[Photo Courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists]
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | John Simon/ ANN

The online Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists recently celebrated its first anniversary. It has proven to be a reliable and extensive source of information for those who seek to learn more about the prolific history of God’s end-time, worldwide movement.

The hardcopy version of The Adventist Encyclopedia, first released in 1966 and updated in 1996, was beneficial in its own right. Nevertheless, the need for a broader, living resource became apparent. The department of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR), headed by David Trim, who was tasked with overseeing the ESDA project, crafted proposals in late 2014, and the Executive Committee for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) approved them in 2015. This activated the development process in earnest.

ESDA aims to fulfill several 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 the Adventist faith and not of the Adventist faith to learn about all aspects of Adventism
  • Bring out the role of 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 those who write and edit the encyclopedia

In a recent interview with ANN, Dragoslava Santrac, managing editor for ESDA, provided a wealth of valuable insight regarding the encyclopedia’s growth and plans for the future. At its launch on July 1, 2020, ESDA offered over 2,000 articles and 3,500 images, and that volume has swelled since then. “It’s been an incredible and productive year for the ESDA team. We have added nearly 1,000 new articles and 3,000 photographs,” she exclaimed.

Santrac and her colleagues strive to advance these numbers by leaps and bounds. “Our main focus still remains on increasing the volume of material on the website, primarily articles and images, but also historical videos. Many stories from around the world remain to be published, and we aim at reaching and possibly surpassing the goal of 4,000 published articles by June of next year,” she said.

Though publishing more material is a primary objective of the ESDA team, they are considering adjustments to the infrastructure, as well. “One of [the adjustments] has been achieved in part and is still in progress, and that is to make articles available in languages other than English. Currently, on the website, there are over 200 articles from the South American Division that are available in both English and Portuguese,” Santrac shared. They are also working with the other divisions to expand language availability and global impact. “ESDA has an enormous potential to be an excellent missional tool in reaching other people for Christ and also to educate Adventist members of all ages and backgrounds.”

The initial reach of ESDA has been another emblem of accomplishment as it enters its second year. Santrac indicated the average visits per month have been well over 13,000 and reflect a steady incline, for the most part. “We are thankful for every person visiting the ESDA website and pray they have found the content to their satisfaction. And we continue receiving positive feedback from our readers, often supplying new information or suggesting minor corrections,” she expressed, assuring everyone that these positive trends are not leading to any sleepy contentment. “There is much more work to be done on the ESDA promotion and reaching out to new readers.”

A noteworthy reality is that so far, ESDA has fully existed within the time frame of a pandemic, and this could have a measurable effect on users’ search patterns. “Many Adventist missionaries bravely served during the Spanish Flu pandemic,” Santrac stated, highlighting the example of Hubert and Pearl Tolhurst, Australian missionaries who served in Tonga in 1918. In mentioning other examples like Jessie Halliwell and Mary Rentfro, she encourages people to “read many inspiring ESDA stories of God’s children who did not turn their back to service in trying times, including pandemics.”

Besides these historical accounts, visitors of the ESDA site can find articles on what the Adventist Church is achieving for the kingdom of God in the midst of COVID-19 (see, for example, Adventist Hospital Palawan article). 

Open Invitation

Perhaps the most respectable aspect of ESDA, beyond the richness and diversity of the content, is its welcoming inclusiveness. Far from being an online club for historians and theologians, Adventist lay-people from every corner of earth have the green light to contribute their expertise in whatever subject of church history or mission. The submitted articles will go through editorial refinement.

Adventist Church history has had valley moments, as well as mountaintop moments. Acknowledgement and insertion of these highs and lows boosts the credibility of ESDA. A similar thread weaves through the Bible itself. Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, and several others are among the greatest heroes in faith—who made remarkable errors in judgment. The partnership between church members and ASTR administration sets the framework for a resource that is authentic, transparent, and objective, yet still edifying.

 Conclusion

Those who want to learn more about ESDA and sample some of the articles may visit the official site, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/. Readers will find the navigation to be straightforward and user-friendly. Many will have an experience comparable to that of Audrey Andersson, executive secretary for the Trans-European Division, who was involved in the encyclopedia’s development. “It is inspiring and addictive. One story leads to another, and there are rich gems to be discovered,” she said.

Those who want to contribute to the tapestry of Seventh-day Adventist history may click the “Get Involved” button on the left-sided menu. This page will provide contact information, a list of unfinished articles that need attention, and various guidelines for writers.

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