Congregations combine for church and dinner-dance
By Dixon Cartwright

BIG SANDY, Texas--The Church of God Big Sandy played host to neighboring Sabbath-keeping congregations at a church service and dinner-dance on April 19.

Church leaders of several congregations had canceled their regular church service on that day (the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread observance) and encouraged their members to attend with the Church of God Big Sandy.

"We are pleased that the various groups accepted our invitation," said Dave Havir, pastor of the host group.

Mr. Havir was quick to give credit for the idea to the other congregations.

"I have to admit that I had this idea after reading in [the Feb. 28 issue of] The Journal about the combined service of the Tyler Church of God and the Tyler congregation of the Church of God International that occurred on Feb. 15," he said. "They set a good example of getting together for church, and we wanted to build on their idea by adding a dinner-dance."

The congregations that canceled their church services were the Tyler, Texas, and Shreveport, La., congregations of the Church of God International (CGI), copastored by Charles Groce and Vance Stinson; the Tyler Church of God, pastored by John Reedy; a home-fellowship group near Texarkana pastored by Jim Rector of Cornerstone Publications; and the Tulsa (Okla.) Church of God Fellowship, pastored by Ray Kurr of Mounds, Okla.

Although Mr. Groce (CEO of the Church of God International) did not attend because he was a guest speaker in Arkansas that day, Mr. Stinson attended and commented about the unity at the meeting.

"Organizational distinctions tend to fade from view when brethren get together in an atmosphere of peace and joy," said Mr. Stinson, "and that's just what we experienced on the Sabbath of April 19."

Mr. Reedy echoed those remarks.

"We thank the Church of God Big Sandy for inviting us to worship God," he said. "It was a special opportunity for so many of us to gather together in His name. We appreciate the opportunity to build bridges of cooperation."

Ronald Dart, founder of Christian Educational Ministries (CEM) and a member of the Tyler Church of God, did not attend because he was a guest speaker in Florida on that day.

(The Tyler Church of God and CEM have an arrangement in which Mr. Dart handles much of the formal speaking in the Tyler congregation. The congregation receives the benefits of Mr. Dart's sermons, and CEM receives the benefit of having a forum to produce sermon tapes for its mailing list.)

Mr. Rector could not attend because of a health problem of his wife, Rita.

Mr. Kurr attended and performed two vocal selections of special music.

Mr. Havir said that, although he knew some congregations would not consider canceling their church services, he invited them to the dinner-dance anyway.

"I contacted John Ogwyn, pastor of the local congregation of the Living Church of God, and Ken Treybig, pastor of the local congregation of the United Church of God, and invited their congregations," he said.

"I was disappointed that only five or six couples from those groups attended the dinner-dance, but it was at least nice to see those brethren who came."

Sit-down meal

At 5:30 p.m. the Big Sandy congregation served 204 people at a sit-down meal in the main auditorium.

Members of the congregation had prepared the food in advance. They included Jim and Julie Wilkins, Don and Michele Mischnick and Melodee Overton.

About 40 volunteers--including 25 teenagers and young adults from the congregation--served the meal.

Angie Geddes, receptionist for the headquarters of the Church of God International, said she enjoyed the day.

"We were welcomed by a very friendly congregation and had two great messages for our spiritual food," she said. "That evening we also enjoyed such delicious food, and we had it served by the very polite and helpful youth of the church. I felt really spoiled, but I liked it."

More opportunities

At 8 p.m. many people stayed to dance on the congregation's portable dance floor in the front part of the main auditorium.

Larry Watkins, the business manager at CEM and a member of the Tyler Church of God, described his reaction to the day's events.

"The entire day was a very enjoyable experience, with the great meal and dance after services," he said. "It was certainly a great pleasure for all of us to fellowship with our brethren in Big Sandy."

He said he hopes to realize more opportunities like this.

"For many of us there were a lot of old familiar faces and a chance to renew friendships as well as make new ones," he said. "I hope this is just one of many more opportunities in the future for all of us here in East Texas to gather together."

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