service leads to reunion and potluck in East Texas
By John Warren
memorial service for a longtime Church of God member who died March
21 led to a reunion of present and former Worldwide Church of God
members near here in June.
At the memorial
service March 24 of Wilbur Glenn Shipman, a longtime church member
and former employee of Ambassador University in Big Sandy, many
old friends saw each other for the first time in years.
at the service for Mr. Shipman were apparently thinking the same
thing: It's too bad we see each other only at funerals.
That thought led
Lee Stolley of Pritchett, Texas, who attends services of (alphabetically)
the Church of God Big Sandy and the United Church of God's congregation
in Gilmer, to ask: "Why can't we get together and visit under
Mr. Stolley, whom many will remember as the dedicated director of security at Ambassador for many years, said he discovered that several others were thinking the same thought.
to a number of individuals in various Church of God groups in the
area and finding a great level of interest," Mr. Stolley told
The Journal, "I said let's do something about it."
Mr. Stolley secured
a meeting place at Hillcrest Manor, a government-subsidized housing
project in Big Sandy, and invited some friends to a planning session.
Inter-Church of God reunion
Mr. Stolley had hoped that 35 or 40 people might attend the planning session for the reunion. The 15 planners who did come to the Hillcrest meeting decided to go ahead with some type of interChurch of God reunion.
on with Mr. Stolley included Duane Canup of Winnsboro, Texas, a
member of the Worldwide Church of God congregation that meets in
Big Sandy, Wayne Weese, a member of the Church of God Big Sandy,
and Ed and Ardith Weiss of Big Sandy, members of the United Church
of God congregation that meets in Gilmer.
The planners decided
to sponsor a reunion at a youth-camp facility west of here for any
present or former WCG attendees.
The chosen site,
the Salesmanship Club Youth Camp, is a facility for troubled adolescents,
said Mr. Stolley.
The teens, boys
and girls, return to their homes on weekends, which meant the facility
was available for the reunion.
More than 100
The camp property
includes a cafeteria and dining hall that served as a site for more
than 100 people to gather on Sunday, June 9, to eat and renew old
said they wanted everyone to understand the reunion was not an attempt
to reconcile church groups: the WCG and its descendants.
The sole purpose
was for members (or former members) of the groups to eat a potluck
meal together and visit with each other.
Some who attended
had come from as far away as Alabama and Indiana.
Lloyd and Helen
Garrison of Warrior, Ala., were in the area to visit Ian and Thalia
Hufton of Hawkins. The Garrisons' trip to Texas coincided with the
reunion, so they attended.
Steve and Brenda
Wendling of Uniondale, Ind., were also there.
Others who had
traveled from out of the immediate area included Johnny and Maria
Snyder of Frisco, Texas, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Parsons of San Antonio,
Mr. Parsons, a WCG pastor, was recently transferred from San Antonio to Big Sandy.
Other elders in
attendance were Dave Havir (Church of God Big Sandy), David Leach
of Big Sandy (WCG) and Aaron Dean of Gladewater (United Church of God ).
Mr. Weese, one
of the organizers, pronounced the reunion a success but hopes for
better numbers in the future.
What to expect
"We had right
at 100 people," he said. "I had hoped for quite a few
more, but timing and short notice were factors. The next time we
will know more about what to expect, and maybe we can have more
of a picnic with family games.
the Salesmanship Club because we were afraid some people would not
come to a church location. We wanted to pick a neutral area."
Mr. Stolley agrees
with Mr. Weese.
"I have learned
not to get my feelings hurt if no one shows up," he said. "I
have planned community programs that were great for the community,
like neighborhood-watch programs, and had only four people show
have a clue as to how many people would show up. If 15 had shown
up, it would have been a success. We had over 100. I feel it was
a big success."
Mr. Stolley would
like to see another reunion in November or December.
"It was all
positive," he concluded. "I think I talked to almost everyone
there, and everything seemed to go well. I saw a lot of hugs.
"One guy asked me when are you going to do this again."
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God