We enjoyed the company of several of the brethren from overseas this year. Next year we hope to see more visitors to the Intercontinental Church of God's Feast of Tabernacles in Albury. All are welcome. Dusan Zubovic.
You, too, can organize a Feast
BERWICK, Australia--This year the Endeavour Hills Church of God, an independent group based in southeastern Melbourne, held the Feast in changeable early-spring weather at Berwick, Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne right on the edge of the ever-expanding city.
Cindy and I were part of a maximum attendance of about 25, a number that made for an intimate and involving time. We made some new friendships and reinforced old ones.
We wish to emphasize that it is perfectly possible to organize your own Feast and have it succeed. Since it may be argued that God places His name on Jerusalem only, and since Christ promises to be right there in the midst of as few as two who gather together in His name, then there is great scope for observing God's festivals in a wide variety of situations and circumstances.
The Feast in Berwick reinforced in us the extent to which God loves and guides His flock and helps us succeed in our Christian life.
The format of services and sessions included formal presentations on high days and interactive roundtable discussions on the other days. Both formats have their place, and both help consolidate the Word of God in our minds. God's curriculum is infinite, and we found more than enough material for lively discussions every day.
One day was different in mood to the others. The Spirit was moving us strongly, and we found ourselves much affected in our discussion and analysis of the world situation. We vividly felt the weight of sin that so encumbers the world and sin's wretched consequences, and there were few dry eyes in the room.
Another day affected me (at least) powerfully. Some of us described times when God intervened directly in our lives, on occasion involving the temporary suspension of the laws of physics or the uncanny timing of events. We agreed that God's miracles on our behalf were beneficial to us and good for or at worst neutral towards others.
As to recreation, we enjoyed God's creation in a variety of activities, including fine evening dining and a cruise and lunch on Westernport Bay. One novelty was the Gourmet Deli Run, a circular route through lush, green scenery leading from one food-producing establishment to another. On this occasion we visited an organic-cheese factory, a smokehouse and an orchard-cum-berry farm. Walter Steensby, Hawker, Australia.
BIG SANDY, Texas--My wife and I would like to show our thankfulness and gratitude to Dave Havir and the Church of God Big Sandy brethren for a truly wonderful and joyous Feast.
The warmth and brotherly love were obvious from the first night right on through the last day.
The spiritual food was a true feast in itself. We were all filled up. Our Feast diet consisted of the importance of God's festivals and how serious He is about them, how we are at the Feast to rejoice and really get to know God and truly put our trust in Him, make Him our best friend, and learn how our joy comes from understanding His plan and His laws practiced in our lives.
We were instructed about the ram's horn (shofar), how it was and is a way to make a joyful noise to our Maker, how the horn is the strength of an animal, a symbol of power, that Yeshua (Christ) is our horn of salvation, our true vine.
The buildings that we meet in are just that, buildings. The people are the called-out ones, the ekklesia. We need to mourn with those in sore trials as our Messiah did and not get hardened. Our agenda should be that of the Kingdom of God.
We need to learn to be mature Christians, always expanding our thoughts. We need to have a right heart, not putting anyone in the place of Yeshua (Christ); He is the resurrection and the life.
We need to hear the wake-up call now. We must stay awake. God's name is wherever His people are. The temple is a spiritual temple. The abomination is happening in the spiritual temple now.
Let's repent, and do the things that please our Father.
You can see why we were all filled to the full. I advise anyone desiring a Feast filled with joy and love to visit the Big Sandy site in 2002. You will not regret it. We sure didn't. Dennis and Rebecca Whited, Lewiston, Idaho.
The best is yet to come
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas--Members of the Body of Christ kept the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day at Corpus Christi Oct. 1-9 at Holiday Inn Emerald Bay. About 200 were in attendance, including visitors from a nearby Feast site.
The Feast was sponsored by Church of God Outreach Ministries and coordinated by Julian Cruz, the San Antonio pastor who reminded us of the temporary nature of our physical existence as opposed to the eternal spiritual existence we will have with our Father's family in the coming Kingdom of God.
He urged us to use this Feast to draw closer to each other and closer to God for strength and encouragement as we see the prophesied trials and tribulations unfold before us.
Speakers were Mr. Cruz, Alfred Harrell, Dan Johnson, Tom Williams, David Hope, Jim Arnold, Ron Davis, Tim Hall, Fred Porter, John Thom, Matthew Steel and Ron Willhoite.
We were welcomed on the eve of the first day with food and fellowship and were encouraged by Julian to "let the main thing be the main thing": to rejoice before the Lord. And rejoice we did!
We were treated to a Mexican dinner accompanied by El Mariachi Caramba, featuring vocalist Hector Roldan, who interacted with his audience and seemed to enjoy the evening as much as we did.
There was a fellowship event with finger foods, a clown for the children and music by Tom Williams and the Pickin' & Grinnin' Players, who played nonstop for three hours as everyone danced, even our beloved "Grammaw," as she's known by one and all, in her wheelchair--with Ron Bridges as her dance partner.
The Christian Leadership Academy presented three workshops on evangelism and the pursuit of truth.
The Church of God of Central Arkansas sponsored a fish fry at Cole Park. The amphitheater was the perfect setting for the live and lively music of several quite talented members from different groups.
James Ussery conducted a Bible study on the unchanging nature of God, emphasizing our need to change our own natures, aligning ourselves with God's perfect character so we may receive God's blessing as opposed to disobeying and being cursed.
John Van Westen of Alamogordo, N.M., was baptized.
The fun show (no talent required) was the funniest yet, featuring Mike Sloan as emcee and as Elvis impersonator extraordinaire; the California Raisinettes; Mike "The Magician" Cruz; Ron Kolb with a recurring reading that gets better and funnier every time I hear it; and much, much more.
Focus on Your Family Day included a cruise along the bayfront on a 400-passenger paddle wheeler sponsored by the Church of God of San Antonio.
Youth Day featured our younger generation of developing leaders. We were so proud of them and their contributions throughout the Feast. It is especially gratifying to see them stepping into positions of leadership in the church.
The Last Great Day witnessed the blessing of the children and our prayer in song that "God be with you till we meet again."
Bob McComb provided photos of people and events so that everyone had pictures to take home.
It was truly a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles. The best Feast ever? No. Wonderful as it was, it was only the best so far. The best is yet to come. Theda Horton, Little Rock, Ark.
Meaning of the Feast
GETTYSBURG, Pa.--Horrified and afterwards angered by the unprovoked, senseless and cowardly events that took place Sept. 11 in New York City, I felt more than compelled to partake of the Feast of Tabernacles, still left to be observed as the last holy days for this year.
I had allowed myself to become almost completely lax in the observance of the holy days. My still-vigorous understanding of what the days typified prompted me to decide to go.
Assisted by my best friend, I decided to visit an eight-day Feast site in Pennsylvania. This site was sponsored by the United Church of God and began Oct. 2.
My quickly renewed mind reintroduced to me the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles, which is to keep God's people in the true memory of the redemptive plan for an elusive and sick human race through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Thought currently a member of the Worldwide Church of God, my best friend who accompanied me and I enjoyed a nostalgic, hope-restoring, high-level and Spirit-filled Feast. The sermons conducted by the assigned speakers were challenging, loving and peace-laced and thought-provoking.
After each sermon, long fellowship and conversations could be enjoyed with newly met brethren and the respective speakers as well.
I also availed myself of the opportunity to tour the entire preserved grounds and the artful erected monuments where the illustrious three-day battle of the Civil War took place.
All of the aforementioned events made this Feast one of the best I'd ever had. This Feast accomplished a lot. Not only was my peace restored, but it aided me to refocus on my personal accountability to the Lord. May the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, always be merciful to us and grant us peace. Stan Braumuller, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
ICG and other brethren in Kendal
KENDAL, England--It was good to attend the Feast this year in Kendal, meeting up with some 30 brethren on the evening of the first day and receiving an encouraging introduction by Frank Scherich.
We were apprehensive as to who would be there from the United States after all the problems with air travel because of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Those coming from abroad had had long waits at airports, as well as canceled and rescheduled flights, to deal with. We wondered if people would have difficulty getting back home, but we have not heard of any delays or canceled flights.
The brethren who attended the festival were from Scotland, various parts of England, Northern Ireland, the U.S.A. and Norway.
Though the Feast site was nominally under the banner of the Intercontinental Church of God, in practice the majority of the brethren came from various Church of God groups. People commented how much they appreciated being able to come together for the festival regardless of their affiliation. There was an atmosphere of peace and joy as people met up with old friends and were able to enjoy the company of visiting brethren.
World affairs tended to overshadow the festival this year, with the bombings in Afghanistan as well as the airplane crashes in Italy and Ukraine. Several messages homed in on the world's problems and how we should relate to them.
We also received messages about the meaning of the festival, God's love and Satan's deception. Mr. Scherich, Dave Kingston, Trevor Smith, Randy Scherich and Anthony Miles gave the messages.
We enjoyed having special music performed by a duo on the Sabbath and a quartet that sang "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" on the last holy day.
On the Sabbath Mr. Scherich prayed for a special blessing on Trevor Smith and Anthony Miles to enable them to serve in the ministry. In the last service Mr. Scherich's youngest granddaughter, Crystal, was blessed, as Jesus blessed the little children when traveling in Judea (Mark 10:13-16).
The weather this year was more rainy than usual, providing us with the opportunity for a lot of fellowship. Because most of us are not able to meet with many other brethren through the year, we appreciated the evening drop-in.
One evening we had a social with brethren reading poetry, singing songs and partaking in party games. On the last evening we had a meal out together at an Italian restaurant in Kendal.
The English poet Wordsworth lived in the Lake District. During the festival several people visited his homes, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, at Grasmere and Rydal.
One of Wordsworth's best-known poems, often recited, is "The Daffodils." The scenery in the Lake District is impressive, with grazing sheep on rugged mountains, high, dry stone walls and steep and narrow mountain passes coming down into valleys with beautiful lakes surrounded by majestic trees.
Those who did not travel out into the surrounding countryside enjoyed staying in Kendal, using the opportunity to visit shops and exhibitions in the town.
This was the second year we have held the festival in Kendal. Because of its popularity we have booked it for 2002. See you in Kendal! Anthony Miles, Oslo, Norway, and Lewis McCann, Milton Keynes, England.
Feast at Lake Tahoe
LAKE TAHOE, Calif.--My wife, Dorothy, and I again kept the Feast at Lake Tahoe. This was our 36th Feast, and most of them have been at Tahoe.
To name a few of our speakers this year: Garner Ted Armstrong, Dr. Ricks and Feast director Phill Dunagan.
The weather was perfect. The highlight of the Feast was the boat ride on Lake Tahoe.
Six people were baptized.
The party at the Dunagan-Bruce condominium was enjoyable. How sweet it is. Amen. Adios. Dorothy and Howard Bruce, Glendale, Ariz.
NICEVILLE, Fla.--The Feast of Tabernacles sponsored by Christian Educational Ministries (CEM) opened with special music that immediately caught the attention of the assembly on the morning of the first day. Mindy Czuchra sang "The Star Spangled Banner" while slides of the American flag and other scenes were displayed behind her.
Mrs. Czuchra, who is a member of the Church of God Sabbath Day of Springdale, Ark., is the training coordinator for all Wal-Mart Stores. She often sings patriotic songs and other types of music on behalf of Wal-Mart at that company's stores all over the country.
CEM is a service organization for churches; it is not a church. It has no congregations or field ministers. About 1,000 people from many branches of the Churches of God attended this site. Among them were members of the WCG, which provided no eight-day festivals on the traditional Feast dates this year.
The CEM festival is organized by a different method from that used elsewhere. It is not organized by the staff at CEM headquarters in Texas. A festival committee made up of volunteers from many areas of the country plans the activities and does the many jobs required for the Feast to run smoothly.
On the opening day, Kimberly Joe and her 8-year-old daughter, Kassia, played a two-piano duet. A 30-member choir sang, as did many other vocalists who contributed to the festival services. The music director hopes to bring the choir up to 60 members and called for volunteers for next year.
On Friday morning the congregational singing was primarily praise-and-worship songs. This was a first for CEM and many in the congregation. Most people seemed to like it and enthusiastically participated.
Ron Dart gave a warning sermon, "God Wants Fruits."
"How many have trusted in keeping the Sabbath and holy days to see us through?" he asked. "Exclusion and entitlement are stalking the Churches of God to this day."
He said that Jeremiah 7 describes people who feel secure because they are in the right place and are therefore "the right people." It is an "us vs. them" mentality.
"We are righteous. They are not. Any church with that kind of self-righteousness is headed for the ax." He cited Luke 13:6-8.
Mr. Dart said Jeremiah 7:12 told people to go to Shiloh, where God had placed His name and the ark of the covenant had once been. Shiloh had disappeared.
"I would like you to think about Pasadena, Big Sandy and Bricket Wood," Mr. Dart said. "Luke 18:9 speaks of people who trusted in their own righteousness and despised others. The COG is just like that today.
"We can at least bring little children to Jesus. The COG has thrown away three generations of children who grew up in the church."
Mr. Dart counseled the brethren to be humble and change their inner heart.
"Be so doing when Christ comes, not seeking to flee for our lives."
The festival sponsored by the Church of God Big Sandy, Texas, met in nearby Destin. Speakers were exchanged between the CEM site and the COG Big Sandy site for the first time this year. Joint activities were also held, and people freely visited back and forth.
Guest speaker Dave Havir, COG Big Sandy pastor, called upon the Jeff Osborn family to conclude his sermon. The Osborns sang "That's No Hill for a Climber." The family (Jeff, Joan, Terry and Jake from Fillmore, Ind.) sang twice during the Feast.
For many people the highlight of the Feast was youth day. Children, teens and other young people handled the entire service from the opening prayer to the closing prayer. A play titled "Did Pharaoh Get Stuck in the Mud?" was put on about coming out of Egypt. Little children played frogs and insects. One boy played the burning bush. All costumes were highly imaginative and a joy to the audience.
Seminars were conducted before services on non-holy days for any who wanted to attend. The subjects covered were simplifying your life to make room for God and family; Islam and New Testament Christianity; dysfunctional families; the true Christian adventure (in four parts); evangelism, you and the Born to Win radio program; sin and sickness: the connection between sin and health; how we got the New Testament (in four parts); recovering from divorce; and how to get the most out of a public-school education. Bill Stough, Lonedell, Mo.
Lively Feast in Jamaica
OCHO RIOS, Jamaica--The brethren are both unanimous and emphatic when they say it is no mere cliche to say that the Jamaican CGI feast this year was the best ever. More than 230 people attended the CGI Feast in this tourist-resort area, meeting in the exclusive Jamaica Grande Hotel, where the United Church of God an International Association also met.
Aside from the fact that we had only a few overseas visitors, who always add spice and excitement to a Feast site, this writer must honestly and without hyperbole say that I concur with the brethren.
The sermon and sermonette quality was of the highest order. The spiritual intensity of the Feast was something to behold. A lot of the messages centered on spiritual renewal, recommitment and building zeal.
The Feast began with a moving praise-and-worship session that featured prayers from members of the congregation. It was conducted by deacons George Ramocan and Glenford Smith.
The first sermon was delivered by visiting CGI minister from Kentucky Richard Williams, a high-pitch, dynamic preacher. He spoke about prophecy and the things that are to "shortly come to pass," to borrow a phrase from the Apocalypse.
In the afternoon I spoke about the lessons from the terrorist attacks in the United States, pointing to the futility of life and the bankruptcy of man's rule.
Other sermons were given by Mr. Smith, who gave the keys to spiritual growth, and Mr. Ramocan, who spoke on the earthly tabernacle and how it prefigured Christ. It was an enlightening message.
Deacon Ramocan gave a deeply moving and penetrating sermon also titled "Living Out the Feast in Everyday Life," showing what a "Kingdom-priority lifestyle" looks like.
His last sermon was specifically geared to some specially invited Church of God (Seventh Day) visitors, including a high-ranking minister and former member of the 70 elders of the Salem, W.Va., group; he addressed the matter of the holy days.
Richard Williams gave two other sermons on the "how do you know you have the Holy Spirit?," showing what a Spirit-directed life is, and the meaning of the Last Great Day.
I spoke on living the committed life, a sermon that had many, including Deacon Smith, who offered the closing prayer, in tears.
I closed the Feast by speaking on how to keep the treasures of the Feast. I also gave a doctrinal sermon, using a scholarly article from Theology Today journal about the Shechinah glory of God being the center of the Bible and using that along with the biblical text to prove the doctrine of man's deification.
Sermonettes were given by former Church of God (Seventh Day) pastor Gilbert Bell, deacon Paul O'Connor and a highly charged one by former Pentecostal preacher and bishop Dr. Robert Woodland, who this year was baptized in the CGI after being a minister in Protestantism since the early 1960s.
Dr. Woodland's sermon talked about the time he wasted in false Christianity. With tears streaming down his face, he said: "I gave up all my youth, my best years, in deception. I gave all my resources teaching lawlessness . . . But thank God for finally bringing me into His truth."
He said he wished the other bishops and ministers who were "teaching lawlessness" would repent and come into God's church too. His wife, Beverley, had written some songs decrying the false doctrines of churchianity, which she sang.
The singing--special songs, youth and adult choir--was exceptional. The CGI Jamaican churches have an excellent musical program and some first-rate vocalists and musicians.
The family fun show was highly entertaining, and the sports day and picnics were thoroughly enjoyed. There were sessions for couples and singles and a youth debate with the topic "Did God Create Evil?"
A highlight of the Feast for the last three years has been the Herbert W. Armstrong Memorial Speaking Competition, which judges participants on the amount of research and scholarly argumentation they bring to a controversial doctrine taught by the church.
This year the participants were expected to defend the church's teaching that women should not be pastors.
The caliber was seminary-level, believe me. A woman won the competition hands down. Sandra-Mae Robinson, a university student who left the Church of God (Seventh Day) to join the CGI, walked home with $5,000 and the trophy for ably defending the church's view that women should not be ordained. In second place was Erlett Findlay.
On the morning of the Last Great Day five more persons were baptized, including two young persons, making the total number baptized in the Jamaican CGI 20 for the year.
The Jamaican CGI is the largest of the ex-WCG groups in the English-, Dutch-, Spanish- and French-speaking Caribbean. We sponsor the largest indigenous Feast site in the Caribbean. Ian Boyne, Kingston, Jamaica.