Saturday Sabbath

The Seventh-day Adventist Church

Snowboarding pastor Steve McCandless takes “praying for snow” literally.

Snowboarding pastor Steve McCandless takes “praying for snow” literally.

Photo By Scott D. F. Reeves

Seventh-day Adventist Church, 7125 W. Fourth St., 322-9642. Services are held on Saturdays at 10:35 a.m.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is in an impressive, modern building perched on a hillside overlooking west Reno. To have braved the steep and winding road up to the church after the snow storm of the previous evening is testament to the devotion of those in attendance on this particular Saturday morning.

Everyone is warmly greeted upon entering the church. There is a Bible study course earlier in the morning, but these folks strictly arrived for the service. The people are guided down a wide, sunlit hallway lined with paintings and pictures created by members of the congregation and led into the sanctuary.

The sanctuary has a high and angular ceiling with one simple stained glass window set on the far wall above the stage. Rows of long, cushioned wooden pews face the stage, which is adorned with a 15-foot-tall Christmas tree and a simple wooden cross wreathed in a crown of thorns.

As the service begins, the 50 or so congregants rise from the pews and sing from hymnals as a solitary organ sounds. Perhaps the most notable aspect of this congregation is their unity. All of the members rise to sing or kneel in prayer as a group, with the exception of the kids, who wrestle while their parents bow their heads.

After the opening songs and prayers, all the children are called to the stage and read a story by Sharon Heater. The story is about a dog and designed to teach the children not to judge people by their appearance but to try to love all people the same.

Frank Liebscher gives a brief speech about the “worship of giving,” and tithe is taken after the children have retaken their seats. A second tithe is then collected by the children of the church for a scholarship fund. The church offers its members a fully accredited school during the week, and classes are available from kindergarten all the way to the completion of a college degree.

Pastor Steve McCandless begins his sermon by congratulating those present for “courageously arriving through the snow.” He has trouble containing his own excitement for the opportunity to go snowboarding in all the fresh powder. There is a podium on the stage, but McCandless doesn’t hide behind it as he delivers his first sermon of the year, telling people to be prepared for “radical change.”

As a slide show projects on the wall behind him, McCandless describes the struggles of one of the apostles. There are allusions to current politics and the upcoming election mingled into the sermon, yet the overall message is not so much political as to perpetuate goodwill.

The entire service runs about an hour and a half before closing in prayer. McCandless is enthusiastic about an upcoming event called Noah’s Pudding, which will be hosted by the church later in the month. A Muslim group will be the guest of honor for the event.

Essentially, Seventh-day Adventist Churches are an Evangelical faith, beginning in the early 1860s. One major separation in doctrine from most Christian faiths is that the day of worship is Saturday. The church promotes such ideas as vegetarianism and the abstinence of drugs and alcohol, but these are not mandatory.