United Church of God

Home Office Weekly Update: January 11, 2024

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Home Office Weekly Update

January 11, 2024

From the President . . .

Greetings brethren around the world,

Earlier this week my wife, Deborah, and I returned to Cincinnati after a very inspiring, productive and rewarding trip abroad.

Last week you heard about the Philippine leadership conference where we had attendees from all over Asia. It was a wonderful time of collaboration, planning, bonding and discussion on how we could better preach the gospel in our international areas. When we “seek first to understand” the cultures, challenges, religious differences, ways people digest media and practices that may seem unfamiliar to us in America—then we can make effective plans to work with our international areas to help them better fulfill the commission Christ gave His Church to preach the gospel “in all nations” and to care for the disciples He calls (Matthew 24:14; Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

Visit to Hong Kong

As Debbie and I left the Philippines, it was just a two-hour flight to Hong Kong. The congregation there is small—there were 12 people in attendance that Sabbath, plus six online. But they are dedicated, warm and friendly. Following Sabbath services, we spent the rest of the day with all the members of the congregation, getting to know each other better and listening to their questions and ideas.

Hong Kong is a vibrant and modern city, and very much “Christian,” as there are Catholic and Protestant churches everywhere. There are opportunities in this city to spread the gospel. Terry Franke, an elder from Alaska who pastors the Hong Kong congregation, has been working on a new website. We discussed how the gospel could be preached in this area, using ads and short social media posts that would get the public’s attention and strike to the core of their errant beliefs.

Our thanks to Terry Franke and Mary Ong, a leading member in the Hong Kong congregation, for their hospitality and taking such good care of us.

Time with our Italian brethren

From Hong Kong we traveled on to Milan, Italy. As you know, the Church in Italy has seen some difficult times in the past month. Based on his behavior, actions and words, the Council of Elders had no choice but to revoke the ministerial credentials of Angelo Di Vita, who was the pastor there. Sadly, he no longer attends with us and has declared himself “independent and autonomous” from UCGIA.

We had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time with the brethren, not only at Sabbath services, but also in the days leading up to the Sabbath. What a wonderful, committed group of people! There was joy in the congregation and a sense of looking to the future to what can now be accomplished in Italy, as part of our commission to preach the gospel to all nations. In a country that has long been Catholic and with the Pope’s recent ruling to bless same-sex couples, people may be looking for answers, realizing the Catholic Church has failed them. We believe God will call new people in Italy and the Church there is now ready to welcome them as part of God’s Body.

Our thanks go out to Enzo Alfieri, who is now the only ordained elder in Italy, Ludmilla Wolf for her tireless efforts in translation, and to all the members there. We look forward to working with them closely over the next few months. You’ll be happy to hear there are plans to have a UCGIA Feast site in Italy this year. More information will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Brethren, wherever we go, we are so impressed with the people whom God has called. One of the unforeseen benefits of my role is having the opportunity to meet brethren from around the world, and to come to understand the situations, pressures and joys they experience day by day.

Let’s all pray for one another. We are a worldwide family that God has called. How wonderful it is to see God working in so many places, even more so as “the Day approaches.” 

Have a wonderful Sabbath, everyone.

In Christian love,
Rick Shabi

From Ministerial and Member Services . . .

Recent Ordination

We’re happy to announce that on Jan. 6, 2024, Patrice Sinyenga was ordained into the ministry. He and his wife, Gift, serve the congregations of Isoka and Kalukanya, Zambia.

Death of Lee Chovan

Lee Chovan of the North Canton, Ohio, congregation and wife of deceased elder Milan Chovan, died Jan. 2, 2024, at age 90. She and Milan were married 62 years until his death in 2016. Lee was very active in her local congregation, serving as a deaconess for over 50 years. During this time, she organized many church dinners, formal dances and socials. Lee had a passion for singing and music and often shared her talents by performing special music as well as singing at weddings on many occasions. Those who knew her are ever blessed by her fine example. Lee is survived by two children, Paula McCrea and Doug Chovan, and two grandchildren, Melissa and Jason.

Agape Love Series Part 6—“Love Is Civil”

This week’s study is titled: “Love Is Civil.” What does civility mean and is it important as a Christian to be civil?

You can listen to it online at ucg.org/sermons/love-is-civil-agape-love-series-part-6 or download it to your favorite mobile device. All 11 parts are available as a sermon series at ucg.org/sermons/sermon-series/agape-love.

—Peter Eddington, Operation Manager, Media and Communications Services

Reminder: Video Recording of ABC Class—Corinthians

Ten video recordings of the Ambassador Bible College (ABC) class, “The Epistles of Paul: Corinthians,” are now available. Presented by Steve Myers, these classes are a very helpful tool in your ongoing study and understanding of the early New Testament Church and its relevance for us today as a continuation of that Church.

In class 10 we will discuss 1 Corinthians 6:6-20 and examine the following: Paul addresses the Corinthian believers’ legal disputes and warns against immorality. He advises them to settle disputes within the community rather than in secular courts.

One 45-minute class is being released each week on video—with graphics, charts and other helpful aids. You can access all classes at this location: ucg.org/ambassador-bible-college/epistles-of-paul-ambassador-bible-college.

These recordings are available on our website, but also available on our UCG app on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Navigate to the “sermon videos” line to view on these streaming devices.

We pray this will be a helpful tool in your ongoing study of God’s Word.

—Peter Eddington, Operation Manager, Media and Communications Services

Young Adult Winter Ski Retreat, Feb. 16–19

We are excited to announce a second annual UCG young adult winter/ski retreat Feb. 16–19, 2024—President's Day Weekend! We are hoping to forge new and deeper relationships with people of like mind. We will be eating and staying together for the whole weekend. We welcome all UCG young adults ages 18–35, single or married. Registration is open; go ahead and register at ucgyawinterretreat.org, and we will see you there!

We will be staying in cabins at the Pipestem State Park in Pipestem, West Virginia. Activities will include: skiing/snowboarding, tubing, hiking, bonfire and lots and lots of hanging out. Sabbath services will be conducted onsite along with an interactive Bible study by pastor Jay Ledbetter. More information about the activities can be found on the website.

For more information contact Sabrina Massie at sabrinamassie13@gmail.comor 919-943-9966.

2024 Southeast Weekend in Atlanta, March 2–3

The Atlanta and Buford, Georgia, congregations invite those ages 12–25 and their families to experience “A Walk through a Lotus Garden” at this year’s UCG Southeast Regional Formal Weekend, March 2–3. This year’s theme highlights the rare and exquisite botanical gardens of breathtaking Japan. The decorations boast discovery at every turn as you enjoy structures and plant life unique to this northwest Pacific Ocean island. Come and take in a minka (a Japanese home) or delight in the fragrance of a sakura flower (cherry blossom). Either way, it will be an evening to remember.

Cost for the formal this year is once more $39 per person and an additional $13 per person if you would like to participate in roller skating at Sparkles Family Fun Center in Gwinnett, Georgia, on Sunday. Family members are encouraged to attend Sabbath services, the senior recognition and roller skating.

Dress for the evening is formal, semi-formal or Sabbath attire. The agenda for the weekend and details about registration can be found on the Members website here: ucg.org/members/news/southeast-regional-formal-weekend. All participants are required to register using the online form linked from that webpage. Registration is open until Feb. 16, 2024.

If you have any questions about the SE Weekend, please email Sierra Briggs at sierra.gomperts@gmail.com. We look forward to seeing you there!