Journal readers report on their
2004 feasting and fellowship
2004 Feast in Big Sandy
BIG SANDY, Texas--This is a summary of activities at Big Sandy during the Feast observance sponsored by the Church of God Big Sandy beginning the evening of Sept. 29. Everyone mentioned in this report is from Big Sandy or surrounding cities unless stated otherwise.
Tat Tomes coordinated the flowers for the stage before the Feast. Broadway Florist delivered two arrangements. They lasted well, and we used one on the Sabbath after the Feast with a few additional flowers.
J.L. Roden coordinated the ushers and set up the chairs and tables before the Feast. We took a few metal chairs from under the stage and kept them in reserve. There are also metal chairs stored in the back of the mothers' room.
Each morning the Rodens came in to clean the auditorium and straighten chairs. We used every padded chair and had to use some metal ones.
We did not take a formal attendance count, but an unscientific head count from the back of the auditorium gave us about 180 in the morning on the first day (it dropped to 120 in the afternoon) and 193 on the last day. Our low attendance was 69 on Sunday.
With people leaving after the first day and others coming back early, we had more than 200 people who attended at Big Sandy.
The Feast began with wonderful opening-night hospitality. Kim Skelton coordinated the food and drinks. Each morning Sharon Burgin and a host of others served a variety of delicious breakfasts. We even learned that Wynn is a good cook.
Wynn coordinated the song leaders. Wynn and Kim did an outstanding job of scheduling special music. I think the special music was the best I have seen here during the Feast.
Darlene Warren and Neil McIver cleaned the rest rooms and kept them stocked.
Jim Wilkins was responsible for the facility. The only major problem we experienced was a loss of water pressure on the first day. The city was filling a tank, and it limited our water so water fountains, commodes, urinals and the dishwasher did not function.
Once the pressure returned, there were no problems. The experience reminded us of the piney-woods campground on what used to be the property owned by the Worldwide Church of God at Big Sandy, and we were all thankful for the nice facility we now enjoy.
Angela Dunnam kept an eye on the mothers' room. One day we had a problem with unattended children.
She and Reesa Bearse conducted kids' classes daily. Kathy McCommon conducted teen classes on the holy days and the Sabbath.
Tim and Angela organized a game night. Jacob Sutherland, who came from Leominster, Mass., with his family to attend here, coordinated a variety show.
Daniel Warren planned a golf tournament.
Julie Wilkins did a wonderful job with a lot of help in the kitchen for two potluck meals and one all-comers' luncheon. About 100 people enjoyed the lunch.
Janice McKee of Berne, Ind., did another amazing job with the senior citizens' luncheon. Fifty seniors and a team of servers were fed for $263.
The 12 dozen fresh eggs donated by Bob and Linda Ross as well as ice cream and other food items really helped cut food costs.
Security and first aid were coordinated by Kit Holloway. Ron Feaker was responsible for the offering ushers. The holy-day offerings were up from last year. There was also between $700 and $800 put into the donation box, which wasn't put on display until it was requested on the second or third day.
Jewell McCollum and Gracie Feaker took care of the information table.
The Feast brochure was put together and printed by Don Walls.
The only major change I would recommend is the time of afternoon services on the first day. We adjusted the start time to 2:30, but that was still a long wait. I would suggest a 2 p.m. start time if there is an afternoon service. With the drop in numbers for afternoon services, it might be a consideration to cancel them.
I felt that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the services and activities.
Feast in the Garden City
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand--The Tabernacle is the place where God dwells with His people; it is made after the heavenly pattern. The Feast is a joyous celebration.
These descriptions certainly apply to a wonderful eight-day festival celebration that was shared by 30 brethren this year in Christchurch, the "Garden City" of New Zealand's scenic South Island.
A foretaste of God's love and plan for humanity was woven in with His current and future work in the greater body of His Son by various volunteer presenters.
Local Christchurch attendees were delighted to have "foreign" visitors from the North Island as well as Australia and also two adventurous, much-loved couples from the U.S.A.
The ice was broken on the first evening when each attendee was asked to introduce himself or herself and tell a little of his or her own church and other history, with emphasis on the positive.
A theme for the Feast was established along the lines of the projections of thought stemming from Genesis 1:26: "Let us make man in our image and after our likeness."
This theme was well adhered to by the presenter of the day, who spoke on a stimulating, thought-provoking topic. Without fail, this engendered a follow-up, lively, interactive, moderated Bible discussion in which all present had the freedom to share a personal insight and relevant scriptures on the proffered topic.
Respect for a brother's and sister's uniqueness made this "iron sharpens iron" format come alive at this Feast and was a stimulating change from the traditional COG live or recorded sermon format.
Musical interludes were presented by teens Nadia and Carmen Mira. A vital tool in promoting success with the service format used was a boardroom-style meeting-room setup where everyone could comfortably face each other.
During these eight days of wonderful fellowship, many shared the sights in and around Christchurch as well as some of the spectacular scenery that the South Island has to offer.
A highlight activity was a full day's scenic excursion coast to coast in two minibuses and one automobile. Departing from Christchurch on the east of the South Island, the party traveled across the fertile Canterbury Plains with their wide braided rivers, through the Arthur's Pass alpine route between snowcapped mountains and past sparkling lakes and native beech forests, to eventually arrive at the South Island's wild west coast, where lunch and a short hike were enjoyed by all at the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.
On the homebound leg of the journey, the west-coastal scenery gave way to alpine forests and snowcapped mountains again as those in the party wended their way back to Christchurch via another of N.Z.'s major scenic alpine places, the Lewis Pass.
Two more afternoon minibus trips to scenic venues near Christchurch were especially taken advantage of by overseas visitors.
The Creator's handiwork in the South Island is truly awe-inspiring and, along with "meat in due season," made this Feast at Christchurch a memorable,
joyous, family-bonding experience for those who attended. There is a genuine hungering for a repeat in one or two years' time.
Shadows and patterns
CLEARWATER, Fla.--From Sept. 30 through Oct. 7 another delightful, spiritually rewarding Feast of Tabernacles and Great Last Day at the Harborview Center in hurricane-free Clearwater occurred with brethren of God's Church, known better by its publishing name, the Church Outreach Program (COP) with an address of P.O. Box 6111, Elgin, Ill. 60121, U.S.A.
During the Feast of Tabernacles General Pastor Robert Roenspies, COP's featured speaker, explained why our Father, the great God, commands His people to rejoice, love and serve one another before Him for all seven days of God's Feast of Tabernacles, which pictures the loving, joyful, peaceful, wedding-anniversary celebration, in advance, of the marriage of God's prepared Bride--144,000 firstfruits, God's church--to the Groom, Jesus Christ. This will be celebrated in God's Kingdom forever!
During the Sabbath between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Great Last Day, shadows and patterns were discussed. Perhaps most fascinating was Pastor Roenspies explaining the shadow-pattern of how Adam was incomplete until God took something out of him to build a bride so they both could become complete.
Jesus Christ, although perfect, is also incomplete until God takes something out of Jesus and puts it into the firstfruits, the Bride, so they both can become complete.
On the eighth day Pastor Roenspies explained how knowledge of God's true plan allows one to see that in the Great Last Day all mankind will be saved and Satan and demons will be thrown in the lake of fire and destroyed forever.
God's Church enjoyed a church-sponsored picnic and spent an day at Fort Desoto Park while lots of family-style get-togethers occurred throughout
God's Feast. It was a peaceful hurricane-free time of rejoicing by all in Florida!
The Von Trapp Kurrs
DERBYSHIRE, England--For the fifth time in the last six years, the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom held the Feast of Tabernacles at Chatsworth House in beautiful rural Derbyshire.
Because all of the accommodations are off site in neighboring areas, the drive to Chatsworth House from whichever direction is truly millennial: small, winding roads with fields for miles around that have sheep, cows and deer in abundance.
Home of the Cavendish family for more than 450 years, Chatsworth House is the home of the duchess of Devonshire, the duke of Devonshire having died earlier this year.
The original house was a Tudor manor built by Sir William Cavendish in about 1550. It is situated in Derbyshire's Peak District National Park, surrounded by one of the most magnificent landscapes in the country.
As is the practice of the Global Church of God in the U.K., visitors were made most welcome. Global's Web site states that "we are here to be of service, serving God's people irrespective of affiliation," and this was evident by the welcome and attitudes shown by members in the U.K.
Raymond Kurr and his family from Oklahoma, U.S.A., provided special music on several days. Nicknamed the Von Trapp Kurr Family Singers, their special music was much appreciated by all of the Feastgoers, as was that provided by Norbert Link, who also sang special music.
Meat in due season of a very high quality was provided by Mr. Link, visiting from San Diego; Brian Gale, the festival elder; Bob Letham, the U.K. company secretary of the church; Bill Koeneke; Norman Harris; Paul Harris; Douglas Mitchell; Andrew Burns; and Peter Cartwright.
Derbyshire and the surrounding area have many places to visit. A coach tour of North Derbyshire was enjoyed by many Feastgoers, and many took the opportunity to visit other parts of the area.
The church at Edensor, which is close to Chatsworth House, has Kathleen Kennedy, the sister of President John F. Kennedy, buried there amongst the dukes. She died in a plane crash shortly after her husband, Lord Hartington, had been killed in the Second World War.
The Devonshire Arms, where the fun evening and the feast dinner were held, sits almost at the gates of Chatsworth House and to this day forms part of the duke's estate. The Devonshire Arms was built in 1747 of warm, mellow local stone and is where Charles Dickens visited many times. Much fun was had and excellent food enjoyed at these two church functions.
Unfortunately this year there were a number of members who could not attend because of illness, and quite a number of cards were sent to those who were going through trials.
Now that the Feast is over for another year, we have many happy memories of the eight days that were filled with great spiritual and physical food, warm friendship and messages that filled us with hope and anticipation for the reality that the Feast of Tabernacles pictures.
Here's to next year!
Cops, robbers and a hurricane
DUNEDIN, Fla.--We had an enjoyable Feast in Dunedin after many difficulties. We lost power during Hurricane Francis for 15 days and got back power for 10 days and lost it again on the Day of Atonement and were still without power when we left Melbourne, Fla., for Dunedin.
We called the Feast accommodations. The people there said they had no power where we were to stay so we figured we would have to stay at home. It was hot and miserable.
We got word Tuesday evening that power was restored so we packed and left Wednesday morning for Dunedin. We got a room at the Red Roof but were seven miles away, so Friday we moved to Comfort Suites, just one mile from the meeting room. Several others stayed there because their motel still did not have power.
We had a nice Feast with 86 in attendance.
During the Feast we took the elevator to the third floor. As it was going up and as we were on the second floor, a policeman said we could not get off there. We then learned that a couple had robbed someone and pistol-whipped the person and then got a room on the third floor, where we were staying.
We went back after services and the road was still blocked so we informed the detective that Ruby had a medical condition and needed to get in, so he said he would escort us in. But we said it is too far for Ruby to walk so he escorted the car under the building and let us go to the second floor.
After two hours we heard the police squad break down the door and throw in three concussion shells and apprehend a man and a woman.
We arrived back home on Thursday at 6 p.m. and we had power (hooray).
There was quite a lot of damage here, especially the roofs and water damage. We were fortunate because our personal property was not damaged.
Feast on the fly
EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark.--What happens when a hurricane strikes a Feast site two weeks before opening services?
This year that question was answered by a number of fellowships that had to make some tough decisions concerning whether to stay or to go to worship God in the Florida Panhandle for the Feast.
CEM (Christian Educational Ministries), after being advised by the government's emergency-management system to make other plans, quickly put together an alternate Feast site in Eureka Springs. It became known as the "Feast on the fly."
At first there were some challenges due to the crowding of hundreds of Corvette owners and Yamasaki motorcyclists who also like Eureka Springs in the fall. After the revving of the engines quieted and the wheels rolled on out of town, the sounds became more peaceful and joyful in honor of God.
What was it like? you might ask.
For me it was waking up early each morning to a beautiful view and realizing what a blessing the Feast is. Then would come breakfast and at 9:30 an opportunity to choose a seminar from some of the following subjects: studying the Bible, Christian living, testing the spirits, evangelism, having a sound mind, and proving Scripture.
There were usually two or three choices each morning and then two or three more in the afternoon.
After the morning seminars there was a half hour to find seats and fellowship before services.
Oh, and if you were there with your children, not to worry. They were in YEA classes during the seminars having fun with their friends and learning about how God loves them.
The YEA classes earn high accolades from all who have benefited from Allie Dart's dedication to developing a program especially geared for COG-tradition children. Since CEM isn't a church, the program is made available to any fellowships or churches that care to have the best for their children's experience in religious education.
There were some wonderful sermons given by the speakers who included Ron Dart, Jeff Osborn, Larry S. Watkins, Jim O'Brien, Guy Swenson and Bill Jacobs.
The seminars were planned for and developed by Scarlett Stough, Nancy Vandemark, Pam Dewey, Lenny Cacchio, Jim Ross and Mike Linacre and the other speakers mentioned, although one or two were canceled to allow space in the facility for the youth classes. No doubt we missed a couple of good ones, but the kids come first at CEM.
Singles had fun in Eureka. Nancy Vandemark organized an ice-breaker singles' luncheon and pizza party and that kicked off the first couple of days.
Other activities were trips to the Holy Land Tour park and The Passion Play, horseback riding and a visit to a wild-animal refuge, and smaller groups went on a train ride and riverboat cruise, not to mention having two meals a day together and lots of wholesome fellowship.
I could go on and on but then someone would just have to edit more out so I'll be quiet now and close with this thought: I wasn't happy about the
hurricane; I was just happy.
Leaving on Track 5 for the Feast
EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark.--Christian Educational Ministries had planned to have its 2004 Feast of Tabernacles in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Attendance had risen every year and was expected to be 1,200 to 1,400 this year.
But Hurricane Ivan wiped out the facilities and left the Feast organizers with only two weeks to find a new location.
The chairman of the CEM Festival Association, Skip Martin of Jonesboro, Ark., found the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks convention center in Eureka Springs was available and booked it.
But that convention facility seated a maximum of 850 in the main hall. If that capacity were to be exceeded, then the rooms on the lower floor would have to be wired for sound.
The organizers guessed that many of those who normally attended the Florida site would not come to Eureka Springs, opting to go to other sites instead. Such was the case, and 677 registered for the CEM Feast. Actual attendance may have been slightly higher than that on peak days.
Nearly all of those who were involved in seminars, teaching youth classes, the fun show, the youth day and other responsibilities did come. So the migration from Florida to Arkansas remained well organized.
There was a cliche in the Worldwide Church of God that every Tabernacles observance was "the best Feast ever."
This was said every year and became meaningless and even wrong.
But this year's CEM Feast was for many of us the best Feast ever. For myself personally, I would say that it was the best Feast I've been to in decades, and it was my 45th Feast of Tabernacles.
There are feelings that are hard to verbalize that are felt when God's presence and blessing are in a location, especially after He has taken you through a test.
The test this year was losing the planned location and facilities, then having to relocate in just two weeks' time. The presence of God can be felt by the love, joy and peace in people--and a lack of pride and arrogance. There were many comments about that feeling among attendees.
Sermons were given by Ron Dart, Jeff Osborn, Larry Watkins, Jim O'Brien and Bill Jacobs.
Many people commented on Mr. O'Brien's sermon as being especially moving. He talked about the hardships faced by the Pilgrims who came on the Mayflower to seek a new life. He compared their experience to Hebrews 11 and listed characteristics of pilgrims that Christians must have.
He did not say it, but the events of his recent experiences undoubtedly mirrored those characteristics and added passion to what he said.
Seminars were available this year every day except the eighth day of the Feast:
Jim Ross gave two, "Nurturing Our Sound Mind" and "The Three Theories of How Long a Time Genesis 1 and 2 Involve."
Pam Dewey gave three: "Flea Powder for Itching Ears," "An Analysis of End-Time 'Prophecies' Propounded by Many People In and Out of the COGs" and "Using the Sabbath and Holy Days as Tools of Evangelism."
Other subjects covered: "Who Do Men Say That I Am?" by Lenny Cacchio, "The Search for Manhood" by Jim O'Brien, "Women in the Bible as Examples for Our Prayers" by Scarlett Stough and "Helping Children Develop a Relationship With God" by Bill Jacobs.
Guy Swenson presented "When Churches Turn Toxic," "Sabbath-Keeping Churches Can Make Disciples" and "Exploding Myths About Evangelism and the Christian's Mission."
Mike Linacre also hosted five interactive studies on the New Testament.
Classes for various levels of children were held most days. These bring many families with children to the CEM Feast site.
CEM is different from other groups in that it has no churches. It is a service organization sponsored by local independent congregations and individuals.
Eureka Springs is quite a tourist town. It was founded because of the claims that its famous springs of water brought healing.
The population of the town reached 10,000 at its peak. It is now at 2,500, but all the historic buildings have been saved and maintained.
On a trolley a passenger asked the driver, "What industry keeps this town going?"
The driver pointed back at the passenger.
Eureka Springs has the Holy Land Tour theme park featuring scale replicas of significant structures of the Bible with commentary by guides.
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was a scale replica of the "tent of meeting." The guide explained how sacrifices were done. Through plastic windows in the side of the tent, tourists viewed a replica of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies with the Ark of the Covenant and the covering cherubim over it.
The guide explained how these pointed to Christ. He also spoke about the Day of Atonement and how meaningful these are in showing what Christ has done.
CEM plans to return to the Florida location next year and plans to host only that one site. But who knows?
A hurricane might change things again. The site might have to be moved to, say, Anaheim or Azusa or maybe even Cucamonga.
Hungry hearts running over
JACKSON, Tenn.--The plan of God was the theme this year as Hungry Hearts Ministries observed its first Feast here beginning on the evening of Sept. 29 and continuing through Oct. 7, the Last Great Day.
An average of 40-50 people had come from as far away as Canada and England to attend for the eight days.
The brethren rejoiced with the lighting of the menorah, blowing of the shofar and incredible praise and worship music at every service.
The brethren participated in a prayer meeting in the mornings before services and every evening at 7.
God's presence and Spirit were poured out through the wonderful sermons such as "The Plan of God," "The Presence of God," "God Is a Family," "True Conversion," "Rescue of the Bride," "The Church Is the Bride," "The Gospel of the Kingdom" and "The Consecration of the Bride," given by Bill Shults, Sam Anderson and Terry Beam.
There were wonderful catered buffet meals provided for the high days and the Sabbath so the brethren could fellowship with each other. Display tables were stocked with reading material, music, jewelry and sermon tapes for all to take as they desired.
As a result of the wonderful, much-needed spiritual food we received, there were four baptisms, which everyone observed and rejoiced in.
All were truly blessed, with their hearts and spirits running over and their spirits renewed with a new zeal to carry them through the next year.
JERUSALEM--I pray that all had a great Feast of Sukkot. We had a most awesome Feast in Jerusalem, the City of the Great King. We had about 50 brethren there and a daily attendance of 40 or so. Everyone left encouraged and uplifted.
What a blessing it is to be able to host the pilgrim feasts in the Jerusalem.
To think that after almost 2,000 years, since the destruction of the temple and the diaspora of the Jewish people, we are the first generation to be blessed to be able to keep the Feast in Israel again.
We are blessed to be the embryo of the fulfillment of Ezekiel 36:38 today. We invite and encourage all of Yahweh's elect to consider coming to Jerusalem for the Feast next year.
We had a somber situation come upon us as we were having our pilgrimage around the land of Israel and Egypt. As we traversed the Taba border crossing in Egypt, a suicide bomber blew up the Hilton Hotel at the border a few hours after we had passed.
When we received the news that most Israelis were fleeing the border back to Israel, we prayed about what to do and decided to stay with our plans to go to the Red Sea-crossing site where the chariot wheels of Pharaoh were found.
As we sat under a tree reading Scripture, we realized it was an acacia tree, the very same type that was used to make the Ark of the Covenant.
It was then we all realized that where we were (under the ark at the site of the parting of the Red Sea, in our Heavenly Father's hands) was the safest place on earth.
When we crossed the border later that day, many emergency workers were there desperately trying to dig out anyone who was still trapped by the bombing, and the border-crossing facility itself had had its windows and doors blown off.
As I went to the toilet, I saw a soldier with tears in his eyes who had just come from digging in the rubble. I looked at him and prayed for the Holy Spirit to give me a word of encouragement to say, then I looked at him and said, "May Yahweh bless you."
His tears turned to a smile and he said: "Thank you. May He bless you too."
We could see the remains of the Hilton right in front of us with about a third of it blown away, a solemn reminder of the dangers of terrorism and
the world we live in. It was a clear sign to all of us present that under the wings and protection of our Heavenly Father in these end times is our only true place of safety.
NAIROBI, Kenya--I hope you are all having a joyful time during this festival time. The Kenyan brethren send good wishes to all the U.S. brethren as
we are united in this great festival. Shalom, peace.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God