Newest 'Building Bridges' lets scattered brethren meet

By Dixon Cartwright

Another "Building Bridges" Sabbath service is shaping up, this time in northern Arkansas as longtime Church of God member Gary Pettit organizes something he's calling the Building Bridges Revival in Conway, Ark.

Mr. Pettit, a former Worldwide Church of God and Global Church of God member who lives in Atkins, Ark., plans the first Sabbath service for Feb. 27 at Howard Johnson's Motor Hotel in Conway, northwest of Little Rock on Interstate 40.

Ray Wooten, pastor of the independent United Church of God Birmingham (Ala.) and founder of United Christian Ministries, Birmingham, will be the first featured speaker.

The new Sabbath service, like Building Bridges in northern Arizona (from which Mr. Pettit got the idea for the Conway start-up; see The Journal, Dec. 31), is scheduled not to conflict with other Sabbath services in the area.

The idea is for Church of God brethren to be able to remain with their congregations but attend the Building Bridges Revival once a month to see old friends and brethren they don't otherwise get a chance to see.

"This is our first stab at anything like this," Mr. Pettit told The Journal Jan. 10. "If it fails, then we won't have any more, but if it looks good we'll have a Q&A [question-and-answer] seminar right after Ray Wooten speaks. We hope to have 100 people show up."

Mr. Pettit plans to invite a variety of speakers, should his series show some success. He plans to invite Ron Dart of Christian Educational Ministries, Tyler, Texas; Garner Ted Armstrong of the Intercontinental Church of God, Tyler; Jim Rector of Cornerstone Publications, Texarkana, Texas; and Warren Zehrung of Greensboro, N.C., a Global Church of God elder.

"It's going to be something to bring brethren together who haven't been together in years so we can fellowship and hear a good speaker about the Kingdom," said Mr. Pettit.

Another Church of God get-together takes place not far from Conway, one sponsored by James Ussery, who pastors the Central Arkansas Church of God in North Little Rock. Mr. Ussery's yearly gathering is the Old-Timers' Picnic for present and past members of the Worldwide Church of God.

"Ours is different from that," Mr. Pettit said. "This is a monthly opportunity to come together and go to church together. Afterwards there's a restaurant here at the hotel where we can visit."

The Building Bridges Revival is open to all fellowships. Mr. Pettit mentioned several groups in his area he hopes to see represented: Philadelphia, Global, Living, United and Mr. Ussery's congregation.

After the recent Global split, said Mr. Pettit, "I just reached the end of the line. I'm not going to do this anymore. The way I'm looking at it now, I go [to church] wherever I want to. When you've got a label on you, it's kind of hard to serve or help God's people."

Mr. Pettit expects to be accused of starting a new church.

But "I'm just giving all of our brethren a chance to come together and worship God on the Sabbath again. I'm not trying to start a church. I'm not qualified for that. But I'm qualified to get people together. I was a deacon in the Worldwide Church for nearly 20 years before I left and went with Global."

Mr. Pettit, 54, who describes himself as a salesman in the artificial-breeding cattle business, said several members of the WCG plan to attend.

"They've said, 'That's what we're looking for: an opportunity to come together and worship without having the stigma of an organization.' "

Mr. Pettit lives here with his wife, Sharley. The Pettits have a daughter, Krista Nelson of Warren, Ark.

To find the meeting place for the Building Bridges Revival, take Interstate 40 from Fort Smith or Little Rock to the Highway 65 exit at Conway and go south back under the freeway. Howard Johnson's is the first hotel on the right. Services start at 10 a.m., Feb. 27.

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