Festival ’96 Reports:

Gatlinburg, TN:

Wanted to share a few of the blessings we received (according to my perception) at the Feast in Gatlinburg:

· A peaceful spirit of cooperation even though there was a lot of diversity.

· A total lack of "in your face" doctrinal differences.

· Abundant, inspiring special music.

· A youth choir performance which left most of us in tears.

· Hymns which focused on and reminded us of what God, through Jesus Christ, is doing in our personal lives—hallelujah!!!

· A number of Christ centered messages.

· Reminders that: God has placed His name in each of us; the spoken word is powerful and that confession of our faith is important (Rom. 10:10); that we learn about the symbolism of the Holy Days through their observance; we must learn discernment; we don't need anyone's permission to live as Christians; seeking the Kingdom is an active thing- we don't sit on our backsides and wait for it to get here...and too many other things to mention!

—Opportunities to build friendships, old and new, and to be with our families.

—A beautiful prayer session with the elders who were present for those of us requesting anointing near the beginning of the Feast. Any elder present who wished to pray did so, decently and in order, and each brought a special and meaningful perspective to our requests. Very appropriate, I felt, since James says to call for the elder S, plural.

Even though Gatlinburg is a very busy place on the weekends, it is a beautiful site with lots for the kids to do. Anyone choosing to stay higher up in the mountains around Gatlinburg should make sure their transmissions are in good shape. But if it should give out on you during the Feast, you may find all sorts of brethren willing to offer you rides, even the use of their car until repairs can be completed!! (Thanks to all who offered!!)

Hope you all had many Feast blessings as well. —Carol Boyer

Snowshoe, WV:

The independent Feast held in Snowshoe, WV was a remarkable combination of natural beauty, rewarding fellowship and some of the most challenging growth opportunities ever faced by most of the 300 scattered brethren attending. In many ways, Snowshoe was an experimental Feast site, in that it was a totally open gathering of God's people, free from the restraints of the past. It was a refreshing change, to say the least, but certainly not without its difficulties. Because of the widely varied mix of brethren present, different backgrounds, different doctrinal perspectives, and different attitudes were prevalent. This sort of combination provided a truly golden chance for everyone to utilize their God-given talents, abilities, gifts, and especially their powers of spiritual discernment and decision-making.

The area of Snowshoe, WV is strikingly beautiful. Secluded at the top of a mile-high mountain in a remote part of the state, Snowshoe provided an area very conducive to holding a serious Feast of Tabernacles. Free from the distractions of high population centers, the brethren were able to focus more intently upon God, Christ and each other. The closeness and camaraderie were enhanced by the fact that everyone stayed together in one separate area, opening up the opportunity for much deeper and more spontaneous fellowship.

The Feast began Friday evening with an orientation service. Over the course of the 8 day gathering, 16 speakers participated in either workshops (held in the mornings prior to services) or in delivering messages to the brethren. Separate Sabbath schools were held for children and teenagers.

Speakers included Dale Stogner, Paul Haney, John Kilough, Rick Stanczak, Todd Drawbaugh, Myron Martin, Helm Hobrath, Jim Rector and others. The messages were challenging and, at times, controversial, but this only added to the impact of the Feast. Snowshoe was, to say the least, a thinking Christian's Festival.

The open concept of this Feast site provided some marvelous growth experiences impossible under any other conditions, and also some difficult situations that had to be faced by everyone involved. To say that this Feast ran smoothly would be untrue. It had a number of dips and curves, a few hills to climb, and even a detour or two. But out of the experience emerged a congregation of brethren drawn closer than ever before to God and to each other, who shared an intense learning session together, and who are the stronger spiritually for their time together. In a number of ways, Snowshoe set a pattern for the Feasts of the future.

Openness and freedom are realities that God desires for all His people. This does not mean that He countenances chaos, disorder or inappropriate behavior. We all learned much, through the messages, the open forums, the interactive workshops, and the remarkable private studies and discussions that ran until the wee morning hours. We will now go forward and build upon what we learned at Snowshoe, putting into practice those valuable lessons as we live our lives in God's service and plan for next year's Feast.

—Jim Rector

White Rock, BC:

The non-aligned FOT held in White Rock, B.C., was enjoyed by a total of 40 men, women and children from California, Illinois, Washington, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The unity of the spirit as seen in the bond of peace was evident throughout the Feast, but better yet, the outpouring of love between the brothers and sisters of Christ made the occasion most memorable.

The opening evening was spent in fellowship and in getting acquainted with old and new friends. Four speakers shared the formal messages with subjects related to the meaning of the Feast and with time provided for questions and discussion afterward. One service was an open format where the subjects and discussion proved to be both enjoyable and edifying

Don Miller who resides in White Rock hosted a tour of Vancouver and area, topped off with a sumptuous evening meal at the Salmon House perched on a mountainside overlooking the city.

—Fred McGovarin

Panama City, FL:

On September 27 the Indian Springs 7th Day Church of God (Chattanooga, Tennessee) headed for surf, sand and sun in Panama City, Florida. This was the second attempt for the Chattanooga Church to host the Feast of Tabernacles in this location, and luckily the hurricanes stayed away so that we were able to have a very pleasant and enjoyable Feast. The services were held at the Boardwalk Beach Resort in the Parrots Cove meeting room from September 28 through October 5. There were over seventy people that met with us during the Feast, and these people represented over six different church groups from Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Illinois and Texas just to mention a few.

Their were a few people that this was their very first Feast and others it was their thirtieth plus Feast. The sermonettes and sermons were very inspiring and uplifting, and the special music was "Fantastic." The sermonettes, sermons and special music were given by various people from different church areas. The Chattanooga Church wanted everyone attending to participate in what was going on—be it the church services, or the fun show or anything else that was going on. Many people commented that this was their Best Feast Ever!

—Russ Camp at russ@bledsoe.net.

Cisco, TX:

Near-perfect weather and good attendance blessed the Feast at Cisco, Texas, held September 29 to October 6. More than 190 people, the most ever here, rejoiced before Yahweh with worship, study, fellowship and music. Visitors from coast to coast contributed love and energy, making it truly a time of refreshment.

Worship began every morning at ten with rousing music followed by readings from the Psalms and Proverbs, awesome prayers, inspiring special music, and compelling sermons. Sabbaths and High Days had two services. Other afternoons offered a chance to strengthen brotherly affection through activities like volley ball, sports competitions, a youth meal, auction and roller skating.

Evenings were full. Ladies gave a bridal shower for Miss Leah Mastropaolo of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Hot dog roasting over a campfire filled another. Twice, youngsters went hayriding. Most nights, however, were reserved for informal music or Bible study. After snacks, followed perhaps by the camaraderie of cleanup, everyone headed off to sleep serenaded by the distant yipping of coyotes.

Three baptisms were a special blessing: Mike and Alice McCann of Augusta, Georgia, and Gary Hutchens of Wichita Falls, Texas.

A weekly Sabbath preceding the Feast allowed an extra measure of fellowship, but farewells still came too quickly.

—Ruth York

Ft. Payne, AL:

Thirty-seven brethren, representing 9 states, joined in the non-aligned Feast site in Fort Payne, Alabama.

They feasted on inspiring sermons and sermonettes, and enjoyed music, cookouts, and tours of the sights of Chattanooga, Tennessee and beautiful Lookout Mountain.

Don Miller of Summersville, Missouri was ordained during the Feast.

Sunriver, OR:

The Sunriver Feast of Tabernacles was held in the Thousand Trails Resort Lodge located approximately 15 miles south of Bend, Oregon. During the 8-day period, as many as 162 people assembled to worship God and hear inspiring messages and Bible studies from 10 different speakers, including Al Murrey, Jeff Henderson, Wayne Atchison, Bill Rolans, Dean Wheelock, Jonathan Sjordal, Gary Porter, John Difley, Richard Agee, and Lee Lisman. The subjects ranged from "Why are We Here?" to Spiritual Gifts to the Wedding Feast. God also sent many talented people who presented special music offerings. Special praise music was sung, and some girls and women participated in messianic Jewish-type dancing.

The weather was splendid the entire 8 days with high temperatures generally in the low 80's, lots of radiant sunshine and one evening with a light rain shower. The lunar eclipse was spectacular! Some people camped and others stayed in nice rental homes and condominiums in the Sunriver Resort area.

Brethren from the San Francisco area planned numerous social activities including sundae social, family day, whitewater rafting, teen dance, family night, senior bingo, teen hike, and children's games. Great fun and fellowship was had by all who attended the many activities. There was even a Bible quiz given to test our knowledge with a prize of the Ten Commandments in granite awarded to the winner.

Many were heard to say it really was their best Feast ever! It was a wonderful spiritual time with many conversations about God's Word. Though many came from different church backgrounds and states, including Kentucky, Iowa, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and California, and British Columbia, Canada, all were unified through God's Holy Spirit. Many brethren plan to return again next year.

A special thanks goes to Servants' News and In Transition for announcing this Feast Site. —Al Murrey

Grand Lake of the Cherokees, OK:

Those of us at the Feast site at Grand Lake of the Cherokees sponsored by Servants' News were pleased to have an opportunity to fellowship with brethren at a nearby Feast site sponsored by "The Churches of God." In addition to some visiting back and forth for services by some families, the two groups shared a joint outing on a riverboat cruise on Sunday afternoon.

The hallmark of the Grand Lake Feast site this year was probably "diversity"! Those in attendance were from a wide variety of church backgrounds. Divergent tastes in everything from musical styles for hymns to interests in doctrinal subjects for study made "flexibility" a must.

Average attendance was about 90. Services started daily with an opening song, followed by the reading of several chapters from the book of Deuteronomy. Volunteers took turns each day reading, pausing after each chapter to moderate comments and questions from the congregation. These discussion periods were enthusiastic and lively.

The readings were followed by an extended session of congregational singing and special music. Selected traditional hymns, Dwight Armstrong hymns, modern praise & worship music, and Messianic Jewish music all were used. The orchestration varied from an a cappella singer to the use of the piano, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, mellophone, flute, violin, viola, cello, and accordion.

A main message was presented, usually in an interactive style that allowed for comments and questions either during or after the presentation. Such interaction does tend to extend the time necessary for services. But early on it was decided by consensus of the congregation that the Deuteronomy readings were so valuable that they were willing to extend the time for services to two and one half hours. Activities were provided for the children before and during the services.

A community kitchen was stocked with a variety of finger food so people could stay a while after services. They did. Even though services ended near the scheduled 1:00 PM, several people were usually still talking in the hall until 5:00 or 6:00 P.M.

Other presentations were available some evenings for those who were interested in more extensive Bible study on the topics under consideration. A family fun show and singalong night rounded out the activities for the week.

Tapes of some of the Grand Lake of the Cherokees Feast messages will be available at a later date. A list of the tapes, including the speakers and the subjects will be provided at that time.

—Pam Dewey

Lake Tahoe, NV:

This year Jeanne and I decided to keep the Feast of Tabernacles at a non-aligned Feast site organized and hosted by Norman Brumm and Jack Lane, and located at Incline Village, Nevada, on the northern shore of Lake Tahoe. In a way, this Feast could be considered an experiment.

There were three remarkable distinguishing features to this Feast celebration. The first one is that three different overlapping calendrical holy day reckonings were going to be observed side-by-side, resulting in a ten day Feast. The first first day of the Feast began on Thursday evening, September 26th. Then, at the other end, the overlapping Feasts ended the same way, with the last of the Last Great Days beginning on Saturday evening, October 5th.

We were curious to see how the three different groups, with their three different ways of determining when the holy days occur, would get along. I was expecting that it would be either wonderful and beautiful, or utterly disastrous, depending on the attitudes of the participants. Thankfully (and I really mean, "Thanks, glory, honor, and praise be to God!"), I can honestly report that the spirit of Jesus Christ was well in evidence there, and that an atmosphere of love, unity, respect and harmony dominated.

Typical attendance was about seventy-five people, including children.

The second remarkable feature was that each sermon was to be followed by a question and comment session open to participation by all present. The opportunity for all to participate was a key ingredient in making this Feast a special success. Brethren who for years had sat in services being talked at by a leader and being told what to think and do were now finding themselves welcome participants in what God was doing at the Feast. That their participation was encouraged and respectfully welcomed was an acknowledgment by the others present that God, through His spirit, could have something to contribute through them too!

The value and power of this phenomenon of a collective awareness and appreciation of God's spirit working in each of the individual members of Christ's body must not be understated! I believe it is the single, most outstanding feature of this Feast and is what made it special for those attending the Incline Village non-aligned Feast site.

Early on in the Feast, one of the speakers expounded on the difference between "political oneness" and "true Godly unity by God's spirit," (Psalm 133) emphasizing the emptiness of the former and the essential desirability of the latter. It was this latter, true unity by God's spirit, which was predominant throughout the Feast at Incline Village, despite differences in various nuances of understanding and belief.

One service was dedicated to allowing the three calendar points of view to be presented and discussed. Equal time was made available to spokesmen for the three different reckonings, with time also allocated for comments and questions from the congregation. I am not aware if any minds were changed that day by the free and open exchange of information and ideas, but the very fact that the discussion could take place at all, and without anyone "losing their cool" and trying to turn the calendar into a salvational issue was a delight to us.

The brethren there were able to appreciate the difference between "gnats and camels," and between questions concerning issues such as tithing on "mint and anise and cummin," and "the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith:" (Matthew 23:23-24) The brethren were able to keep a Godly perspective on their differences. Consequently, peace and unity prevailed.

On several occasions our Incline Village attendees joined brethren from Church of God, International's nearby Feast site participating in several social events. The brethren enjoyed this very much and extend many heartfelt thanks to CGI for their openness in inviting us.

Service and participation at this non-aligned Feast were on a voluntary basis. Rather than conduct a traditional, formal taking-up of an offering, a box was provided at the back of the room for donations. There was no begging or exhorting for donations. By the end of the Feast, donations had well exceeded expenses, with some of the excess being used to subsidize some of the Feast outings. The remaining funds are earmarked for production of Feast tapes.

The third remarkable distinguishing feature of this Feast at Incline Village involved something that was conspicuously missing during the first seven days of the celebration. I am referring to the absence of traditional, corporately ordained people at the Feast. Everything was done by "lay" brethren. Even in the cases where anointing and/or laying-on of hands was called for, these matters were attended to by non-ordained, de jure elders—those whose physical and spiritual longevity placed them in the category of elder. In some cases, there was group prayer and laying-on of hands by the assembled brethren. These things were done in love and in faith, and quite evidently to good effect.

Attendees at this Feast site, however, seemed to have an awareness that God has not limited Himself to the corporate format in accomplishing His purpose in this age, and that Jesus Christ is not unwilling to live and work effectively in individuals and in smaller groups. The brethren at Incline Village did not evince any fearfulness that their salvation and reward might somehow be dependent on their support of a corporate leader or organization.

At the beginning of this report, I remarked on the experimental nature of this Feast site. As an experimental prototype, it was an unequivocal success. That the Feast proceeded as smoothly as it did, with everyone participating being so green and so new at what was being done, indicates to me that, with the benefits of experience and of God's continued blessing, this festival format has a solid future in the years to come.

Throughout the year, as part of my daily prayers, I ask our Father to guide me in "where, when, how, and with whom to keep the holy days."

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for answering my prayers by leading me and my family to Incline Village this year. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazereth, Amen. —John Paul Ireland.

Sis-Q-Meadows, OR:

The mountains of southwestern Oregon provided a most beautiful setting for the festival of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) at Sis-Q Meadows. Compared to most Church of God festivals, this gathering of Believers celebrated the Feast in what could be considered both traditional and non-traditional ways. The Sis-Q festival is planned and sponsored by a local home congregation who call themselves the Omega Praise Fellowship.

One difference between Sis-Q and most Feast sites, was that the vast majority of attendees stayed on the grounds at the camp. This allowed for a full range of activities to be held, both day and evening. It was possible to really get to know one another because not only did everyone share activities, but also dined together in the camp dining hall. Fellowship was an integral part of the festival. It was not necessary to try and find someone to invite out after services since one could just sit down with that person at the dining table. The problem was not finding things to do or people with whom to fellowship, the problem was to find a few minutes for some private quiet time. However, most of us have all year to do quiet time at home, while this was a season to rejoice with our brethren.

The day before the festival, a Sukkah (temporary dwelling) was erected between the meeting hall and the dining hall. It was decorated with various harvest products and became a place for people to sit quietly and think on the meanings of the Feast or to have fellowship with friends both old and new.

Singing songs of worship and praise to God was an integral part of the Sis-Q experience. Every session, morning, afternoon and evening, was begun with singing. The music was varied and included styles of worship music to fit almost everyone's musical palate. If one did not like a particular style of song, they needed only to wait a few minutes because the next one would probably be different. The congregation sang old hymns, traditional and contemporary Christian, and Hebrew songs. Some were quiet and reverential, others were songs of praise and a few were of the thigh slapping variety.

Many (if not most) of the people attending the Sis-Q festival have never been associated with any of the Churches of God. This allowed for a real mix of ideas and opinions and the need for the festival participants be tolerant of others' points of view. However, despite differences of understanding on certain issues, all were united in their desire to worship our Father in heaven through our Saviour Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah) at the festival known as "The Season of Our Joy." Differences of opinion were discussed openly and freely without hostility.

Several members from a local congregation, Illinois Valley Home Ministry Fellowship in Cave Junction, attended along with their congregational leader, Beverly Clapp. While they contributed to the success of the festival in many ways, probably their greatest contribution was the teaching of worship through Davidic dance. Lyle Timmons, a brother from New Mexico, had done some scriptural research before coming to the Feast and discovered that God's people are commanded to chagag (hah-gahg) before the LORD three times each year (Ex. 12:14; Ex. 23:14; Deut. 16:15). The word chagag means to "to move in a circle, to be giddy, celebrate, dance, reel to and fro." In other words, to circle dance. It was a most touching time to see almost all of the people dancing on the last night of the festival, not with partners, but as a large group in a circle, with their thoughts directed totally towards our great God in heaven.

Other activities included the welcoming of the Sabbath (first Holyday) with traditional candle lighting, and saying goodbye to the last Sabbath (last Holyday) after sundown at the end of the festival with a traditional Havdalah service. In addition to teaching sessions, other afternoon activities included learning Davidic dance, making festival banners, and a seminar on health and nutritional healing. Wednesday was a free day and many took a tour of the nearby Oregon Caves while others spent the day enjoying the beautiful Oregon coast. One evening was spent around a campfire listening to an authentic cowboy read cowboy poetry followed by singing and storytelling.

The speakers came from many different backgrounds. The main speakers included Lionel Nightingale, Dean Wheelock, Stan Payne, Bob Salmon, Bev Clapp, Sam Beattie, John Beattie, and Jim Sorenson. However, many people shared information and testimonies as all were encouraged to participate.

Many people devoted vast amounts of time to make the Sis-Q Meadows festival a success. Their efforts are truly appreciated by all who were privileged to attend the 1996 Sis-Q Meadows Festival of Sukkot.

—Dean & Susan Wheelock


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