Ocho Rios, Jamaica, 2003 (CGI)
Eric V. Snow
With a high attendance of 258, the CGI Feast site in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, besides from the local church, had brethren arrive from the southern side of this sunny tropical island as well as from the USA 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 ones 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 came 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, one of the presenters on “The Armor of God” telecast. Mr. Boyne gave a particularly important theoretical sermon on the last day (Friday, Oct. 17) of the Feast. Widely ranging over such subjects as Christ being unfairly imputed our unrighteousness besides His righteousness being imputed to us, the greatness of the reward God offers us as justifying His allowing the sheer quantity of evil in the world, and Paul’s application of Greek terms derived from sporting contests to the Christian life as a refutation of “once saved, always saved,” this powerfully spoken sermon still arrived back at 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 these of us in order to enter the next life. Although services lasted typically three hours or more, the consistently very high quality of most of the speaking and singing made this 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 also. As Pastor Boyne himself noted during the Feast, God created us as whole beings, with both spiritual and physical natures, and a balanced approach to the Feast 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 non-Biblical questions, a “singles’ mingle” featuring panel presentations by various singles on various 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 various native kinds of 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, this 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 alloted twenty 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 making a case for a strict definition of the one true church, subject the speakers all did careful research on before writing up their speeches. The only ones allowed to present are non-ordained 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 in Jamaican dollars. In 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, going to Ocho Rios, Jamaica with CGI 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.