In March, I attended a Hispanic Weekend Spiritual Retreat for ladies and girls, ages 10 years and up, in my local church conference. The retreat was held in Cohutta Springs, Georgia. I traveled there with my mother, sisters, and other women from my parents’ church.
I enjoyed the event. However, throughout the weekend there was a constant stream of topics to which I could not relate. The irony is that it was supposed to be a retreat for women of all ages. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
The first night’s meeting made me feel like an outsider. It focused on married women with children and single mothers. There was a separate program for girls ages 10 through 17.
Once the speaker began to speak about her intimate relationship with her husband, I felt awkward. Other women nodded their heads in agreement as she openly talked about healthy, loving marriages and ways to love and treat your husband, but I could not agree or relate.
My mom noticed a shift in my body language. “If you don’t feel comfortable being here, then how about you join the youth group,” she said.
I looked at her with an irritated facial expression.
I told my mom I am 21 years old and an adult. Simply not married and childless. For a retreat the marketed to all women, it just so happened that they forgot about my age group. When I expressed those sentiments to my mother and twin sister, they told me to take the information as advice for when I marry in the future.
According to the 2018 North American Adventist Demographics Report, a study conducted by the Center for Creative Ministry and Commissioned by the NAD Office of Education, nearly four out of five adults in the Adventist population are married. But surveys of single adults among Adventists have reported that they often feel that congregations are dominated by married people and not very welcoming for singles.
“Over the last decade since the 2008 survey, the Adventist population has shifted even further away from single adults toward married individuals,” according to the study. “The percentage of divorced singles has not changed, but the percentages of primarily younger never-married singles and primarily older widowed singles have each dropped by roughly half. “
The demographic study suggests it could be an indication that Adventist congregations in North America are not improving their ability to connect with single adults and make them feel at home. It clearly states that there needs to be attention given to developing a more effective single’s ministries in the NAD.
I hope for the next Hispanic women’s retreat won’t overlook us single ladies; because although we are not in relationships or have children, we can still bring our flavor to the world.
Florida is the state with the second highest number of Seventh-day Adventist churches in the United States. With 471 SDA Churches dispersed across the state, I was intrigued by the numbers and decided to research the topic.
When taking on this project, I decided to focus on Orlando, specifically Seventh-day Adventist churches within a 15-mile radius of the city. The majority of the churches that were in the 15-mile radius were located in Orange County. There were two remaining churches that were a part of Brevard County.
Below is the Interactive Map that I created to show the 52 SDA Churches in the 15-mile radius. The churches are mapped out by language.
Map to Key:
The population of Greater Orlando Area is an estimated 1,348,975 as of 2017. Since this estimate, Central Florida has seen an increase of citizens from Venezuela and Puerto Rico seeking refuge after a natural disaster and political turmoil.
There are 26 English speaking Seventh-day Adventist churches within the 15-mile radius of Orlando. Under this category, there are many churches that are diverse and large in numbers. Examples of this would be Forest Lake SDA or Spring Meadows churches. It is also important to point out that some of these churches could be predominantly black, Asian, or white. However, since the focus of this map is on the language, researching that information was unnecessary.
There are 14 Spanish-speaking churches on the interactive map. When conducting the research, I was expecting there to be more Spanish speaking churches in the area. I’m sure if I expanded the mile radius, more churches would pop up. Hispanics made up approximately 26.9 percent of the Greater Orlando Area in the 2010 census. In the upcoming census (2020), this number is most likely to increase due to the diaspora of Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans.
Greater Orlando Area’s SDA Population:
According to research done by the Glenmary Research Center in 1990, Orange County (Greater Orlando Area) was in the Top 25 U.S. Counties with Largest Seventh-day Adventist Communities.
In the 1990s, there were an estimated 6,526 Seventh-day Adventists in Orange County. Fifty out of the 52 of the churches on the interactive map are in Orange County.
To see the amount of growth Orlando has had, I added up all the members of the 52 churches. If the numbers are correct and none of these members have left the area, we have an estimated 22,052 Seventh-day Adventists in the Greater Orlando Area (within the 15-mile radius).
The growing SDA population in the Greater Orlando Area is most likely caused by two factors. The first reason is people leaving their countries due to political or disaster refuge and immigrating to this area. These large groups of people moving to this area are usually already Adventists. Although our church works hard to reach a lot of people, these individuals are not necessarily brought to the church from evangelism since they are already apart of the church.
Orlando is known for being the home of the massive AdventHealth Hospitals, previously known as Florida Hospital. Just in the Greater Orlando Area, there are 10 AdventHealth facilities. These huge hospitals must attract a lot of SDA’s to the area, and also in a way teach those unfamiliar with the faith about Adventism.
In a span of almost 30 years, the numbers of Adventists has skyrocketed in my hometown. I can’t wait to see where we will be another 30 years from now.
In the video above, Madeline Mace, junior fine arts major, describes her journey with art and shares insight into the inspiration behind her pieces.
By Natalia Perez
This week, I interviewed four Southern students on their backstories as creators, and how their religious affiliation or cultural/societal gender roles have affected — or not affected — their creative process and expression.
Barry Daly, senior religious studies major, is an imaginative and detailed artist. He has been creating as a photographer for seven years.
Tell me a bit about you as an artist.
B: “For the majority of my life, I’ve tried my best to create from my imagination through writing, storytelling, and filmmaking. When I was starting out I would draw [inspiration] from everywhere, and as a result, I was able to draw emotion from my subjects that many other photographers could not. At this point in my creative journey, I draw from minor details in conversations, certain body language, details in movies, music, or other forms of entertainment.”
Audrey Fankhanel, junior international studies major, has been especially flourishing as an artist during her year abroad in Italy. She creates through writing, photography, painting, and designing.
A: “It is hard to become an artist. It’s something that is innately within you. I have been creating since before I can remember. I have a portfolio for every year of my life, each filled with short stories and paintings. However, I still struggle with calling myself an artist because by claiming the title I feel a huge responsibility and pressure to create.
I am most inspired by nature, but my works are not directly about nature. I’m fascinated by the rhythms and patterns found in every aspect of the natural world, from the orbit of an electron to the ever-expanding universe. This life is so unpredictable, but these natural laws are perfect and never changing, and if that isn’t evidence of a God then I don’t know what is.”
Kristen Vonnoh, senior journalism-publishing major, has a special flair in her writing that matches her personality. Her writing interests include faith, fashion, and music among other things.
K: “I guess my writer’s journey began when I made a blog in fifth grade documenting horribly written short stories. I never really considered calling myself a writer until college, and even now I typically call myself a journalist. But I suppose “writer” is all-encompassing, which I like.
I definitely tend to be the overly dramatic, overly romantic type, so I draw creativity from pretty much everything honestly. Whether it’s a super mediocre cup of coffee or a TED talk I just heard, my mind is constantly absorbing ideas for my writing. That and my journalism professors have given me the wonderful advice to always, always, always be looking out for interesting stories.”
Jordan Putt, Southern alum, is a soulful and heartfelt creative. On April 21, 2018, he released an EP called “Honest to God,” available on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and all music online-streaming sites. His album is a meditation of God, humanity, imperfection, and faith; and it’s the culmination of almost four years of sporadic writing. His music reads like a love letter to a best friend.
J: “I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. Since I was old enough to pull myself up onto the piano bench, I would pretend to play music on it. I got my first guitar when I was 10, and it’s been a love affair ever since. I draw inspiration from my own experiences and feelings, as well as whatever I happen to be listening to at the moment. I think one of the things that has helped me become a better musician is listening to music from as wide a variety of musical genres and eras as I possibly can. I get a lot of inspiration from hearing what other people have done and trying to assimilate that into my own playing and writing.”
Here’s more of what the four artists had to say on this topic:
Do you feel limited by our religion or do you feel it enhances your creativity?
B: “When I was younger, I really believed that anything was possible within the confines of the church. As I have gotten older, I’ve consistently encountered judgment and opportunism. For the longest time, I had no idea why so many made the decision to leave the church. Often times, church-goers don’t take the time to really show love and support artists. Ultimately, I don’t believe that religion and belief limit me, but the people who “control” them do their best to shame creatives into fitting in the box they’ve built.”
A: “Growing up surrounded by the Adventist culture in Loma Linda, California, I absolutely have felt limited creatively. My spiritual beliefs enhance my art more than anything else, but the religious culture in which my beliefs reside creates a bubble of “appropriateness” that SDA’s are expected to operate within.”
K: “I 100% believe my relationship with God fuels my creativity. Understanding the gospel and my freedom in Christ has only allowed my creativity to flourish. And I think the key in all of that is a relationship with God—the ultimate Creator.”
J: “I feel less limited by my beliefs than by what I think my audience will tolerate. My beliefs go hand in hand with my experiences and who I am as a person, so as long as I stay true to myself in my art (which has always been my goal), I won’t even think about creating something that goes against my beliefs. However, I do think that there are a lot of taboos in Adventist culture as it relates to doubts, struggles, and questioning. I have felt like there’s a lot of pressure to put on a good face and appear secure and content all the time, even when that may not be the case. This can be especially true for people who have been raised in the church.
For me, the anxiety that comes from being vulnerable and open about those questions or struggles can sometimes cause me to feel limited in what I feel comfortable talking about because of how I think it may cause my audience, especially the more conservative segment, to perceive me as a person.”
What do you think differentiates traditional feminine art from masculine art?
B: “I believe that the biggest difference is that most often it’s much easier for women to show emotion, and they are most often more willing to be vulnerable because for them art is healing.”
A: “Traditionally, masculine art has dominated feminine art, and this is mainly at the fault of the consumer. Male artists are given unwritten permission to be provocative and enticing. Their works tackle big ideas and complex emotions. Meanwhile, females are associated with creating “pretty” paintings or fun business logos. There are many female artists creating just as great works as males, but you will never hear about them. This goes for the Christian church as well, especially if you look at preaching as an art form. How many mega churches do you see being spearheaded by women? How often do you hear of a great female theologian outside of the context of an “inclusion” seminar?”
K: “I’ve always found this idea interesting because while there are universal feminine and masculine characteristics, much of it is also determined by culture. As a woman going into the field of journalism, I definitely recognize the “masculine” aspects of the craft (i.e. analyzing, collecting data and documents, etc.) and honestly I love it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to engage with a different aspect of my mind.”
J: “I think art that we perceive as feminine usually tends to deal with softer, more traditionally feminine themes — love, family, etc. What is generally perceived to be masculine art usually deals with things that are traditionally male themes or traits, such as aggression, strength, security, etc.”