Historic Sabbath Trail Opens

by  Trudy Wright  November 1998

It was in 1995 when Merlin Knowles, pastor of the Washington, NH Seventh-day Adventist Church--the place known to many as the cradle of Sabbath keeping Adventism--prayed for wisdom on how to use the newly purchased property that was adjacent to the historic church. He was impressed to build a "Sabbath trail" that would share the gift of the Sabbath experience to the many individuals who visit this first Adventist church each year.

The tiny congregation caught the vision of the trail and so the project began. With great commitment and determination, during the last three years, over 500 adults and youth donated their time, energy, creativity, and resources to see the Sabbath Trail project to completion. They faced challenges on the way including the ice storm of '98 which was a huge setback that would eventually turn out to be a blessing. As a result of that storm more wood chips became available to line the trail.

It was with great excitement and anticipation that on Sabbath, September 12, 1998 the Sabbath Trail was officially opened. More than five hundred people came from near and far to participate in the joyous occasion, squeezing into the tiny sanctuary and sitting under tent canopies in the church yard. It was a memorable day full of spiritual blessings and reminders of historical events from the past.

It was appropriate for Joseph Bates, alias Richard Garey, to share lessons from his life and his experience while preaching the Sabbath message as he did 150 years ago at the Sabbath Conferences in 1848. Ben Schoun, Northern New England Conference president and Merlin Knowles, visionary of the trail, taught the Sabbath school lesson.

Children worshiped outside under the canopy and in the shade. Music was provided by Pine Tree Academy. The children, gathered on the church steps, were blessed with a story told by Dan Matthews from Lifestyle Magazine. He then presented the Sabbath message to a waiting congregation, sharing Sabbath lessons from his personal life. Also in attendance to represent the Atlantic Union was Don King, executive secretary, who gave the prayer at the dedication service.

Everyone was encouraged to stay and join in the potluck lunch which resembled a feast. It was beautifully organized and orchestrated by the Washington church folks whose hospitality has graciously served guests for many years including the groups who worked on the trail.

The Atlantic Union College Chamber Singers, under the direction of Doris Krueger, provided a historical music program and set the tone for the dedication service that followed later in the day. Appreciation, in the form of a plaque that will be placed on site, was presented to Merlin and Cheryl Knowles. It was an emotional moment when it was shared that they will be taking up new duties in another pastoral district in the conference.

Once the trail was officially opened by Dan Matthews, he along with Ben and Carol Schoun, and the Knowles led and narrated the one mile trail walk. The handicap accessible trail winds through sixteen-acres of woods and marsh adjacent to the church. Each of the thirty-one sites contains a bench on which to study the Bible, meditate, and pray. Each site also has an engraved message on granite that portrays Sabbath keeping from Creation down through the ages to the present and into the future in the New Earth. The stones were laboriously sandblasted, representing hours of tedious work, by Bruce Conrad and Pastor Knowles. Both the Atlantic Union and the North American Division have given financial support for this unique project. Future donations to the trail will be used for its maintenance and the building of a Visitor's Center.

Each site is unique and tastefully decorated with flowers. Of special significance are the sites of the Ten Commandments with the two tables of stone and the Sabbath fourth commandment in gold; the Cross with a natural cross in the valley; and the new earth with beautiful flowers and landscaping.

The trail is already communicating God's creative power and restoring love to mankind: workers, neighbors, Seventh-day Adventists, students, and tourists. This trail stands as a memorial of a people who are remembering to thank their creator for His gift of the Sabbath.

"Day of all the week the best,
Emblem of eternal rest."

Trudy Wright, Communication Director, NNEC

(This article was published in the November 1998 Atlantic Union Gleaner. Used with permission of the author.)