It is wonderful that so many brethren kept the Feast of Tabernacles this year! We hope each and every one of them had an inspiring and educational Feast wherever they went. We could not possibly cover all of the sites that we listed in our previous issueyou can read about them in the publication of their sponsoring organization. We will therefore present reports from nearly all of the non-aligned sites. The most important lesson we feel we have learned this year is that the non-aligned concept worksif the Biblical principles are followed.
A Non-Aligned Feast is one that is not aligned with any human organizationin contrast with other sites that are sponsored by and for a specific "Church"group. The principles of a non-aligned feast are as follows:
1) Individuals or small groups ask their Father to show them where they should sponsor a Non-Aligned site, make the physical arrangements, and then publicize it via Servants' News, In Transition, the Internet and other means.
2) The sponsors are responsible for the smooth running of the site, but they recognize that no-one has all the truth and that every one has something to contribute. Anyone may ask in advance to give a message. If the sponsors recognize that the message may be beneficial to the congregation, they schedule a time for iteven though they may not agree with it
3) Questions and comments are allowed at the end of each message. This gives everyone an incentive to listen and see if the message is correct according to the scriptures. If it is not, there is a chance to do something. If the holy spirit inspires someonethere is a chance for it to be expressed (1Cor 14:30).
After talking with or reading the reports from someone in nearly every site, we must conclude that this concept works! Many people said that they paid greater attention and learned more than in any previous feast. The great focus was on the services and the studies; the recreational activities were there, but definitely secondary. Yet we would not be honest if we said the concept is without difficulty. Some speakers spoke too authoritatively. (Where did they learn that?) Others spoke on subjects that were probably not edifying to everyone. But, everyone learned.
After speaking with several Non-Aligned Feast sponsors, we feel that the following principles should be used next year:
1) Messages during the daily services should be edifying to all (1Cor 14:5,12,26). Speakers should have a clear love for those listening, not a desire to prove themselves right. Topics that would interest only a few people or highly controversial topics that cannot possibly be covered in a short time should be covered in Bible studies instead. This was a problem only in a few cases at a few sites this year, but it is certainly something to plan to avoid next year.
2) Plan the location of the sites earlier in the year. Ask for speakers and subjects around January, and produce a list of speakers and possibly subjects by the Spring Holy Days. The Feast planing booklets should give a one or two paragraph summary of each speaker's message or else explain his background. Some speakers believe they should not plan the subject of their message far in advance but pray that the Eternal will give them the message that the people need that day. This is acceptable for well-known speakers, but it is probably better if newer speakers announce a specific subject. (This is not a restrictive, controlling system. Everyone still has a chance to speak. The first year or two they will need to produce a summary. If they establish themselves as a teacher of good, edifying material, then people will be less concerned about knowing their exact subject in future years.)
3) Feast sites should be a "family reunion" of a spiritual family. It is best to find a location where everyone can find lodging at or very close to the sitesharing as much time together as possible. Joint activities in which all can participate bring the body closer together. Some of the most memorable events from the Feast are encouraging conversations with others: over meals, laundry, hall clean-up or other such working functions.
4) Speakers should probably not travel among distant sites. Ray Wooten and Norman Edwards planned to exchange speaking assignments. However, numerous difficulties occurred every step along the way, and due to someone else's traffic accident, Ray Wooten missed his flight to Oklahoma. Norman Edwards was away from his site for about 32 hours and spent only 2 hours speaking at the Gatlinburg site and 3 hours talking to brethren. If it is our Father in Heaven that is inspiring messages, there are plenty of people through which He can work at each site. He does not need to work through only a few people that travel aroundreducing their time spent at the Feast and creating additional expense.
5) Singing a variety of styles of music is a good thing to continue. About half of the people liked all of it, and most everyone found something that they liked. It would be best if the music books and a tape could be distributed to each family before the Feast so that they could be better able to participate.
The Non-Aligned Feast is a concept that works. We believe it is one part of the training that our Father is giving us now to make us ready to take the Gospel to others in the power of His spirit. There are certainly many other people that have learned much at Feasts that were run with a different plan. We know that our loving Father is working with many people in a way so detailed that we will never be able to understand it until we are spirit like Him.
We recorded the messages from the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, Oklahoma site and we hope to make tapes available. We do not yet have our tape editing and duplication facilities in place, so please do not ask for tapes until we know exactly what we have and what we will offer.
Norman S. Edwards