Northern New England Conference

By Shawn Brace

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Shawn Brace pastors in Maine and is the author of four books and a columnist for Adventist Review. He received his M.Div., with an emphasis in Old Testament studies, from Andrews University. He is now pursuing a D.Phil. at the University of Oxford, focusing on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American Christianity.

First Published: December 5, 2022

The Northern New England Conference is an administrative unit of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Atlantic Union Conference.

Territory: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont

Statistics (June 30, 2021): Churches, 57; membership, 5,284, population, 3,391,711.1

Origins

The Northern New England Conference is the birthplace of Seventh-day Adventism, covering the territory where Sabbatarian Adventism began, and where many of the Seventh-day Adventist pioneers—including James and Ellen White, Uriah Smith, and J. N. Andrews—were born. The earliest beginnings of Sabbatarian Adventism can be traced to March 1844. At this time a congregation of Advent believers in Washington, New Hampshire, began keeping the seventh-day Sabbath due to the influence of Rachel Oakes, a Seventh Day Baptist.2 Many significant conferences and events were held in this territory during the early days of Sabbatarian Adventism. Within the boundaries of today’s Northern New England Conference, in Topsham, Maine, in October 1848, one of the “Sabbath Conferences” was held to better understand and articulate Sabbatarian Adventist teaching.3 Also, in this territory, in Paris, Maine, the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald was published from its inception in November 1850 until July 1851. This paper later was renamed the Adventist Review, the denomination’s flagship publication.4

The official organization of the territory occurred in1862, when the Vermont Conference was officially formed. Elder Albert Stone served as the first chairman of the conference, Stephen Pierce the first secretary, and Alfred S. Hutchins, A. C. Bourdeau, and D. T. Bourdeau served on the conference committee.5 Five years later, in 1867, after some resistance, the Maine Conference was officially organized in Norridgewock, Maine. Both James and Ellen White attended the meeting which organized the Maine Conference, in order to address dissenting voices that previously resisted formal church organization in the state. Elder L. L Howard served as president, H. C. Winslow as secretary, W. A. Towle as treasurer, and J. B. Goodrich and C. Stratton joined L. L. Howard on the executive committee.6 In 1870, congregations in New Hampshire, along with congregations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, joined together to form the New-England Conference.7 In 1910, at a special session held in White River Junction, Vermont, the Vermont Conference incorporated congregations from New Hampshire to comprise the newly-formed Northern New England Conference. It had an initial membership of 545 persons.8

In 1923, the territory, consisting of the three northern New England states, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, combined to form what is now the Northern New England Conference. At this time, the Maine Conference joined the Northern New England Conference. The new conference was initially known simply as the New England Conference. The Atlantic Union Conference Executive Committee recommended that the three states form a single conference as the combined territory, membership, and tithe-base in the three states was either equal to or less than most other state conferences in the denomination.9 D. U. Hale served as the first president, with headquarters first in Rochester, New Hampshire. There was originally a combined membership of 1,302 persons.10 In 1927, it was renamed Northern New England Conference, which has been its name ever since.11 Since 1946, its offices have been located in Maine—first, in Portland, for nearly seven decades and, since 2013, in Westbrook.12

Significant Institutions and Landmarks

In March 1844, a congregation in Washington, New Hampshire became the first Advent-believing congregation to observe the seventh-day Sabbath, thus effectively becoming the first Sabbatarian Adventist congregation.13 While year-round services have not continued to the present, the Sabbath-keeping congregation, which for a time split from the main congregation in Washington, New Hampshire, eventually returned to the original building where it became a Seventh-day Adventist Church. Today weekly services are held from May to October.14 In 1998, under the direction of Pastor Merlin Knowles, the congregation opened its “Sabbath Trail,” which is a one-mile trail, that commemorates the history of Sabbath-keeping from the dawn of creation to the new earth.15

In 1921, recognizing a need to start their own academy, since many students in the territory attended South Lancaster Academy in Massachusetts, the Maine Conference opened Pine Tree Academy. They purchased a piece of property for $8,500, consisting of over 100 acres, two miles outside the city of Auburn, Maine, and began classes on September 14. George E. Owens served as the first principal. Thirty-one students enrolled the first year.16

Due to the financial challenges brought on by the Great Depression, the academy closed in 1933.17 In 1961, the school reopened in Freeport, Maine, taking the name Pine Tree Memorial School, before readopting the name Pine Tree Academy, after it added a 12th grade in 1973.18 The school continues to serves as the conference’s only 12-grade school. The annual Northern New England Conference Camp Meeting is held on the grounds of Pine Tree Academy.

In 1959, Dr. Ronald A. Bettle led a team of laypersons that opened Parkview Memorial Hospital in Brunswick, Maine. Bettle, a surgeon, moved to Brunswick in 1948 but became dissatisfied with having to travel to neighboring Bath to practice medicine. Although Bettle served as the conference’s medical secretary, the conference rebuffed his request that the conference open a medical facility. Bettle then turned to Adventist Self-Supporting Institutions (ASI), now Adventist Laymen’s Services & Industries, and formed a team of laypersons to pursue the project. They soon secured a piece of land and broke ground in 1958, before opening their doors on July 12, 1959, becoming the first and only hospital run by Seventh-day Adventists in the region. The hospital opened with 35 beds and expanded its operations and facilities over the ensuing years.19 Northern New England Conference took over ownership in 1964 and operated it until 2015, when the hospital filed for bankruptcy and merged with Mid Coast Health Services, effectively ending its denominational affiliation.20­

The Conference has owned and operated a youth camp since 1947, when it purchased a camp in the western Maine town of Weld. In 1945, Elder George Belleau, who was the conference president at the time, urged David Shaw, the conference educational superintendent, to find a youth camp for the conference. After months of fruitless searching, Shaw was directed to Joseph Stagg Lawrence, who was an economics professor at Princeton University, and who had opened a camp for boys in 1927 in Weld, originally called Blue Mountain Camp (later renamed Camp Lawroweld). After 12 years of operating the camp, Lawrence was unable to devote the attention needed to run it and put it up for sale. The property consisted of 90 acres, with 1,000 feet of waterfront on Webb Lake. After the first lodge burned down in 1929, in 1930, the camp constructed a new lodge at a cost of $60,000. Despite such a significant financial investment, Lawrence offered the whole camp for $10,500 to the conference, after he heard they wanted to continue to use it as a youth camp. Despite the low price, the conference turned down his offer. They expressed concern that they could not justify such a price, since they thought the camp would get little use. Two years later, in March 1947, when Shaw and the new conference president, Elder Roscoe W. Moore, were in New York City for meetings, they visited Lawrence at his office in the city. They agreed to purchase the property from him for $12,500. Just four months later, the camp welcomed its first campers in July 1947.21 Over the years, the camp has significantly expanded its property and upgraded its facilities, especially through the diligent efforts of Harry Sabnani, who served as conference youth director, and camp director, from 1991 to 2014.

Presidents

W. H. Holden (1910-1912); F. W. Stray (1912-1915); T. B. Westbrook (acting, 1915); R. J. Bryant (1915-1920); B. M. Heald (1920); D. U. Hale (1920-1926); F. D. Wells (1926-1932); W. H. Howard (1932-1936); C. M. Bunker (1937-1942); D. A. Ochs (1942-1945); G. S. Belleau (1945-1946); R. S. Moore (1946-1958); A. E. Millner (1958-1961); C. P. Anderson (1961-1977); D. J. Sandstrom (1978-1981); J. R. Loor (1981-1985); E. L. Malcolm (1986-1998); Benjamin Schoun (1998-2000); Gary Thurber (2000-2002); Mike Ortel (2002-2013); Robert Cundiff (2013-2020); Ted Huskins (2020-2022); Gary Blanchard Jr. (2022-)

Sources

Bettle, Ruth. I Remember Lawroweld: A History of Camp Lawroweld. Portland, ME: Print World, 1994.

Canright, D. M. “Report of the Maine Conference.” ARH, November 12, 1867.

Froom, Le Roy Edwin. Movement of Destiny. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1971.

Hanscom, V. H. “Report of the New England Conference.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 12, 1923.

Northern New England Conference Committee Meeting Minutes, December 18, 1972.

Schwarz, Richard W. Light Bearers to the Remnant. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1979.

Slade, E. K. “The New England Conference.” Atlantic Union Conference Gleaner, July 20, 1927.

Voorhees, H. E. “Parkview Memorial Hospital Now Open.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, July 20, 1959.

Waggoner, J. H., and A. C. Bourdeau, “Organization of the New-England Conference.” ARH, August 23, 1870.

Wheeler, Frederick. “A Message From Our Most Aged Minister.” ARH, October 4, 1906.

White, W. B. “Vermont Conference (Special Session).” Atlantic Union Gleaner, February 2, 1910.

Wright, Trudy. “Historic Sabbath Trail Opens.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, November 1, 1998, 6-7.

Year Book of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1924.

Notes

  1. Seventh-day Adventist Online Yearbook, “Northern New England Conference,” accessed October 18, 2022, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=14596.

  2. Frederick Wheeler, “A Message From Our Most Aged Minister,” ARH, October 4, 1906, 9; Le Roy Edwin Froom, Movement of Destiny (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1971), 81.

  3. Richard W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1979), 67-69.

  4. See Second Advent Review, and Sabbath Herald, November 1850, 1; Second Advent Review, and Sabbath Herald, July 21, 1851, 1. The predecessor to the journal, The Present Truth, began in 1849, and eventually morphed into the Second Advent Review, and Sabbath Herald, which was originally published in Paris, Maine.

  5. “Doings of the Vermont Conference, June 15, 1862,” ARH, July 1, 1862, 40.

  6. D. M. Canright, “Report of the Maine Conference,” ARH, November 12, 1867, 336-37; L. L. Howard and H. C. Winslow, “Maine Conference,” ARH, November 12, 1867, 340.

  7. J. H. Waggoner and A. C. Bourdeau, “Organization of the New-England Conference,” ARH, August 23, 1870, 78.

  8. W. B. White, “Vermont Conference (Special Session),” Atlantic Union Gleaner, February 2, 1910, 2-3; W. H. Holden and A. R. Evans, “Special Session of the Vermont Conference,” Atlantic Union Gleaner February 9, 1910, 41-42; 1909 Year Book of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1909), 49.

  9. V. H. Hanscom, “Report of the New England Conference,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 12, 1923, 3-5.

  10. Year Book of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1924), 22.

  11. E. K. Slade, “The New England Conference,” Atlantic Union Conference Gleaner, July 20, 1927, 2.

  12. Seventh-day Adventist Church Yearbook, 2013 (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2013), 189.

  13. Frederick Wheeler, “A Message From Our Most Aged Minister,” ARH, October 4, 1906, 9; Le Roy Edwin Froom, Movement of Destiny (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1971), 81.

  14. Personal email from Pastor Ken Brummel, October 26, 2022.

  15. Trudy Wright, “Historic Sabbath Trail Opens,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, November 1, 1998, 6-7.

  16. Jennie Bates-Russell, “Opening Day at Pine Tree Academy,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, September 21, 1921, 3, 8; “Pine Tree Academy,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, October 19, 1921, 5. “Pine Tree Academy,” Christian Education 12, no. 6 (February, 1921): 168.

  17. W. H. Howard, “Closing of Pine Tree Academy,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, February 15, 1933, 3-4.

  18. “Meet Our New Teachers,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, December 11, 1961, 9; Dorothy Waters, “Pine Tree Memorial School,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, November 27, 1973, 16-17; Northern New England Conference Committee Meeting Minutes, December 18, 1972, 2.

  19. H. E. Voorhees, “Parkview Memorial Hospital Now Open,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, July 20, 1959, 2-3; Ruth Bettle, Parkview: The Story of a Miracle (Leominster, Mass.: Eusey Press, 1984).

  20. Edward D. Murphy, “Brunswick’s Parkview Hospital Files for Bankruptcy,” Press Herald, June 16, 2015, accessed November 7 2022, https://www.pressherald.com/2015/06/16/brunswick-hospital-files-for-bankruptcy/..­­­

  21. Ruth Bettle, I Remember Lawroweld: A History of Camp Lawroweld (Portland, ME: Print World, 1994), 1-8.

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Brace, Shawn. "Northern New England Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 05, 2022. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9W7.

Brace, Shawn. "Northern New England Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 05, 2022. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9W7.

Brace, Shawn (2022, December 05). Northern New England Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=A9W7.