Feast Report:  271 Attend CGI Feast in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, 2004


by Eric V. Snow



            With high attendances of 271 on the weekly Sabbath and 266 on the Last Great Day, the Church of God, International, celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  “Ivan the Terrible” left the area along the north coast from Montego Bay eastwards of the largest English-speaking Caribbean island mostly unscathed.  So this Feast site blessedly escaped the ill-effects of this year’s busy hurricane season.  Since the local church has rapidly grown in attendance in recent years, it met for the first time in a large meeting room above a restaurant called “The Ruins.”  This location supplied the gathered Feastgoers listening to sermons with a striking millennial backdrop outside.  As seen to the congregation’s right through the bank of windows which mostly formed the room’s walls, a nearby waterfall flowed through lush tropical greenery.


            The general theme of the speakers consisted of warnings against materialism and against making this life our priority as Christians when Tabernacles in type points to our present lives as being aliens and sojourners in a temporary world.  The local speakers employed a particularly powerful metaphor by comparing this world to “Babylon,” which represents not merely sin, confusion, or a false religious system, but economic power and wealth (See Rev. 18:9-23).  Resident pastor Ian Boyne, in his Last Great Day message, “Confronting the Twins,” pointed out it’s much easier for people in the Church of God to condemn Roman Catholicism, Babylon’s religious side, than to escape the pressures exerted against Feast and Sabbath observance and the temptations presented by the desires to pursue wealth, Babylon’s economic side.  We need, he observed, more sermons condemning materialism, not just those attacking Babylon and her daughters since people in the Church of God movement will find economic Babylon’s offers of pleasure, money, and (illicit) sex much more alluring than the doctrines of Catholicism.  Other messages Pastor Boyne gave argued the case that people cannot be true Christians without observing the Holy Days and that Jonathan’s self-sacrificing relationship with David has not been sufficiently extolled or appreciated by Christians.  Deacon Glenford Smith gave a powerful message against passion, pride, and pleasure that perhaps for many was the outstanding message delivered at this Feast site.  The traveling speaker was Duane Nichol, who gave strong messages about the “Cortez Principle,” of burning our connections/bridges with the world, and the “Poignancy of the Fig Tree,” about the need to produce fruit.  Other sermons were given by the local deacon, George Ramocan, who spoke about how not to be distracted by Babylon’s allurements and financial traps while pursuing the Christian life and that we shouldn’t God has left us to struggle alone despite the hardships and sacrifices we make as Christians since He gives us help in fighting evil spiritual forces, such as through His unseen angels.  Ray Curtis, a speaker from an American independent group, also gave one sermon.


            Social activities at this Feast site included a spectacularly successful Jamaican Juice Night featuring karaoke versions of popular American songs unusually well sung in most cases by local talent (mainly choir members and/or special music performers). The next night’s Family Fun Show, with the stated theme of “The Pride of Africa,” was full of inventive musical acts and a play with a spiritual theme.  Other social activities included a quiz competition between both junior and senior teams, a sports day, a youth Bible study, a couples rap session, and a singles mingle.  A spiritual workshop, led by Deacon Ramocan, allowed the congregation to share its solutions to three theoretical dilemmas of Christians torn between spiritual and physical goals.  As for the annual Herbert W. Armstrong Memorial Presentation, Sandra Mae Robinson once again emerged triumphant. She faced down a strong second-place challenge by Erlett Findlay while speaking against the Sacred Names doctrine.  In this contest, which had four entrants this year, each speaker is given up to 20 minutes to defend as effectively as possible the same distinctive doctrine of the Church of God movement.  Robinson retained the trophy and claimed a first-place prize of J$10,000, or about US$167.


            On the Last Great Day, in the morning before services, Pastor Boyne and Deacon Paul O’Connor baptized 11 people in the ocean off the main beach in Ocho Rios.  For a local church of around 230 in attendance in two congregations, this is a remarkable level of growth.  (By contrast, even including all the international visitors, the UCG in Jamaica had 148 at its Feast site, and the LCG roughly 120.  Only about 20 Americans came to the CGI Feast site, so it was mostly attended by local people).  What is helping make this growth possible, besides God’s blessing and calling?  Part of this results from dynamism of the local leadership and the flexibility the local church has to have religious services in a traditionally emotional Jamaican style (including an emphasis on music) while still maintaining a strong doctrinal and intellectual focus.  More specifically, the Jamaican CGI’s evangelism has adopted the strategy of deliberately targeting other Sabbatarians, such as the Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of God (Seventh Day), on the “wedge issue” of the Holy Days.  Most conspicuously, some 20 CG7 members attend at least part of the Feast with CGI while still going to regular Sabbath services with their own church.  As a result of a strong emphasis on local and personal evangelism, including public debates with traditional Christians of various denominations, the Jamaican CGI has undergone remarkable growth in recent years.  With North American congregations of the Church of God movement generally treading water or in decline as the number of deaths likely exceed baptisms in many congregations, we may find it wise to learn from what the Jamaican CGI congregations are doing when such fruit is borne during their Feast itself.  


Sermon summary, Ian Boyne, Last Great Day, 10/7/04, Ocho Rios, Jamaica


“Confronting the Twins”


People in the Church of God movement, as well as the Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of God (Seventh Day), routinely attack Roman Catholicism and the Pope.  But this is only one part of Babylon.  It has a twin—economic Babylon, which has the Mark of the Beast of its own.  People may have to choose between eating food or family unity versus serving God.  During this Feast, attendance was highest on the weekly Sabbath, which points to some ranking economic needs over religious duties.  Attacking religious Babylon not sufficient, but need to attack economic Babylon also.  People want to be more into their jobs, careers, school.  Tabernacles challenges both Roman Catholicism and economic Babylon.  I Peter 1:13+

True, the Festival could be held in Kingston, and most people would stay at home.  We leave Kingston not just for the scenery.  We are acting symbolically to be distinct.  Tabernacles is a rival to Babylon.

Church of God Movement’s members have to act on faith more because of keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days than Sunday keepers (who often make a big deal about faith compared to keeping the law).  The Mark of the Beast is already here, in that people who keep the Sabbath and/or the Feast of Tabernacles can’t get various jobs, such as people he (Boyne) has interviewed as part of the organization he works for.  One standard question that’s asked:  “Are you active in church?”  The Sabbath people already are victimized by economic Babylon.  Economic Babylon asks us to negotiate, (to compromise).

Rev. 18:11+

The economic system gives force to Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholic Europe has to become greater than the U.S. and U.K., the EU has grown stronger.

Although the SDA, CG7 can give testimonies about suffering, but COG people face (more problems), such as taking exams.  Are we studying the Bible for studying for classes?  Economic Babylon is also alluring, hard to resist.  Have to learn how to examine one’s mind and heart, not international news about the Middle East (so much).  In doctrinal purity matters, we have stood up well for pure worship, we do well against religious Babylon.  But we still do tings like gossiping, not keeping the Feast.  God wants changed hearts, not rituals.

The wealth of Babylon is wiped out eventually.  You remain if you do (reject it), as world passes away.  In the U.S., there’s permanent insecurity due to terrorism, despite the U.S.’s power in military and economics, people still afraid.

Ezekiel 27:1+  This life does not offer us what is permanent.  The COG movement needs to be balanced in its message.  We still need to attack religious Babylon, even if many (in the COG movement) want to shy away from this publicly.  We have to preach clearly, about having to leave religious Babylon.  We have to make them uncomfortable in their old CG7 church.  But economic Babylon is much harder to attack.  Keeping the Holy Days is harder than attacking Roman Catholicism.  When opposition comes, and get tested, people give in.

Tyre was wealthy.  The Church of God needs to pay more attention to materialism and economic Babylon, and attack Roman Catholicism not as much by comparison.  We rejoice in the Feast so can think on our own special situation.

Isaiah 23:1+  Tabernacles symbolizes we are living as if we are just passing through. 

Tyre was a type of Babylon, of Rome.  Tabernacles is its very opposite.

Acts 19:23+  At Ephesus, there was an economic motive for false worship, at the Temple of Artemis.  Here money, sex, and religion all combined, do all three, try for it.  Why temple prostitution existed.  Consider gay churches, which try to combine together (sex and religion).  Mentions man who left COG, now in gay relationship, wants to join partner in gay marriage in Canada.                       Carnality still left in him.

(Boyne) doesn’t come here to teach doctrine, but to feel guilty, be shaken up.

It’s not time to preach smooth things, but people need to go back with contrition, with fire in the belly.

On trade days (for fairs in ancient Rome), couldn’t participate unless sacrificed to emperor and local deity.  They had annual festivals to pagan gods opposed to the Feast of Tabernacles.  If didn’t make acts of worship, couldn’t have job (or buy/sell things).  There is sacrifice, risk to take the Holy Days off.  Preachers then say it, but don’t believe.

Daniel 1:12  Seventy year test in Babylon, 4 men (Jews) there, resisted it.  Polycarp was executed.  Prior people not afraid to die either.  Babylon has both shops and spears.

Pergamum (Rev. 2:13+).  Near center of Roman worship.

Balaam, sold out, unlike Daniel & his three friends.  Money & sex closely related as sins.

Numbers 25:1+  We’re on the banks of the Jordan.  We are in far more danger from sex and money than Roman Catholicism, including the leadership of the church.  Like Israel in the wilderness.  World not called or judged now, like the Pope, unlikely this Pope or Mother Theresa wouldn’t convert (when resurrected & called).  You have to worry about yourselves now.  The Tabernacles/Israel’s wandering in the wilderness analogy.

Rev. 11:7  (Spiritually) conquer the Beast Power even if conquered by Beast (physically).

Rev. 5:5  They loved their lives not to death.  Jonathan knew Saul’s kingdom was going down, so made covenant with David.  The economic system is going down, so make a covenant with Yahweh’s system.  Some leave but stay—still come on Sabbaths, on high days (but not for full Feast-?).

Rev. 3:14+  Tied to economic Babylon.  With faith you can endure your trials.  Don’t go back the same way you came (to the Feast).  Don’t forget God’s rewards.  God’s judgments are being revealed.