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2021 Feast of Tabernacles: Philippines

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2021 Feast of Tabernacles

Philippines

Some have lost jobs or businesses. A few have health problems, and a number tested positive for COVID-19. The government has imposed restrictions on religious gatherings, preventing the brethren from assembling for services as they normally did before the pandemic. 

Earlier this year, conditions in the country seemed to be improving, and senior pastor David Dobson gave the go signal to plan for in-person observance of the Feast of Tabernacles in three Feast sites, one for each of the pastorates, which also correspond to the three main geographical areas of the country. Reservations were made at the Caliraya Resort Club in Lumban, Laguna, for those in Luzon; Baybayon ni Agalon in Albuera, Leyte, the traditional Feast site for those in the Visayas; and RR Family Spring Resort in Maramag, Bukidnon, a new site for those in Mindanao.  

However, as the Feast drew closer, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country kept rising, resulting in the government imposition of higher quarantine levels and heightened restrictions on public and religious gatherings. Government authorities mandated the temporary closure of the planned Feast sites, and they were not allowed to operate and accept guests during the month of September. Reservations for the use of the sites were canceled, and it became clear that the brethren in the Philippines could not have the planned in-person celebration of the Feast this year.   

The Philippine ministry and leadership then opted for virtual observance of the Feast for the second year in a row. All services and activities were conducted online via Zoom and webcast via Facebook and YouTube Live streaming platforms. Based on online registration data, 111 brethren observed the Feast in Luzon, 154 in the Visayas, and 225 in Mindanao. The brethren in the Philippines were joined by some in Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. This had a unifying effect on the brethren all over the country as they were all connected to the same services and activities every day of the Feast.  

In some areas of the country with less strict quarantine restrictions, families and brethren could come together in limited clustered groups. This provided an opportunity for a more joyful physical fellowshipping among some members. 

Highlights of the Feast include the spiritual lessons from messages focusing on God’s plan and the need to “redeem the time, for the days are evil.” Services on the first day of the Feast featured the welcome video from the home office, and another locally produced welcome video in which senior pastor David Dobson—together with Feast coordinators Rey Evasco, Jose Campos, and Noel Roy Gilos—inspired the brethren by focusing on the theme of this year’s Feast in the Philippines: “Redeeming the Time.” A delayed webcast of President Victor Kubik’s Festival message, “Christ, The Servant” was featured during services on the sixth day of the Feast. 

Physical distance did not hinder the brethren from participating in various activities during the Feast. There were fun-filled and worthwhile activities suited for every age group. 

The youth day activities included games that showcased the talents and creativity of the teens and focused on building teamwork and unity among them. The day concluded with a Bible study on their journey to the Kingdom that focused on the steps they must take as they commit to living God’s way of life. 

The singles and young adults had an afternoon fellowship. A young adults Bible forum featured a presentation on the subject, “How Important is Your Social Life to God?” which provided guidelines for the singles on proper dating. 

Family day featured exciting and inclusive games for all ages. Selected performances provided entertainment for the participating families. 

The women’s enrichment meeting with the theme, “Redeeming the Time,” proved to be an excellent jump-off point for the women in the Church to share their experiences, be connected with, and learn from one another. 

The men’s forum featured two presentations: “There Are No Accidents: Recognizing and Following God’s Direction in Your Life” and “Goal-Setting for Men, Fathers, and Sons—God’s Way,” followed by a question-and-answer session.  

The seniors’ fellowship night featured songs and dances, and sharing of experiences among the senior members on how they came to know the truth and be in God’s Church.  

 One highlight of the Feast in the Philippines is the Festival show. The show was produced through a collaboration between Festival show coordinators from the three pastorates. It showcased the talents of brethren through dances and songs with participants from different parts of the country and international areas as well. 

Music is an integral part of Church worship services. The UCG-Philippines virtual choir and other ensembles provided inspiring and uplifting special music during services. Beautiful offertory music was also rendered on piano and guitar by members. This provided another unifying opportunity for the choir members, who had to record their individual voices and submit them to be put together by the special music coordinators to come up with a unified performance to honor God during services.  

One of the significant challenges in the virtual observance of the Feast is the intermittent Internet connection in some parts of the country that made it difficult for some brethren to make the most out of the services and to take part more actively in the activities. But the brethren are thankful that God has provided the technology and a core technical team that made it possible for them to be connected and to rejoice together with brethren from other parts of the country. 

With this year’s theme, “Redeeming the time,” the pandemic is not a hindrance but a challenge to the brethren in the observance of the Feast because their minds were focused on the writings of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:15-17 Ephesians 5:15-17 [15] See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, [16] Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [17] Why be you not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
American King James Version×
: “. . . see then that you walk circumspectly . . . as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Therefore . . . understand what the will of the Lord is. Also, the brethren have in their minds that the things happening in the world now are prophesied to happen in our generation prior to the imminent coming of our Savior Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom on this earth. May “Thy Kingdom come soon!” 

Jose Campos