Church of God brethren tell about their festivals

Following are the first reports Feastgoers have sent to The Journal about the 2000 Feast of Tabernacles. More reports from Feast sites are planned for the November issue. For guidelines on submitting your Feast report and optional photographs, please see the article beginning on page 1 of the Sept. 30 issue.

The name of the writer appears after each Feast report.

Millennial atmosphere

ANGEL FIRE, N.M.--Inspirational sermons and abundant fellowship marked the Feast here for 127 people at this site sponsored by the Church of God Big Sandy (Texas).

The site was one of four locations sponsored by the congregation. (Others were Big Sandy; Destin, Fla.; and Wisconsin Dells, Wis.)

Speakers filled the morning air with spiritual food. They were Gary Anderson, Brian Bettes, Don Bjoraker, Steve Bruns, Wayne Cole, Jack Elder, David Fisher, Dave Havir, Reg Killingley, Bernie Monsalvo, Joe Self, John Warren and Wayne Weese.

The afternoons were open for hiking, horseback riding, fishing and many other outdoor activities. Feastgoers enjoyed cool, crisp weather and spectacular mountain views.

Organized activities included a Sabbath social, arts-and-crafts fair, cowboy evening and family dance.

The snowcapped mountains and the golden hue of the Aspens helped create a millennial atmosphere.

Overwhelming support on a festival survey means the Feast might come back to Angel Fire next year. Ron Avey, Big Sandy.

See the salvation of our God

CENTERVILLE, Ohio--More than 900 worshipers gathered at Fairhaven Church in Centerville, Ohio, Oct. 13-14 for Sukkot 2000, the 13th annual celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles sponsored by the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies and the Church of the Messiah.

The theme of the celebration was from Isaiah 52:10: "All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."

Appropriately, those in attendance had come from at least 20 American states and several foreign countries, including England, South Africa, Australia and Israel.

Many Christian denominations were represented, including the Worldwide Church of God.

The schedule was packed with activities. Two joyous worship services featured lively messianic music, colorful banners and the dancing of The David Co., a Dayton-based dance troupe.

Dwight A. Pryor, founder of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies and a renowned teacher specializing in Christianity's Hebraic roots, spoke on the Christian significance of God's annual festivals.

Three sessions of workshops presented a variety of topics, including the benefits of the Sabbath, the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles, intercessory prayer, Israel's role in God's plan, how to have a weekly Torah study, and the use of dance in worship.

This gathering represents a significant and encouraging recent trend: Increasing numbers of people are discovering the Jewish roots of Christianity and delighting in the celebration of the Sabbath and biblical festivals. Doug Ward, Oxford, Ohio.

Celebration in advance

CLEARWATER, Fla.--Another delightful, spiritually rewarding Feast of Tabernacles and Great Last Day in Clearwater occurred Oct. 13-21 with brethren of God's Church, better known by its publishing name, the Church Outreach Program (COP) of Elgin, Ill.

About 80 percent more brethren attended as were present in 1999.

The commanded holy convocations, or public meetings, for the first and eighth days took place in Clearwater Beach at the Harborview Center.

General Pastor Robert Roenspies, COP's featured speaker, explained how the Feast of Tabernacles pictured the celebration, in advance, of the marriage of God's readied Bride--the firstfruits, church, "temples," "tabernacles," if you will--to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Mr. Roenspies recommended we imagine we were 10 billion years into the future and, from that point in time, looking back at the Feast of Tabernacles as a memorial of the Lamb's marriage to His Bride as a predestined "done deal" in God's eyes (Romans 4:17). The Great Last Day pictures children from this marriage.

Throughout God's Feast excited brethren from around the country, learning and growing together in unity, were found fellowshipping and talking about God's wonderful plan of salvation.

Additionally, the brethren enjoyed a special evening meal at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort and a family trip to Busch Gardens.

Brethren also enjoyed dining on the 107-foot Starlite Princess, a three-deck paddle-wheel riverboat, on smooth inland waters. John Gordon, Nashua, N.H.

No place like home

CLINTON, N.C.--As the Feast drew near this year, several of us in the Church of God in Clinton decided to change our plans and opted for a site that was close to home. We all had our reasons.

Personally, in our family, we have a 6-month-old baby who doesn't travel well. The church here also wanted to keep its doors open for those who needed a place to attend on the holy days.

So we went to the Internet. There we found a site in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a mere three-hour drive away. The congregation sponsoring the site seemed to have an open-door policy, so we all set off for the beach.

My husband and I wanted to be there for the first holy day, so we left Saturday morning early.

We got there as services were just starting. Everyone there was so friendly we felt right at home. Services commenced with the blowing of the shofar. That got everyone's attention! The children were taught about the armor of God as they made each piece of armor in Sabbath school.

The rest of the group got there Sunday afternoon. The weather was beautiful. We all enjoyed the beach and pools and worked up an appetite. We made enough spaghetti and salad for an army that night.

We attended services in the hotel Monday, but some wanted to look up friends in other sites nearby. So Tuesday we split up and sought out old friends.

We left Tuesday and spent the rest of the week with Jim and Peggy Tolbert in their spacious home in Bunnlevel, N.C. They had enough beds for all 14 of us. We ate a wonderful steak dinner, in spite of the grill quitting on us. As on all the other nights, we had plenty to talk about.

On Thursday my family enjoyed the state fair in Raleigh, while others went to the natural-history museum and sightsaw.

We headed home Thursday night, but some chose to stay until the end.

We met back up on the Last Great Day in our church home in Clinton. We had a great time, but we were glad to be home.

With all of our moving around we had learned the meaning of temporary dwellings. Be it ever so humble there is no place like home. Sheila Wetherington.

Two South Texas Feasts

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas--My wife and I went to two Feast sites this year. We had a great time in Pensacola, Fla., with the brethren in the Christian Biblical Church of God. The Spirit from God the Father and Jesus Christ filled the auditorium, and you could feel the love of the brethren growing.

Wayne Stinehouse from Ontario, Canada, was ordained elder; a student group was formed for San Antonio, Texas; and three were baptized into God's family.

The last day of the Feast and the Last Great Day we spent in Corpus Christi at the United Church of God's Feast site. We saw many of our friends there, and their love really shows.

We hope to see all of you on the sea of glass. Doug and Marie Becker, Schertz, Texas.

14 hours to a great Feast

DESTIN, Fla.--As we prepared for the long trip to Destin and Niceville (a 14-hour drive for us), we wondered if it wouldn't be easier to find a closer Feast site next year. It seemed like it would be so much easier to go someplace within a few hours' drive.

But when we got to Destin it seemed that each time we turned around and did something we realized why the Emerald Coast and the Christian Educational Ministries Feast is so great for us.

We got there a couple of days early and went parasailing to see some awesome views of God's great creation. We followed that up with a sunset cruise on a Biloxi schooner that gave us a peaceful view of dolphins playing around the schooner and the full moon rising just after a spectacular sunset.

Seeing the emerald-clear waters of the Gulf with its white beaches from our beachside condo, as well as getting our toes (and more) wet in the Gulf, made us realize it's a really spectacular coast and beach for the Feast.

Then, as the Feast began Friday night with an inspiring message about the birth of our Lord and Savior, and we sang hymns and praises to God with old friends again after a long year, it became clear that this site was something special for us.

The next morning, on the holy day, the beautiful Fine Arts Center at Okaloosa-Walton Community College filled with about 1,000 brethren who came to hear a message about investing in God. It became obvious that it is wonderful to be able to keep the Feast with such a large group of friends and brethren.

Each day got better. The early-morning seminars were interesting and uplifting.

For me on Sunday there was "Understanding Personality Types" by Trish Svehla. On Monday was "Biblical Chronology Made Easy" by Pam Dewey. Tuesday's was "Dysfunctional Families" by Tony Kuzynski.

The latter was especially moving because Tony gave personal testimony and related it to the church in a poignant manner.

Wednesday's seminar was "Gender Communication" presented by Trish Svehla to an overflow crowd.

When I decided that was enough seminars for me and went to services early on Thursday, I was rewarded by hearing special music being practiced. Each day we had two or three excellent special-music presentations. That day I enjoyed them twice.

That brings me to the highlight of the feast at CEM. Friday was youth day. What a service! First we had the beginners' choir: a delightful group of 3- to 5-year-olds giving their all to bring us a joyful performance.

Then the senior teen choir of about 30 sang a rousing number. Around those numbers we had a brother and sister give their testimony of what Christianity has meant in their lives.

The "Cool Christians" of the junior choir (about 35 age 6 to 11) finished the wonderful singing part of the performance.

That was followed by an imaginative stage production of "Elijah's Claim to Flame." It was well presented and had us wondering, How are they going to make that fire appear? The answer came with a wonderful surprise as the Eternal's fire burned up the right sacrifice.

That was topped off with an uplifting message by a young man about people who served God faithfully even after they got off to a not-so-good start.

The message on the Last Great Day reminded us of the reunion aspects of the Feast: that so many of us can see old friends.

That was carried forward to some wonderful reunions all of us look forward to with loved ones and friends who have not been called at this time.

The reasons for planning to come back to the Destin-Niceville area next year are obviously many more than I have mentioned here. Besides the many fine activities for all ages, they include the exuberant song-leading by Brent Kern. He not only brought quality to the musical portion each day, but he added fun to the singing.

As we thank God and all those who made this Feast such a wonderful experience in Destin, we think back on it and say see you next year in Destin. Horst Obermeit, Kenly, N.C.

Sounding the alarm

ESTES PARK, Colo.--More than 600 people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles at the United Church of God's site in this popular Colorado resort town Oct. 13-21.

The group, some 25 percent larger than expected, enjoyed gorgeous autumn colors and bright, sunny skies throughout the Feast, a pleasant surprise since the area usually gets several snowfalls this time of year.

Visitors to this millennial setting were treated to the sight of scattered herds of elk (and smaller groups of mule deer) roaming through the town and residential neighborhoods. Many Feastgoers took the opportunity to hike in and explore neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park.

A popular excursion was Trail Ridge Road, a winding alpine highway reaching to 12,183 feet above sea level and offering spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.

The church offered Feastgoers specialized activities that included a preteen pizza and swim party, a reception and bowling party for teens, Bible studies and specialized instruction for preteens, teens and young adults, a senior citizens' buffet and a family dance.

Several Feastgoers commented to this writer that the sermons and sermonettes were, on the whole, the best they had ever heard at the Feast.

One speaker summarized the theme of the messages: "God is sounding the alarm for His church." Scott Ashley, Arvada, Colo.

Fellowship with God's family

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla.--One hundred twenty-five members of the family of God registered at the Feast of Tabernacles 2000, Oct. 14 through the Last Great day, Oct. 21, at Four Points Sheraton in Fort Walton Beach.

The site was sponsored by the Church of God of Central Arkansas in association with Church of God Outreach Ministries and several other independent Church of God groups.

Visitors from nearby Feast sites were welcomed as family and invited to join in all activities.

Most of our worship services consisted of songs and hymns of praise and two speakers in a split-sermon format. Three of our services were enriched by scripture readings by Bethea Davis, T.J. Davis and Chelsea Davis. They were heartwarming and much appreciated.

Speakers were Ron Bridges, James Ussery, Rory Ries, Ian Hufton, Herb Morrow, Dave Havir, Marshall Bryan, Robert Marlowe, Jim Kely, Dan Girouard, Max Davis, Ken Svehla and Bill Hillebrenner.

Interactive Bible studies were presented by Ian Hufton, John Beasley, John Havir, Jack Morgan, James Ussery, Rick Beltz, Ken Svehla, Eddie Staggs and Herbert Britt.

Seminars were by Ian Hufton, "Local Church and Youth Development"; Terry and Ida Green, "Driving Safety"; Thalia Hufton, "Grief Management" and "Tips on Child Rearing"; Rory Reis, "Why Our Kids Do the Things They Do"; and Barbara Marlowe, Dot Ussery and Donna Toombs, "Women's Role in the Church."

Activities included a luau at the poolside courtyard, a fish fry at Liza Jackson Park, a deep-sea-fishing excursion, balcony dolphin watches, cookouts, dinners and breakfasts with kindred spirits, sunrises and sunsets, barefoot walks on the beach, hot tubs and swimming pools, food, fun and--best of all--fellowship with God's family. Theda Horton, Little Rock, Ark.

Love, unity, inspiring messages

LEXINGTON, Ky.--About 350 Intercontinental Church of God brethren, along with some from other branches of God's church, met at Embassy Suites Hotel in Lexington for the Feast of Tabernacles 2000.

God blessed His people with beautiful warm sunshine every day, making it easy to rejoice.

An overall spirit of love and unity prevailed as inspirational messages were delivered by Robert Nunnery, Mike Garrett, Dale Sherman, Bernie Bercosky, Edward Rash, Joe Shuster, Don Grimes, George Trent and Garner Ted Armstrong.

Six people were baptized during the Feast this year.

The brethren participated in many events and activities, including a dinner for hosts and ministers; a few dances; sightseeing around the area; a church picnic; and a talent show.

Many people deserve a lot of credit for working so hard to make it a successful Feast, including Earl and Shirley Timmons, who helped in finding such beautiful facilities where God's people could meet for the Feast.

Many brethren, including yours truly, plan to return next year for another wonderful Feast of Tabernacles in beautiful Lexington. Alex Nicholson, Englishtown, N.S., Canada.

Overwhelmed by quality of the music

LLANDUDNO, North Wales--There appears to be general agreement that this year's Festival of Tabernacles, sponsored by the Churches of God UK in association with the Churches of God Outreach Ministries, was both profitable and enjoyable.

We were blessed with many fine biblical messages and almost overwhelmed by the high quality of the music, led by Gerry and Sheila Bernardo (clavinola), and with enthusiastic song leading from Michael Linacre, all three from Chicago.

Mike Young (London) accompanied skillfully on violin. Great fellowship was enhanced by the intimacy of the small numbers present (36), and new friendships formed.

The location was ideal: a beautifully refurbished once-royal castle--Bodlondeb Castle Hotel--within walking distance of the Irish Sea and nestled below a climbable hill.

The hotel management was superb, attending to our every need with a smile and providing excellent food. Hotel personnel even joined us for our last-night sing-along.

For leisure, North Wales provided mountain, valley and seascapes--and history--to delight everyone.

Thanks to everyone for the willing cooperation that made the considerable effort to brave what was, for most, a long journey. Thanks also to those who worked behind the scenes with recording and maintenance (David) and with organizing the daily services (Keir)--and, of course, to all the "preachers."

As usual, addresses were exchanged, and I would encourage everyone to regularly keep up the contacts made this year. James McBride, Lincoln, England.

A vision for the church

NOOSA, Australia--We arrived at the Feast in a six-month drought but brought the rain with us, which was welcomed by the locals. Fortunately, the rain did not affect the activities.

Noosa is an upmarket coastal resort town on Queensland's Sunshine Coast with plenty of luxury accommodation and restaurants. Activities included a dance, singles' boat cruise, musical evening based on the story of Nicodemus performed by young people from the Brisbane congregation, and musical recitals.

The Feast coordinator was Graham Marshall, who looks after the United Church of God in Queensland. About 290 were in attendance, with regular attendance 270-280.

Sermons were given by Mr. Marshall, Reg Wright, Allan Hambleton, Tom Burchard and Ken Murray. Topics covered were the importance of having a vision for the church, the use of technology in the world tomorrow, controlling what we allow to enter our minds, and traditional festival topics.

One disappointment was how little was sent out about events currently unfolding in the world. With the whole world focused on the events unfolding in Jerusalem, the Feast would have been an ideal time to direct the church's attention to these end-time events as they unfold.

Many of those attending the Feast came from New South Wales and Victoria, along with the Queensland members. The Australian church seems to be in good heart, with members openly expressing opinions on everything from church government to preaching the gospel.

The openness and frankness with which members expressed themselves and gave their opinions were a pleasant contrast to how it was in the Worldwide Church of God, where members tended to parrot the party line coming from headquarters. Some attending have chosen not to be affiliated with any one church organization at this time.

If there was one common complaint from members, it was that they felt that the ministry stifled local initiatives from the members and that the ministers felt that they must control everything involved with running the church. Several members expressed their frustration over this issue.

Overall, those attending the Feast found it a profitably and spiritually uplifting time. They came away spiritually uplifted and appreciative that God has provided us the opportunity of fellowshipping together with God's people. Bruce Porteous.

Many lively discussions

ORLANDO, Fla.--Over the course of the eight days, nearly 60 people attended the Feast of Tabernacles site in Orlando at Cendant Hall.

Throughout the week, interactive seminars took place on a variety of subjects, with more-traditional services held on the holy days.

The classroom-style seminars, each 90 minutes in length including a break for refreshments, sparked many lively discussions that continued informally well beyond the closing of each seminar.

Daniel Kaplan conducted the educational program for the children. Each seminar ended with a report from the children of their day's lesson.

Festival attendees enjoyed the area's many attractions.

Festivities concluded with a pizza party after the last service.

Plans are already in motion for next year's festival in the same location and with a similar format.

The Kaplans will regularly update the Web site,, with more information about 2001. Mark Kaplan, Anaheim, Calif.

Deepening personal relationship

POCAHONTAS, Ark. -- Little Children of Jesus Christ from Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and Arkansas observed Feast of Tabernacles 2000 in Pocahontas from the evening of Oct. 11 through Oct. 19.

Tents, a giant tepee and a trailer dotted grounds lushly set in the woods.

A service of praise and worship in song opened the first evening. It was followed by a dessert social that featured fresh homemade ice cream, pies and cookies as people entered into a spirit of celebration that continued throughout the Feast.

Many began each day with an early-morning walk.

All meals were taken communally.

Mornings included a devotional time in song and the Word.

In the afternoons were outdoor women's Bible studies.

A cookout, hayride and singing around a big fire highlighted the first day of the week.

Early-evening services concluded each day. Speakers included Tom Benzen of Missouri, Jerrold Strickler of Texas and Eldor Orr and Chris Barr of Arkansas.

A theme of celebration in the Savior and deepening of a personal relationship with Him developed throughout the Feast.

As we concluded observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, some ventured to Hot Springs to fellowship with Points of Truth celebrants keeping traditional dates and to meet again with Joseph Kimani of Kenya.

He had blessed us in Pocahontas three months before, and we had taxied him throughout Arkansas and up to meetings in Indiana. (See "Kenyan Pastor Visits American Sabbatarians" in the Sept. 30 issue of The Journal, page 1.)

There was a strong celebration in the Savior and deepening of personal relationship with Him present here as well.

Resounding praise and worship in song were led by gospel songwriter and recording artist Melvin Johnson of Tennessee in tandem with Larry Lasiter.

Heartfelt praying and bountiful Bible studies were a hallmark. The young people were an inspirational and intimate part in all of this.

Herb Solinsky taught a wonderful series of Bible studies on the Messiah from Old Testament scriptures.

Last Great Day services were started by Jerry Boston and concluded with a stirring message from Joseph Kimani on living all out for the Lord in both the fullness and the beauty of His holiness. Chris Barr, Pocahontas, Ark.

CLA campaign at the Feast

SAN ANTONIO, Texas--The Christian Leadership Academy of Hot Springs, Ark., held its 10th public lecture in San Antonio during the Feast of Tabernacles. The CLA once again presented a message open to the public proclaiming the seventh-day Sabbath.

Dr. Alfred Harrell gave a positive, uplifting message explaining that the seventh day is still much in effect.

Brethren from various Church of God groups were invited and participated in the event. At last count, at least 10 new people attended, and several stayed after the meeting to ask questions.

I feel positive about the campaign, especially since there were people interested in exploring the possibilities of attending with a Sabbath-keeping church.

The campaign was jointly sponsored by the CLA, the Church of God San Antonio, and the Evangelistic Association of the Churches of God of Tulsa, Okla.

The next campaign will be in Mount Pleasant, Texas, Dec. 16. Anyone wishing to assist in the next lecture should call me at (870) 932-7783.

Coming CLA events are weekend evangelism seminars in January and February in Tulsa and campaigns in Oklahoma City and Houston. Tim Hall, Bono, Ark.

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