United Church of God

Home Office Weekly Update: July 27, 2023

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Home Office Weekly Update

July 27, 2023

From the President . . .

Visiting the British Isles

Greetings brethren around the world,

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the ministry, office staff and membership in the British Isles. We spent five days reviewing the work in Britain, the state of the congregations and membership, and conducted the first national meeting of the ministry there in four years.

One of the many highlights of our trip was Sabbath services in Bricket Wood. Having services in this charming city that is rich in Church history was encouraging and motivating. Many will remember that one of the three campuses of Ambassador College was located here. The property has been sold twice since the college closed late in the last century, and it is now an exclusive housing development, but the natural beauty of the campus and the stately and impressive Hanstead House is still there, now comprised of 11 luxury apartments.

It was wonderful to see that campus and to feel the history of this area when a great work was being done. As I discussed in my sermon this past Sabbath, God loves His people, both spiritual and physical Israel. The blessings promised to Ephraim are evident in the history of the British peoples, which have spread throughout the world. There is a work yet to be done in Ephraim (and Israel) in keeping with the Church’s admonition of Isaiah 58:1: “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”

The work in Britain is supported by a national office located in a charming village in the county of Hertfordshire. Into that office calls and inquiries come, and out of that office literature and other information requests are sent. David and Barbara Fenney came down from northern England to meet with the staff and us for two days as we reviewed and discussed results, plans and what we can do in the future to further promote the very needed gospel message to this country.

There are 11 elders serving England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man—all of which comprise the British Isles. It was a pleasure to be able to meet with them individually and collectively during our stay.

Last Sunday, nine of those elders and their wives convened in Watford, north of London, for the first national meeting of the ministry in four years. David Fenney joined us by Zoom and David Payne was unable to join because of illness. We discussed several subjects, including their questions and the need to preach, teach and live the truth.

We left England this past Monday with a feeling of brotherhood with all the ministry and membership there. We indeed are family.

Our worldview

As we were in England, and now in Italy, we realize that each area of the world is different with its own challenges and strengths. The American “worldview” is not the “worldview” of the various nation states of Europe and other international areas. Each has its own personality and even the degree to which the national population considers religion and God. In how to reach the world with the “good news” of the coming Kingdom of God, we must consider these differences. I was pleased to see how that is happening.

God is the God of all nations, ethnicities and backgrounds. He has mercifully called us into His work and made us “a people”—His people. We hail from many areas and many backgrounds, from all nations, but we are bound together as family by His Holy Spirit.

What a privilege it is to meet the brethren and work with the ministry in the areas around the world and to seek together God’s will for fulfilling the commission of “preaching the gospel and preparing a people” as we all seek and wait for the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom.

Our thanks go out to the many members and ministers and others who serve our brethren in every nation. Our thoughts, prayers and commitment are to help and serve however we can, as God and Jesus Christ lead us all.

On to Italy

Currently Deborah and I are in Italy, working with the ministry and office located in Bergamo, about an hour north of Milan. This Sabbath we are looking forward to being with the brethren in the Milan congregation, then on Sunday we have a meeting for all who would like to attend and ask any questions they would like to have addressed. I’ll write more about our trip here next week when we return to Cincinnati.

Please keep your brethren all over the world in your prayers, and continually ask God to give us all the direction and guidance we need to serve Him in exactly the way He desires.

Take care, have a great day of preparation and rewarding and inspiring Sabbath.

In Christ’s service,

Rick Shabi

From the Ministerial and Member Services . . .

Death of Gary Nielander

Gary Nielander, an elder serving the congregation in Indianapolis, Indiana, died on July 13, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth. After high school, Gary enlisted in the US Army and served as a code intercept operator and trainer for two years based in Okinawa.

Gary lived a life of service in many ways. He was an employee of the State of Indiana in community planning and later as an advisor to numerous counties and communities across the State. Gary was awarded the Honorary Secretary of State award and the Distinguished Hoosier award by the governor of Indiana.

Gary was a man of deep faith and served as a local elder for 48 years. He was an example and helped countless people during his life. He coached Y.O.U. basketball for years in the Columbus, Indiana, congregation. He is remembered for having disciplined teams and was always calm as a coach. This is reflected in a quote from a sermon he gave a few years ago about Satan where he commented that God will soon tell Satan to “give my children back their ball.”

He had a great sense of humor and had a joke or story for every occasion. His infectious laugh would draw you in and spread to anyone nearby, making him approachable and easy to talk to with his down-to-earth style.

With God’s help, Gary’s innate teaching ability came out through biblically accurate, colorful messages which were always enhanced by his stories. There was no doubt that he first and foremost loved God and His truth. Gary would always give sound advice based on Scripture. He had an outstanding commitment to God and His people.

He will be greatly missed by his family, the Church and the communities he served.

Recent Ordination

We’re happy to announce that on July 22, 2023, Randy McKeegan was ordained into the ministry. He and his wife, Kori, serve the congregation in Bakersfield, California.

Report from Camp Woodland

We had 110 campers and 70 staff arrive at Camp Woodland in Temple, Georgia, on Friday. It was a sweltering hot and humid Georgia day, but as the Sabbath approached, cooling clouds and gentle rain set in—just enough to cool things down, without impacting planned activities. Sabbath morning, campers and young adult staff gathered for an interactive Bible study where each dorm sat in a circle with dorm parents in the middle to facilitate meaningful discussions around different biblical personalities assigned the day before. At the end, a spokesperson from each dorm shared a summary of their assigned character and what the group discussed and learned. Discussion aids, created by the activity coordinators, gave insightful descriptions and background information for the biblical characters to help the dorm parents in preparing for the discussions.

After dinner, we had relaxed fellowship time and crafts. The Saturday night dance was the first of two—the second will be a 1980s theme on the last night of camp.

Sunday morning, Christian living classes began with a stirring message about recognizing and being ready to answer our call from God. Afterwards campers enjoyed a full day of fun activities, culminating with a thrilling “roller derby” event where multiple types of wheeled items were used by teams in a relay race in the gym. The rest of the week will be filled with engaging and well-prepared Christian living classes, volleyball, basketball, team challenge, archery, speed-away, high and low ropes, ultimate frisbee, dance class, chess class and more.

Three evenings during camp, young adult staff will participate in an optional Christian living enrichment discussion. We will also have several planned staff activity nights such as glow in the dark ultimate frisbee and volleyball on a lighted court.

Thank you all for your prayers for all of our UCG Youth Camps!

—Jay and Jennifer Ledbetter, Camp Woodland

Report from Northwest Camp

Greetings from Northwest Camp, where 119 campers, 65 staff and 3 mini-campers have come together this week at Camp Magruder on the beautiful Oregon Coast to learn more about this year’s UYC theme, “Race to Your Crown”!

The Christian living theme has been well received by the campers, and the analogies being brought out by our presenters have helped to make the theme come alive, and to become more real for our youth. Considering the calling we have, and the race that we are all running, our focus this week is to help them to understand just how special that calling is and the expectation that comes with it. We must understand the spiritual training that it takes to be able to run this race, the vision and purpose that we need to keep in mind as we forge forward, supporting one another through the challenges until we finish the race and receive the crown that has been laid up for us.

Traditionally, the weather for our week on the Oregon coast is among the best weather of the summer—and apart from one isolated day of rain on Monday, that looks to continue to be the case this week. The forecast has us in the high 60s and sun for the rest of the week, with winds that aren’t expected to exceed 15 mph, which we are incredibly excited about. The Pacific Ocean is quite a bit warmer than it has been in past years, which we’re in the process of debating whether that takes away from the overall Northwest Camp experience or not . . . but so far, the verdict is that the campers are loving the few degrees of extra warmth.

We try to do as much as we can down at the beach, because of the views, and the uniqueness of the experience. This year our speed-a-way, beach activities, volleyball and hike are all down at the beach, giving the campers the ability to be as immersed as much as possible in the picturesque seascapes that Rockaway Beach coastline has to offer.

We also have a number of opportunities to try a variety of different things—our dance classes and waterskiing classes are frequently popular, and have led to the development over the years of some very talented campers. One of our counselors made the observation about our B4 boys and their dance skills this year—that the multiple years of dance training have really paid off, and the growth is evident! It’s the same out at waterski, with a number of our campers trying out more challenging variations such as wakeboarding and slalom skiing.

We’ll be taking a trip Wednesday evening with the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, which uses a steam engine and vintage railcars and provides a short tour along the coastline with views of Rockaway Beach and Tillamook Bay, and an excellent time to socialize, fellowship and get to know one another better. We’re looking forward to these opportunities throughout the remainder of this week to grow closer to one another and to the Great God who has made it all possible.

—Benjamin Light, director, Northwest Camp

Feast of Tabernacles Announcements

Discounted Housing Rates for the Feast of Tabernacles

Many of the hotels and motels listed in the Festival Planning Brochure and online offer their discounted pricing until July 31. After that, they may or may not honor the rates listed in the brochure. If you have not made a hotel reservation yet, please keep this mind before next Monday.

Feast Registration Wait List

We have around 75 people on a wait list at the following three sites: Galveston, Jekyll Island and Lake Geneva. If you are a part of that group, you will receive an email next week to determine your needs and intentions. We try to accommodate everyone, but sometimes more people want to attend than capacity allows.

Also, if anyone registered for those sites is not attending, please update your registration by finding your original email confirmation and from there you can make changes. Or contact USFestival@ucg.orgor your local congregational feast advisor if you need assistance.

Festival Children’s Choir Music 2023 is Now Available!

(Please announce to your congregations.)

The Festival Children’s Choir selections are now available for download on the UCG Feast website at: https://www.ucg.org/members/feast/childrens-choir-music.

Guidelines for the Children’s Choir are posted there, as well as vocal and instrumental versions of the two songs and lyric sheets.

Parents, please follow the posted guidelines and be sure your children know the songs before arriving at the Feast.

—Scott Delamater, National Music Coordinator

Job Opportunities

The United Church of God is still seeking a Video Editor and Receptionist. Details about all of the current job postings for the Church may be reviewed at ucg.org/members/news/current-job-openings.