Front page: Journal readers report on their 2003 Feasts

Following are reports Feastgoers sent to THE JOURNAL concerning the 2003 Feast of Tabernacles. More reports from Feast sites are planned for the December issue, having begun in the October issue. For guidelines on submitting your report and optional photographs, please see the article to the immediate left of this article.

Here are this issue's reports:

Eight musical, nourishing days

BIG SANDY, Texas--The Feast of Tabernacles observance in the building owned by the Church of God Big Sandy was musical and nourishing. Thanks to Jacob Sutherland of Framingham, Mass., and other musicians and singers who provided much special music and a noteworthy variety show, and thanks to Eric and Janine Case of Big Sandy, who provided a full breakfast for Feastgoers every morning, the brethren in no way lacked for music and food.

Speakers included pastor Dave Havir (who delivered sermons at three of the Big Sandy church's five Feast sites in five states); Neil McIver of Big Sandy; Ed Mitchell of Guntown, Miss.; Jim Moran of Tyler, Texas; Wynn Skelton of White Oak, Texas; Dionisio Velasco of Gladewater, Texas; and Wesley White of Carrollton, Texas.

Of the sermons, Mr. White's was the most unusual. In his address on the Last Great Day, observed here Oct. 18, he compared Christian true believers with atheists.

"This afternoon . . . we're going to examine some of the American Atheist Movement's teachings," he began. He presented "lessons we might learn from the teachings of the atheists."

He listed several points atheists have in common with Church of God members:

o Atheists expose "religious fraud." He gave examples of pious hoaxes nonbelievers have help expose: the shroud of Turin; a monastery in Italy that houses what is supposed to be the foreskin of Jesus; televangelists "such as Charles Tilton"; "groups like the PTL."

o Atheists help Americans gain "freedom from religion."

Of benefit to Church of God members, he said, is atheists' efforts to rid classrooms of Christmas and other religious celebrations.

o Atheists help keep churches honest in their accounting practices and disclosure of finances.

"The American Atheist Movement . . . says a church should not be in the business of making money," even though "in reality this is the very reason for the existence of many religious groups, isn't it? Can you think of any churches that exist for that purpose?"

o Atheists point out that "the churches of this world have a horrible track record of being antiscience."

An example of the latter point is the Catholic Church's persecution of Galileo for his conclusion that the earth is not flat.

The Bible, said Mr. White, allows for an old earth, of a universe of much greater antiquity than only 6,000 years. Atheists and many Church of God members agree with scientists that the universe is billions of years old.

o Atheists preach against churches that "seek to politicize their theology," said Mr. White. "An example would be Sunday blue laws."

Texas until the 1970s had many such laws, which prohibited the state's residents from buying certain items on the first day of the week. For example, when visiting grocery stores Texans could buy groceries but not nongrocery items. Whole shelves and even aisles at the local Safeway or Kroger's would be roped off and inaccessible.

(The laws did allow business owners to refrain from selling the items on Saturday rather than Sunday if they so chose, but they were forced to close or rope off certain items on either Sunday or Saturday every week.)

"Yes, atheists are wrong when they claim all days are the same," said Mr. White, "but they are on our side when they have fought against Sunday blue laws."

Mr. White concluded that when people, even atheists, think they are rejecting the Bible, sometimes they are really objecting only people's interpretation of the Bible. Dixon Cartwright, Big Sandy, Texas.

Learning and praising

BRIBIE ISLAND, Australia--The Feast at Bribie Island was a fantastic experience of fellowship, warmth, learning and praising God.

Bribie Island is a plush paradise an hour's drive north of Brisbane, Queensland. The Feast is sponsored by Christian Educational Services Australia and was attended by about 100 people of various affiliations. Everything was completely harmonious.

In Australia the Feast is in the southern hemisphere's springtime, so there was an abundance of bright blossoms on the trees, colorful flowers and the omnipresent beautiful parrots and other birds native to the land down under.

Two notable U.S. visitors were Jim and Brenda Ross from Tyler, Texas.

The Bribie Island Community Center was the venue, a private setting conducive to services and other activities.

A brief children's lesson started each service, given in front of the audience by Barbara Eldred, who expounded on "the whole armor of God" with the children participating. We all learned from these lessons.

All the messages were informative and uplifting. Five workshops were held, several by Ian Ingoe, a Seventh Day Baptist pastor from Auckland, New Zealand. He instructed on "personal evangelism."

The social events included a folk-type dance, a family beach picnic, beach volleyball and the local talented church musicians for entertainment.

This was a superb Feast in every way! John Dickerson, Canberra, Australia.

Happy Feast at a sad time

FLINT, Texas--In the opening service of the Feast of Tabernacles observance at the headquarters of the Intercontinental Church of God near Tyler, Texas, Frank Scherich of Liberty Hill, Texas, rhetorically asked the approximately 160 people in attendance Oct. 11 what they expected to "get out of the Feast."

He then gave two reasons he said were valid ones for attending the annual festivals.

o "They teach us God's plan, what God is doing, on this earth with mankind."

o They keep the knowledge of God and His plan in the minds of His people.

"You either continue to keep them or you will lose that knowledge," Mr. Scherich said. "Not only that, God will not give you any more knowledge because you of your own volition will have turned that mind off."

Mr. Scherich's manner was upbeat throughout his message. Although he referred several times to the death, less than a month earlier, of ICG founder Garner Ted Armstrong, he said Mr. Armstrong would have wanted the Feast, even so shortly after his own demise, to be a happy time, not eight days of mourning.

Mr. Scherich further referred to the circumstances of Mr. Armstrong's death in a Tyler hospital of complications from pneumonia. (According to some reports, large doses of a particular medication while Mr. Armstrong was hospitalized contributed to or even caused his death.)

"I've heard people talking about the doctors' fault and so on," said Mr. Scherich.

But "let's remember one thing . . . We do worship Jesus Christ, do we not? We do believe He is all-powerful, do we not? We do know that He heals. We have people in here today who have been healed."

So "did the doctors kill him? If you believe they did, then you have just admitted you do not believe Christ can override what a man has done."

Mr. Scherich ended his comments about the circumstances of Mr. Armstrong's passing by saying that some Church of God members who were reportedly calling for a lawsuit against Mr. Armstrong's medical staff simply lack faith.

"I will have to say that God had used Mr. Ted Armstrong as much as He had planned, otherwise he would still be alive," Mr. Scherich concluded. (See a photo taken during the ICG Feast observance on this page.) Dixon Cartwright, Big Sandy, Texas.

Passing into reality

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.--God's invitation to His commanded assembly was honored by 125-plus brethren at the Feast of Tabernacles in Grand Junction. From Friday evening, Oct. 10, to Saturday the 18th we were fed with Spirit-filled messages from six speakers.

A variety of inspirational music was much enjoyed by all. Especially impressive was the diversity of the attendees, yet unity and love were so in evidence.

Most were from Worldwide, United, International and a fellowship called simply "Church of God."

Many were unaffiliated with any organization, and we even had a few drop-ins from local churches.

Activities provided free were the Saturday-evening get-acquainted social with fantastic food and drink; a family day at KidzPlex including pizzas and ice cream (for kids of all ages); the seniors' luncheon; and a videotape presentation on Noah's ark.

Activities also included the grand banquet, Western show and dance; limousine-chauffeured wine-tasting tours of the valley's wineries; and a dinner theater featuring Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.

The many natural wonders of the area, from the alpine beauty of the 10,000-foot Grand Mesa to desert vistas of Canyon Lands National Park, were God's special blessings.

Happy faces prevailed at the Feast, but the most impressive were those of the children. The squeals of delight from kids upon receiving their own monogrammed "backpack on wheels" filled with toys and games brought tears of joy to many old eyes.

Additionally, soft, cuddly stuffed animals were provided free for the taking by a couple from Idaho.

Other gifts were given to all children by a young man from Texas who also whirled every widow around the dance floor at the dinner dance.

Blessings on blessings, how could we not honor God's chosen times continually till the shadow passes into the reality of the coming King? Del Leger, pastor, Montrose, Colo.

Bringing beautiful weather

KENDAL, England--For the fourth successive year the Feast of Tabernacles was held in Kendal, Cumbria, United Kingdom, for many nonaligned brethren. A total of 48 people attended.

God has blessed us with a wonderful town and a location with a friendly staff.

We are beginning to obtain a reputation for bringing good weather to the town of Kendal. Several commented that we seemed such a happy crowd. This brings to mind God's words to the prophet Jeremiah after Jerusalem had been destroyed: "For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). We felt very much that God was with us and among us.

We enjoyed hearing many uplifting and encouraging sermons, given by speakers Anthony Miles, Trevor Smith, David Kingston, Michael Young and David Sheridan. There were two Bible studies, and we also thoroughly appreciated the wonderful music provided by Michael Young on his violin.

Every year we have a much-enjoyed social evening with party games. There were also a quiz, songs and poetry reading. During the social we saw photographs projected from a laptop computer onto an overhead screen.

Every evening was a drop-in for those interested in a chat and cup of tea or coffee.

Many appreciated seeing the DVD that Mark Armstrong of the Intercontinental Church of God, headquartered near Tyler, Texas, had made following the recent death of his father, Garner Ted Armstrong. It showed family pictures and excerpts of sermons by his father.

Finally, everyone enjoyed the traditional meal between the services on the Last Great Day, provided by the Northeast of England church group.

We all look forward to meeting up again at Kendal next year. The location is already booked.

In the meantime, many from our Kendal group will meet each other again for the Bible-study weekend in May 2004, God willing. Anthony and Margaret Miles, Oslo, Norway.

Post-GTA Feast in Australia

KIAMA, Australia--After the death of Garner Ted in September, our Intercontinental Church of God Feast of Tabernacles at Kiama was a bit subdued this year as we replayed some of GTA's recent videotapes and regretted the loss of the many tapes that were destroyed by a former member who had been entrusted with taking care of our extensive GTA-tape library.

We returned to Kiama for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2001 and 2002. In 1996 there had been about 130 people present on the Last Day of the Feast, held in the Kiama Pavilion, and it was good to be together in harmony again this year and share the Feast with old friends, some having been in the church since the time of the Radio Church of God.

There were some who could not be with us this year, and we wish them a quick recovery.

There was a GTA tape played each day, mostly about Bible prophecy.

As for the outdoor activities, the local council park at Surf Beach provided free electric cooking facilities, giving an opportunity for prospective chefs to try their hand at improving their skills. Learning to turn onion rings over more quickly when they are cooking on the hot plate sometimes has disastrous results, so let's hope there will be more people wanting to learn to be chefs with us at future Feasts.

For nearly 50 years GTA continued to broadcast in his especially gifted way, challenging us to question our beliefs and helping us focus on a global view of Bible prophecy and the coming world tomorrow with the blessings of peace and harmony established on earth for 1,000 years among all people. David Moffitt, North Sydney, Australia.

A serving Feast

LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo.--The 2003 Feast of Tabernacles at the Baymont Inn at the Lake of the Ozarks sponsored by the Mid-Missouri Church of God at Versailles was a joyous celebration before God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

For eight days (Oct. 11-18) members of the family of God worshiped, prayed, sang, studied, fellowshipped, encouraged, gave thanks and feasted amid beautiful autumn days and harvest decor.

Peak day attendance was up 16 percent from last year's observance.

Virtually all of the 104 attendees shared their God-given gifts and talents by serving each other each day.

New this year were more messages, four morning Bible studies, a youth day and a fish fry. Two little girls received the blessing of little children on the last day. We had suggestions for a new feature for next year (Sept. 30 through Oct. 7), a ladies' luncheon.

Eleven young people were in attendance, ranging in age from 13 months to 13 years old.

We had people from Arkansas, Kansas, Wisconsin and, of course, Missouri. Bud Houston.

Goodly boughs

LANTANA, Fla.--"Rejoice in God's Feasts!" was the theme this year as the Christian Church of God played host to the Feast of Tabernacles here beginning at even on Oct. 11 and running through Oct. 19.

These dates were based on the observed-crescent new moon as seen two weeks prior in Jerusalem.

Attendees came from as far away as Ohio, North Carolina and Ontario. Maximum attendance for services was 19.

At daily services messages were presented by Neville Gilbert, Jim Hollands and John Ireland, with occasional participation by the congregation in the form of scriptural reading and questions and comments.

Sermon topics were keyed to the Feast with the intent of serving meat in due season.

Special activities included a picnic at a park, a visit to a wildlife center (alligators were seen!) and the building of a sukkah, or temporary dwelling.

Several of the attendees gathered at a residence on the first day of the Feast and built the sukkah from freshly cut "goodly boughs."

During subsequent fellowship gatherings under the sukkah as the Feast progressed, attendees observed and learned as the once-robust limbs and fronds dried and withered.

Participants in the sukkah-building and fellowshipping came to appreciate that, as with the holy days themselves, the sukkah experience is something God has given His people as a blessing. John Ireland, Gulfstream, Fla.

Radical self-sacrifice

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica--With a high attendance of 258, the Church of God International's Feast site in Ocho Rios, besides from the local church, had brethren arrive from the southern side of this sunny tropical island as well as from the U.S.A. and Canada to both learn and rejoice.

Featuring powerful sermons that aimed to convict the hearers to live lives of radical self-sacrifice and doctrinal messages that taught correct salvation theology, the main speakers served the brethren a well-balanced diet of spiritual food.

A remarkable congruence between the native Jamaican and imported American speakers occurred, with the messages during the first half of the Feast mainly dealing with self-sacrifice and truly living the Christian life coming from such speakers as Ian Boyne, the local pastor, Duane Nichol, an elder from the Chicago area, and George Ramocan and Glenford Smith, local deacons.

During the second half of the Feast, including the Last Great Day, doctrinal messages that discussed true (and false!) salvation theology (soteriology) predominated, coming from both Mr. Boyne and Vance Stinson, the latter of Tyler, Texas, one of the presenters on the Armor of God telecast.

Mr. Boyne gave a particularly important theoretical sermon on the last day (Oct. 17) of the Feast.

His message ranged over several subjects such as:

o Christ being unfairly imputed our unrighteousness, besides His righteousness being imputed to us.

o The greatness of the reward God offers us as justifying His allowing the sheer quantity of evil in the world.

o Paul's application of Greek terms derived from sporting contests to the Christian life as a refutation of "once saved, always saved."

The powerfully spoken sermon came back to Mr. Boyne's running theme about Christians needing to give up their physical desires and choosing to willingly suffer in this life when God requires this of us in order to enter the next life.

Although services lasted typically three hours or more, the consistently high quality of most of the speaking and singing made sitting in services nearly effortless. By contrast, most two-hour services in America I've attended in the past have been more taxing mentally and physically!

But, besides the many heavy messages, the brethren attending this site had many fun activities. As Pastor Boyne himself noted, God created us as whole beings, with spiritual and physical natures. A balanced approach to the Feast, he said, will satisfy both parts of man's nature.

Organized activities here included a quiz competition with two sets of two teams (youth then adult) answering biblical and nonbiblical questions, a "singles' mingle" featuring panel presentations by singles on practical aspects of life followed by music and dancing, an organized visit to Dunn's River and its famous climbable falls, a rap session for couples, a Jamaica night that featured native food and entertainment (synchronized dancing, public reading, etc.), a family fun show of singing, public readings and organized dancing, and a sports day.

One striking spiritually oriented organized activity was an interactive workshop session that considered the subject of radical self-sacrifice for God.

Led by Deacon Ramocan, the session allowed regular members to speak their minds on the issue in question, in keeping with Mr. Boyne's general principle of "participative hierarchy" in church government.

Featuring five speakers allotted 20 minutes each to defend some special doctrine of the Church of God as well as possible, the Herbert W. Armstrong Memorial Presentation was a spiritual activity unique to this Feast site.

This year the assigned subject was to make a case for a strict definition of the one true church, a subject the speakers all had done careful research on before writing up their speeches.

The only ones allowed to present are nonordained people who don't normally address the congregation, including women.

Triumphant for the third year in a row, Sandra-Mae Robinson claimed a prize worth about US$175.

On the morning of the Last Great Day, in a particularly emotionally moving ceremony because the gathered brethren sang hymns befitting the occasion, Pastor Boyne and Deacon Paul O'Connor baptized five people in the ocean by the main beach in Ocho Rios.

If you wish to attend a Feast site with a young, growing and dynamic church featuring powerful sermons and emotionally moving music, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, with the Church of God International is the place to be!

I wish to give thanks to all, including Mr. Boyne, for helping make this truly the best Feast ever for me spiritually. Eric V. Snow, Wixom, Mich.

Good Feast in Tennessee

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn.--For four straight years the Feast of Tabernacles of United Christian Ministries has taken place in Sevierville, in the Smokies. The theme this year was "Not by Man's Power, but by My Spirit, Says the Lord of Hosts."

The get-together, with snacks, took place Friday evening, Oct. 10, at the Sevierville Civic Center, where all the services took place, as well as the dinner-dance and talent show.

Many people helped make this Feast a success. David Duff was choir director. Vicki Calvert was children's-chorale director. Keith Calvert was announcer. Tape director was Kim Calvert. Yours truly, Larry Graff, taped all the congregational hymns, special music and talent show to make copies for people.

There were many speakers. The Bible studies and seminars were given by Danny Jacques ("Godly Counseling"), Judy Post ("A Real Beauty Makeover"), Danny Jacques ("Setting Up a Web Site"), Carol Boyer ("Wait, Who Am I?") and Fred Mobley ("Obeying God, Serving God").

Sermonettes were by Terry Post, Dennis Gonzalo, Terry Beam, Bill Shults, Dennis Benson, Danny Jacques and Edward Martel.

Sermons were by Ray Wooten (twice), Wes White, Stephen Glower, Marlin Fannin, Alan Boyer and Peter Kamen.

Many activities were enjoyed, including a singles' mingle, an event organized by the unmarried, and others attended the Louise Mandrell show (suggested by me). Many went to the Kemps' cabin for dinner, pool and hand-and-foot (a variation of canasta); a senior luncheon hosted by Sue, Connie and Carolyn, who also supplied snacks at services; and a dinner-dance Wednesday night with a band by Russell Sullivan, Wes White and others.

Tuesday was family day, so there were no services.

There were bowling, swimming and lunch by Carol Boyer. I could bowl only 153 this year.

On Thursday night was the talent show, with Ray Wooten emceeing.

Peggy Wooten took up a collection for Safe Space, a home for battered women. Both goods and money were collected by the saints.

It was a good Feast. Larry Graff, House Springs, Mo.

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