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Worldwide in Big Sandy no longer meeting on Sabbath
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Worldwide in Big Sandy no longer meeting on Sabbath
By Ellis W. Stewart

BIG SANDY, Texas--One of the oldest congregations of the Worldwide Church of God conducted its last Sabbath service Aug. 27, although it is still providing weekly church services for its members on Sundays.

Frank "Sonny" Parsons, 62-year-old pastor of the local congregation since 1999, said he is not comfortable when hearing that the WCG has "dropped" the Sabbath service.

"I don't like the word dropped," he said. "We combined the services."

The combined services, attended by about 90 people, meet each Sunday morning at 10:30 in a church-owned building near the corner of Highway 80 and Pearl Street.

For several years Mr. Parsons has conducted weekly services on both Saturday and Sunday.

Although the "denominational" name of the church is Worldwide Church of God, Mr. Parsons said, the local congregation calls itself New Beginnings Christian Fellowship.

Mr. Parsons, an employee of the local congregation, also pastors a WCG congregation in Texarkana, Ark., which also meets on Sundays.

The recent combining of services means that, for the first time in 52 years, the WCG has not conducted Sabbath services in the Gladewater-Big Sandy area of East Texas.


Services began in 1953 near Gladewater in the residence of Roy Hammer, whose son, Buck, donated the land that eventually became the site of the then Radio Church of God's Feast of Tabernacles observances and, in 1964, the third campus of Ambassador College.

Mr. Parsons, who lives here with his wife, Jane, acknowledged that three members have stopped attending WCG services in Big Sandy, apparently because of the change.

Mr. Parsons, a 1984 graduate of Ambassador College, Pasadena, Calif., is active in civic and community affairs.

He is a member of the Big Sandy Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, past president of the local ministerial alliance and a former city councilman and last year became mayor, having run unopposed for that office.

He is also a trained paramedic.

In 1999, two years after the Worldwide Church of God moved into town from the rural property that had long included Ambassador, Mr. Parsons replaced Don Mears.

The WCG was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong as the Sabbath-observing Radio Church of God in Eugene, Ore., in 1934.

In its heyday it operated three Ambassador College campuses, in Pasadena, Calif., on the grounds of the church's headquarters; in Bricket Wood, England; and near Big Sandy.

Mr. Armstrong died in 1986. His successor was Joseph Tkach. At Mr. Tkach's death, in 1995, his son, Joseph Jr., became pastor general.

The last remaining campus, in Big Sandy, by then known as Ambassador University, closed in 1997.

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