THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES OBSERVED IN OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA (2005)
By Eric Snow
OCHO RIOS, Jamaica--In spite of rainstorms and other obstacles, up to 283 people gathered to observe the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day in Ocho Rios with the Church of God International (CGI) this year.
In addition, possibly up to 35 more people would have come for one day, but a badly flood road caused their bus to turn back. The CGI site was the largest on the island, since the UCG in Montego Bay (which benefited from having a much higher percentage of overseas visitors) had 265 in attendance. (The LCG and Restored Church of God also had Jamaican Feast sites this year).
A special aspect of the Feast came from members of an independent Sabbatarian church, in Spanish Town, which hadn’t kept the holy days previously. Another independent church, in Maroon Town, St. James, also chose to attend this Feast site this year. The man leading this group had learned from the ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong and had taught from COG literature for 15 years. Both groups collectively decided to keep this Feast with CGI this year.
God blessed this site by allowing the Feast’s activities to start and continue almost normally as scheduled in spite of the rains unleashed by what eventually became part of Hurricane Wilma. Landslides and floods blocked and/or hindered traffic on many of the roads between Kingston, the largest city and capital of Jamaica, and the northern coastal tourist town of “Ochee,” as locals often call it.
At this Feast a remarkable buffet of spiritual food was served up to the brethren in attendance. Deacon Glenford Smith preached two powerful, practical sermons about how we need to live more-disciplined and better lives as Christians, such as by restructuring our hearts and general priorities in life, and by directing our random thoughts to become more spiritual. We would also need to change the programming of our minds and emotions away from the world’s values we held before conversion to agree with our new Christian lives after baptism, such as by monitoring and then changing what our thoughts naturally drift to when half idle or daydreaming when this reveals a materialistic mind-set.
In his message, Deacon Paul O’Connor came up with a striking metaphor about Christians being “pilgrim soldiers” and how this realization should change our attitudes about trials and experiences in this life.
The traveling minister for this site, Mike James, gave two messages. One used the theories of educational psychology to discuss why people in the world don’t “get” God’s truth even when it is explained to them.
The other described how Christians should spiritually live as if they were dead to the world’s temptations and pleasures.
In an interactive session with the whole congregation, Deacon Christopher Hendricks led a spiritual workshop that encouraged those attending to avoid lazy thinking that would keep us from specifically planning how they would overcome major long-standing spiritual problems.
After returning from America as a traveling speaker himself, Deacon George Ramocan gave a most interesting sermon that explored the meaning of the Hebrew and various Old Testament texts to show that we as holy day and festival observers already keep the new moons. Therefore, no further separate observation when the crescent appears monthly is required.
Showing forth fully his talent as a speaker of both careful intellect and remarkable power, the CGI pastor for Jamaica, Ian Boyne, was in truly excellent form during a Friday-night Bible study that discussed the book of Revelation from two viewpoints.
He described and cited high-level traditional Christian scholarship, including scholars’ concessions that the Old Testament in general and even the holy days in particular must be understood in order to interpret this book correctly. He also practically applied its lessons to his long-standing theme about the need for Christian self-sacrifice when describing the how Christians anciently were denied jobs because they wouldn’t sacrifice to the gods and participate in orgies that were connected with being members of guilds that organized the skilled trades, etc. Sabbath and holy-day keepers today, he noted, are similarly denied jobs because of their faith.
But during this Feast Pastor Boyne felt the need to teach doctrinal truths more than to preach practical inspirational sermons. He gave a striking set of messages, four in all, based on careful research, that described and developed the typology of the tabernacle, later temple of God, as relevant to the Feast’s scriptural meaning. They are important for bringing new truth about this to our collective attention.
For example, the Hebrew words used in the account in Genesis hint at the Garden of Eden being the first temple of God and Adam as its first priest. The tabernacle in the wilderness, with its holy objects that correlated with spiritual actualities in heaven, was a temporary dwelling for God symbolically while Israel wandered in the wilderness, which was later supplanted by a permanent temple that Solomon had built in Jerusalem.
The references to Jesus as the cornerstone allude to the temple, as does Peter’s comparison of Christians as lively stones being built together into a spiritual house.
Presently, God by His Spirit dwells in individual temples (or tabernacles) of God, meaning individual Christians as they live in the wilderness of this world, who one day will be joined into His family and completely become God themselves.
Much more could be said about and built upon this set of messages, which gave some new truth and serious food for thought about what the Feast spiritually foreshadows for our Christian lives today and for our glorious future.
This Feast site also provided fun social and uplifting spiritual activities. The “singles’ mingle” had an interactive session that dealt with the acceptability of large age gaps between men and women in romantic and marriage relationships, such as older women with younger men and vice versa, before the singles’ dance started.
Besides serving up the local cuisine, the Jamaica Karaoke Night featured brave men and women willing to dress up and sing like the original artists of famous rock and pop songs of the past.
The Family Fun Show featured many musical acts, poetry readings, and a parade of the customary hats of the world.
Maggie Grant’s original spiritual rap, which worked in mentions of, and even teased by name, various (unmarried) members of the local Jamaican church, and the synchronized Ashanti dance routine that six teenage girls did using African music, were likely the show’s two most outstanding acts.
In the annual speaking contest, the Herbert W. Armstrong Memorial Presentation, Sandra-Mae Robinson triumphed once again. She beat out the four men who aimed to topple the reigning “queen” and champion.
In presentations limited to 20 minutes each, the speakers argued the scriptural case for Christians being willing to stay in a morally (but not doctrinally) corrupt church.
A prominent newcomer to this contest, and one of the runners-up along with Deacon Derrick Alwood, was Bruce Campbell, a blind local lay member who used a braille manuscript as the notes for his unusually well-organized presentation.
Activities during the Feast also included a sports field day, a pool party for the youth, a couples’ night with rap session, a formal public debate by the youths about the death penalty, and a seniors’ luncheon. Some teens did street evangelism in Ocho Rios, during which they handed out tracts attacking the observation of Christmas.
One woman also was baptized on the beach on the morning of the Last Great Day, while generally meanwhile the brethren who had gathered to watch sang hymns. (In addition, it was announced during this Feast that two former WCG members formally switched their church membership to CGI).
Overall, this relatively small Feast site provided a generally remarkably high level of public speaking that produced messages of power and serious thought. The musical talent displayed at services and social events was often excellent as well.
Anyone who wants to attend a Feast site that can be fun, uplifting and educational should check out what CGI does in Jamaica each year.
Eric Snow, Redford, Mich.