Thursday, March 23, 2023

Session to session Adventist Review

Great things start small and then get bigger.” So begins an article by Lora E. Clement1 In the first bulletin of the general conference session of 1926.2 Her words may indeed be considered prophetic, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to when it all started.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was organized during its first general conference session held in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1863. The proceedings of the next session, in 1864, were also duly reported in the Advent Review and the Sabbath Herald,3 Concluding with: “Voted, that the works of this conference be published in the Advent Review.”4 Thus began a tradition that has continued since the beginning of the denomination—a relationship between general conference sessions and review as the official recorder for its members.

Sessions were held annually from 1863 to 1889. All meetings were held in Michigan, with three exceptions: Rome, New York (1882); Oakland, California (1887); and Minneapolis, Minnesota (1888). Since the ability to communicate over long distances was limited to written reports and the postal system, any reports in the review were delayed. For example, when the session took place in Oakland, California in 1887, the first report was printed approximately 10 days after it was written. They included an eyewitness account, probably written by Salt Lake City, Utah editor Uriah Smith on his way to the session, and on his arrival before the meetings began. Both are news, Live Report offers members a vivid and detailed account with so much clarity that readers can still feel part of the experience today.

distance complicates things
The 1930 convention brought new challenges. The General Conference, the Review’s editorial office, and the Review and Herald Publishing Association (RHPA) were located outside Washington, DC in Tacoma Park, Maryland, while the session was in San Francisco, California. The commitment to report on time now had an additional 3,000 miles of complexity. With the help of the Dictaphone Company of Washington, DC, employees created a simple system that allowed daily bulletins to be delivered with little delay in reporting session events (see illustration on page 10).

Like today, a portion of the bulletins were actually completed before the session began. Reports and features were prepared and prepared for the press. Every evening at 6:00 in San Francisco, the editor telephonically broadcast important events of the day. Telephone received at the Maryland office recorded the message on wax records. As soon as the record was filled, a stenographer transcribed the message. As soon as a page was completed, it was hurried to the typesetter. Each of these articles will be marked “telephone copy” to indicate the quality of breaking news. Less-essential materials were sent via airmail. The combination of telephone and airmail systems allowed bulletins to be placed on a plane and sent to San Francisco to be read in California the next day.5

1954 Gcs Ar Team

There were plans to hold general conference sessions in St. Louis, Missouri, more than four years before the 1946 session. Shortly before the session began, administration was made aware that St. Louis would not be able to accommodate the expected 900 delegates in the city, or the thousands of guests arriving in the city. After serious discussion and prayer, it was decided to hold the 1946 session in Tacoma Park, where the General Conference Office was located. While this review would have been happy news for the employees, it would be disappointing for those who wanted to participate. The “communal masses” were asked to stay in the house amicably, as it would be a “strictly delegated session”. This development allowed daily bulletins to report daily news within 24 hours, which remains to this day.

As technology expands, men (and women) run around
The 1950 season brought even better technology when “scientific recording equipment” was making an appearance. This time not for reporting, but for transcription of every meeting. The General Conference Secretariat was responsible for the word-by-word transcription of each meeting. Up until this session, skilled secretaries took minutes in surprisingly fast shorthand. For the first time, the SoundScriber machine wrote to a five-minute disc. Each disc was handed over to a secretary, who transcribed the proceedings using a typewriter. It was reported that 40 to 50 discs were required per meeting.

The same concept, developed in 1930, was used in 1954, but expanded. When the editor called to the Maryland office, members of the church were invited to attend. The telephone not only produced the wax disc but was connected to an amplifier in the Review and Herald Publishing Association (RHPA) chapel. In this the members could hear the news even before seeing it in print.

Until 1975, when experienced review staff could conduct a session from miles away, the general conference session was in Vienna, Austria! Leaving the tradition of creating a daily bulletin was not an option one wanted to consider, so a new plan was developed. Of the 10 bulletins, the first seven were printed in two locations—Vienna and Tacoma Park. Three thousand copies were printed and distributed to delegates in Vienna. Then every other day, pasteups of pages and negative photos were sent via airmail from Vienna to Washington, DC plates were created; Bulletins were printed and mailed to customers. Because half of each magazine was produced in Maryland before the season and the rest was finished onsite, the resulting product contained two different typefaces within the same magazine.

Since someone is about to participate in the production of daily bulletins for the fourth time, I can absolutely attest to the stress documented by each review team, regardless of where the session is located or what year it took place. The tension is real. With the advancement of computers and digital cameras, publishing a 48-page magazine in less than 24 hours creates a pressure of its own. When work stops on the Sabbath, and the employees are relieved, hearts are grateful. , , By Saturday night, that is.

Ar Staff 2000
Marathon Winners: The Adventist Review and Review and Herald Publishing staff completed seven daily bulletins in Toronto and three back in the home office.

The bulletins were still printed in Maryland until the 2015 season and were flown for the season. Melinda Worden, RHPA Vice President, has memories that still cause her stomach to turn. The first magazines arrived at the airport in the 2005 season in St. Louis and were delivered by truck to the stadium. Unfortunately, the date of July 4, was a national holiday in the United States, which included a parade that closed the streets of the city. A growing sense of prayer and bewilderment was mixed among the staff as the magazine arrived just in time for editor Bill Johnson to climb the stage and present the first magazine to President Jan Paulsen.

The 2010 season brought the magazines to Atlanta via private plane. Imagine Worden’s surprise when he received a call from the pilot at 2:00 a.m. that he had lost his plane’s alternator and had to make an emergency landing. Safe but incapacitated, he managed to get on another plane and blow up the magazines to reach the morning deadline.

Former assistant editor Steve Chavez has fond memories of his work with the Adventist Review. His best memories come from the cordiality of the employees. While it was a stressful environment, the employees worked together towards a common task that created strong working relationships. A notable memory for him was the 2000 session in Toronto, Canada, where review staff worked in a glass-walled enclosure in the middle of the exhibition hall. Chavez remembers it as something that seemed like a good idea, but it actually created a lot of distraction and disruption.

a virtual festival
An interesting parallel in each session is the advancement of technology. As mentioned, while each session had something to overcome, new technology will be available to solve the challenges. It has been seven years since the review staff prepared the daily bulletin. While we had a modest digital presence in 2015, 2022 will prove to be a virtual feast not only for the delegates but for all the members around the world. It is certainly challenging to build a monthly magazine as a daily, the reality today is that no one waits 24 hours for news. So while this may sound fast, it is no longer fast enough. We will now provide the latest news, podcasts, videos and social media, along with business proceedings and functions, in addition to a daily 48-page print bulletin. All will be found in one place on our website, making it easily accessible to all users ( Video of the meetings will also be live-streamed on the Adventist Review website. Plan each day to visit, where you’ll find useful navigation tools to access regular and bonus features.

Not everyone can attend a general conference session. From the very beginning, Review readers have read reports that serve as their eyes and ears in the session. Reporters attempt to help members experience their world church. You will find that this session is no different. We are committed to using every technology possible from St. Louis to the sights, sounds and colors, in print, in video, and through amazing photography. And, if we don’t see Jesus coming before 2025, I promise we’ll be here to serve you again. whom you can trust.

  1. Lora E. Clement was the editor of The Youth Instructor at the time.
  2. Review of Advent and the Sabbath Herald, May 27, 1926, p. 1.
  3. The name of this publication has changed so many times over the course of more than 170 years that it will hereafter be referred to as the Review.
  4. Review of Advent and the Sabbath Herald, May 31, 1864.
  5. Review of Advent and the Sabbath Herald, General Conference Bulletin 3, June 2, 1930, pp. 1, 2.

Merle Poirier serves as Operations Manager for Adventist Review Ministries.

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