The Adventist Heritage Ministries (AHM) board members convened for their bi-annual meeting in April 2023, in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, USA. Meeting at this site provided the board the opportunity for a first-hand look at the newly refurbished childhood residence of Joseph Bates, a seminal figure in the Seventh-day Adventist Church's founding. Managed by AHM, the Bates home has undergone a transformation, unveiling a series of renovations that will soon offer an immersive, interactive experience aimed at captivating the imagination of every visitor. Board members were impressed by the quality and preliminary display of the new features at the property.
Audrey Andersson, a vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who also serves as a board member for AHM, stated, “Our individual and collective past shapes the present. How we relate to our past will influence the future. We ignore the past at our peril. The successes and failures teach and equip us for mission.” Recognizing the importance of our past as we move into the future, she continued, “Today, the Church stands on the shoulders of the pioneers. AHM has a critical role in helping us remember our past and applying its lessons as we move forward and look for the second coming that they longed to experience.”
The latest addition to the Joseph Bates home tour is a "boat" room that immerses visitors in the experience of being at sea with Captain Bates during his voyages. Complete with audio-visual effects, the room transports visitors to a time when Bates served 21 years at sea, working his way up from cabin boy to captain and part-owner of his own ship. The home also displays an original door from Dartmoor prison, where Bates was once imprisoned, as he refused to fight against the French for the British.
The Bates home, managed by AHM, holds historical significance not only for the Seventh-day Adventist Church but also for the city of Fairhaven. Adjacent to the property is a surviving stone end wall of a house that is the oldest in the area and connected to the first English settlers, which the city is invested in maintaining.
A Life Dedicated to Service and Advocacy
After retiring from the sea, Bates became an influential voice in the temperance movement, forming one of the first temperance societies in America. He was also an active advocate for the abolition of slavery. In 1839, Bates joined the Millerite movement preaching and teaching that Jesus would return by 1844.
Along with others who had experienced the great disappointment of 1844, Bates accepted the heavenly sanctuary understanding as presented by O. R. L. Crosier in 1846. He became an early proponent of the seventh day being the Sabbath. Alongside James and Ellen White, Bates played a crucial role in the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist church. “Joseph Bates showed a link between the ministry of Jesus in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary and the Sabbath. He used Revelation 11:19 and 14:12 to show that after 1844 the Sabbath has eschatological importance and is linked to the proclamation of the Third Angel’s Message” said AHM board chair Merlin Burt. Bates traveled widely, preached, and served the church, becoming the first Seventh-day Adventist conference president.
Interactive Museum and Tours at the Joseph Bates Home
As the church celebrates the 160th anniversary of its founding, the Joseph Bates childhood home site continues to provide an opportunity for visitors to learn about Bates' life and his contributions to various causes. Markus Kutschbach, director of AHM, shared, “It is exciting to work on an exhibit about Joseph Bates and his life, a man many call the theological founder of Seventh-day Adventists. His life is full of adventures at sea and on land but most of all with his Savior Jesus Christ. I am most impressed by his spirit of sacrifice and commitment.”
The site is currently developing a first-class interactive museum, and Markus Kutzschbach, director of AHM, believes that this preserved site will help visitors understand more deeply about the early Adventist Church leaders and movement.
“With God's help we hope to complete the exhibition about his fascinating life in such a way that Adventist and non-Adventist visitors can be touched by the Holy Spirit. I think it is important not to forget how God brought this end-time movement into existence and for what purpose. I hope that we will make good progress this year and soon officially open the museum. Until then, however, visitors are always welcome.” The home has reopened for tours, and tax-deductible gifts to AHM help maintain the home and will help complete the museum.
Adventist Heritage Ministries and its Mission
Adventist Heritage Ministries is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and heritage of the Seventh-day Adventist Church through the development and maintenance of historic sites like the Joseph Bates home. By providing education and immersive experiences, AHM seeks to connect church members and visitors to the roots of the Adventist faith, enriching their understanding of the church's history and inspiring a deeper connection to its mission.