:45. On Feb. 9, the church will follow the morning worship service with a fellowship meal and then gather for the afternoon concert at 3.

"We believe as other Christians that Jesus Christ is our savior and we're saved by his grace," Strickland said of the denomination. "I think the major difference is that we worship on Saturday instead of Sunday."

Regarding the local church, the pastor said it has two special goals it works to achieve.

"Number one, when the people come into our church, we want them to feel they are loved and welcomed," he said. "The second thing is we want them to leave having something from God that will help them get through the coming week. We have seen people just respond beautifully by letting them know how we treat them and letting them know we're happy they're there. (Church is) kind of like a hospital for sinners. We come for healing."

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Loganville. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.