As we drew closer to the Feast of Tabernacles, it became obvious that Victorian members’ plans to attend their Feast site of choice—in Australia or overseas—was not going to be possible. The state of Victoria remained in lockdown and we could not travel further than 3 miles (5 km) from our homes. The designated site at the beautiful Lakes Entrance had been organized on the possibility that restrictions may have been lifted in time. But this did not eventuate, and members were informed they would need to prepare for the “Online Feast at Home.” Plans were then pursued to establish various ways that we could still rejoice “together” while isolated in our homes.
Just prior to the Feast, some restrictions in regional Victoria were lifted, allowing many regional members to travel to Lakes Entrance. Around ten families took advantage of this freedom. However, they were only able to meet in small groups of five and only outdoors. No congregating for Church services was allowed.
Due to limited hall availability, the elders in Victoria were able to webcast a full service on the two Holy Days only. At all other times, members logged into the webcast from the Sunshine Coast Feast site in Queensland. Members prepared for and participated in the services as though they were present at the hall. It was still a wonderful blessing to be able to observe God’s Feast during this challenging time.
Observing the Feast at home meant members needed to be creative in how they kept the Feast. Some set up tents in their backyards, braving strong winds and rain at times. Plans were also made by members to facilitate online activities, Bible lessons and discussions. The children and teens enjoyed online Feast lessons, as well as an online biblically themed team scavenger hunt that ran throughout the Feast. The men and women had separate opportunities for online chat sessions. The young adults enjoyed an energetic and creative online goose chase requiring them to complete biblical, as well as physical, challenges.
Individual households—some with only one person—participated in an abstract form of the online game night. A trivia night was also held where each household brought their own biblical questions to challenge everyone with.
One of the hugely successful and uplifting initiatives was the putting together of a register of those who were locked down for the Feast, along with their contact details (members volunteered their information). This was distributed to various members near and far so we could all keep in touch during the Feast, sending cards, food/gift packs or flowers, making phone calls or sending emails. A few fortunate members were able to meet up with someone in their 3-mile radius for a walk in a community garden.
This truly was a very different Feast for everyone. However, it was also a very positive and spiritually uplifting Feast, with members going above and beyond to ensure that all enjoyed the celebrations and being able to rejoice in the Feast.