So much has taken place in the past week that it is difficult to wrap our minds around all that is happening, isn’t it?
This Coming Sabbath — Home Office Webcast
Peter Eddington, Operation Manager for Media and Communications, will be giving the webcast sermon titled: “Who Was Moses?” How could an abandoned baby become one of the greatest leaders ever known? An immigrant family’s son rose to national power in a foreign land and became known as the greatest prophet of all time—other than Jesus. Why should this, and why does all this, affect your life? Mr. Eddington will lead us in looking at some powerful lessons from the life of Moses. What can we learn from his remarkable example?
Also, each home office webcast should be available as a downloadable file within 30 minutes after each service (assuming no technical difficulties). Pastors are welcome to download and rebroadcast any of our archived webcasts to their local members at a time that works better for them.
Camp Director Meeting
On Tuesday, we had an online meeting with all camp directors, both teen and preteen. As difficult as it is for all of us who truly love camp and are dedicated to providing camps around the United States, we do have to face the reality of the times in which we are living right now. As a result, four of our earlier camps have been canceled for 2020. That announcement can be found at ucg.org/members/news/united-youth-camps-2020-announcement. We hate to cancel even a single camp because we understand how valuable and treasured these camps are to our children, families, and—in reality—the entirety of UCG. There are a number of considerations that go into the canceling of any of our camps and we don’t take this lightly. Some of the camps are able to hold off on making a decision a little longer, but we wanted to apprise you of our plans going forward.
Meeting of Regional Pastors
Also on Tuesday, we had a web meeting with all regional pastors in the U.S. I am very happy to say that we are all working together to provide for the needs of the brethren. Each regional pastor gave a very encouraging report showing how the ministers in their regions really seem to be doing their best to ensure all members are being contacted and are prepared for the Passover. These difficult times are challenging all of us to rise up to meet that challenge. As a result, we are all becoming more competent and confident that with God’s help we will learn a great deal from these troubling times. Members are showing greater concern for one another and we are actually drawing closer together as a people. It is often in adversity that we grow the most and learn the most. Isn’t that why, at least partially, God allows such trials to come upon us?
Personally, I am learning that it is really quite easy and valuable to hold these virtual meetings, and much is accomplished with closer and more focused communication. I have asked the regional pastors to hold regular web meetings with their region’s ministry, as I intend to do with the regional pastors. I am grateful there is a great deal of unity among our ministry and fellowship at this critical time.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your pastor for help. He wants to provide the help you need and will do his best to serve you. Our ministry is never too busy to do the right thing.
Besides being prepared spiritually for the Passover, everyone needs to be prepared physically with a little bit of unleavened bread and wine. If you are not prepared for any reason, please reach out to your pastor and ask for his help. Everyone should have a hardcopy of “Taking the Passover at Home” just in case technology should fail us. If you don’t have a hardcopy, please contact your pastor right away for one or download it here. Since those most likely to need help may be without a computer, each pastor is expected to be in contact with brethren to be sure they are prepared. Of course, since we really are “our brother’s keeper,” members should also take responsibility that no one is forgotten. Remember, we are all part of the “body” and every part has an important role to play and should not be overlooked.
This year we will all be taking the Passover in our homes, so there will be very little reason one would need to take the Second Passover. However, if someone is too ill to take the first Passover or if they are not able to procure the wine or unleavened bread for the service due to unforeseen circumstances, they may need to take the second Passover after sundown on the evening of May 7.
Night to be Much Observed
Please consider that this year is very unusual and, sometimes, unusual times require unusual measures. Although I would prefer meeting with others, as I have 45 other times for the Night to be Much Observed, I am looking forward to celebrating this special evening with my wife, Barbara. We will be eating a special meal together, including unleavened bread, and we will reminisce over the meaning of this special evening and the beginning of a high Holy Day ushering in the Days of Unleavened Bread.
God led the children of Israel out of Egypt (symbolic of sin) on this very night after decimating Egypt with 10 horrific plagues. In the future, God will once again strike humankind with horrible plagues before our Messiah, Jesus Christ, returns to establish God’s glorious kingdom upon this earth. At the same time, the firstfruits, the saints of God called, chosen, and faithful in this life, will be delivered—literally—from sin and death and will rule and reign with Christ for 1,000 years!
Brethren, it is important that we all follow the rules and directives of the local, state, and federal governments for the areas in where we live regarding the gathering of people together. Laws and directives are changing daily, it seems, so be aware of the rules in your area. If you have a “Stay At Home” order where you live, you may need to change your plans for the evening. Let’s keep this wonderful evening in faith and devotion to God and Christ.
Holy Day Offerings
Brethren, as God directs us, we should not come before Him empty-handed during His annual Holy Days, but with an offering reflective of the blessings bestowed upon us by Almighty God. It will take a bit more effort on your part to be sure that you comply, in principle, with this instruction from God. We greatly appreciate your faithfulness in following through with your offering to further the work of God in preaching the gospel and preparing a people for Christ’s return and for service in His Kingdom. Detailed instructions are included in this issue of the eNews (and on the Members site at https://www.ucg.org/members/news/us-holy-day-offerings-for-2020-days-of-unleavened-bread) for your convenience, along with a link to a 90-second video that demonstrates how to make an online donation: https://www.ucg.org/members/news/how-to-donate-online
Most pastors will be webcasting their own Holy Day services for their areas. The home office will also be webcasting on those Holy Days. On the First Day of Unleavened Bread there will be one service, which will be webcast at 2:30 p.m. EDT. On the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, two services will be webcast from the home office, at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. EDT.
As promised last week in the eNews, I want to continue sharing with our ministry and members the results of the recent congregational survey. This week I have chosen to address two items on the survey.
First, 88% of our respondents indicated that they “Somewhat Agree” or “Completely Agree” with this statement: “I find the fellowship in my congregation to be uplifting and enjoyable.” Secondly, and very closely related to that concept, is that 87% of our members indicated that they “Somewhat Agree” or “Completely Agree” with this statement: “Members within my congregation help and support one another.” We had a number of very positive and encouraging written comments as well, indicating how important congregational fellowship is.
Some members inspired by local fellowship and love of the brethren:
“We are a close-knit family. Eating a potluck meal together every week after services and prolonging the fellowshipping has truly contributed to our closeness. Some of us have formed special ‘study-buddy’ relationships which continually stirs up the spirit within us, just as it should. I am so grateful to have been called by God and to be a part of this congregation I am with!”
“Fellowship is uplifting, enjoyable, and starts the week off with purpose.”
“I believe there are many people in our congregation who provide help and encouragement to each other. Many people stay long after church ends to fellowship.”
“We have been in this congregation a little over a year, the atmosphere and fellowship and just everything about this congregation is wonderful. The minister, elders, deacons, deaconesses, and all the members are so caring and show such outgoing concern.”
“Meeting and fellowship on Sabbath is a great highlight to end the week on God’s time.”
“We are very blessed with our congregation and our minister. We have a nice mix of old and young. Everyone is very caring and concerned about each other. Very genuine.”
“We are currently homebound but can see the local webcast. We feel our minister keeps tabs on all of us who can’t make it to services. He is always asking what can the brethren do for us and how can the congregation serve us better. We frequently get cards signed by the brethren which are uplifting and encouraging.”
“I love our congregation! The epitome of love and support, harmony, family and friends that are what you would expect from God’s people. What a blessing to be among them and worship our great Father!”
“Love my congregation. We are close and supportive and filled with genuine love for each other. I can’t wait for the Sabbath each week to hear the messages and meet with my brethren. God has truly blessed us in great leadership and love for each other in Christ.”
“We have a very open and supportive congregation. I feel that I can talk to anyone in the congregation and get helpful advice from them.”
Realistically, we will always have members who are not as enthusiastic about their local fellowship as those quoted above. Undoubtedly, this is due to, perhaps, their equally valid perceptions of what they consider the case in their local congregation. Some believe there needs to be a greater depth of closeness and fellowship between members of the body of Christ. Some believe that our fellowship is too superficial and not as spiritually focused as it ought to be. Some have noted that some members and/or ministers are too political in their comments and approach. This reality is indicated in the following comments—and these comments underscore that there is room for improvement in how we interact with one another at our church services.
Some members believe local fellowship is lacking in love and too superficial:
“Fellowship tends to lack a strong spiritual focus. I do try to gently steer in that direction and at times have found good results. Other times, it seems many others do not feel comfortable discussing what they’ve been learning or studying.”
“Deep down love for each other is a factor terribly missing at the congregational level and beyond. Sermons have even been given online to highlight this very issue, so clearly it is an aspect of fellowship within the church that requires addressing. Sermons are even given locally on the need to and importance of displaying more genuine love towards our brothers and sisters. Fellowship can be quite superficial.”
“There are perhaps a handful of the brethren with whom I can have conversations that go beyond ‘Hi, how was your week?’ For a group that is supposed to be a spiritual family, conversations can be pretty superficial.”
“Once in a GREAT while, and to some degree, members in our congregation help and support one another, but mostly we keep at arm’s length and distant.”
“Since we are all so scattered it is just hard to fill the need for real spiritual support that as Christians we are to supply to one another.”
“I do not find the environment to be encouraging or supportive. There are members who are supportive of one another, but it is usually their own family members or their close friends.”
“Some of the members support one another. You tend to have the same core group of people who show up and volunteer to serve. Many of the members do not. I understand everyone can’t serve in all capacities, but we have a number of capable young adults/adults who never show up or volunteer.”
Some members believe local fellowship is too political:
“The concern I see in some fellowship, in my opinion, is the trend towards overtly political discussions and the blending of involvement of secular politics and politicians in their overall Christian worldview.”
Some members wish we could do more to help the needy in the world, outside our fellowship:
“I think our congregation has members who are great for reaching out and supporting/helping other members when in need. I wish we would do more with those in need outside of the church.”
Young people are fine examples of love and service:
“Our congregation is a very warm and loving and supportive congregation. Our members are so thoughtful and caring towards all members. It is not only the adult group that is so caring and serving but our young people are very fine examples of love and service. Our young people are very involved in making the Sabbath a true delight for all.”
Brethren, these survey comments I have shared with you will give you, no doubt, much “food for thought.” We should all ask ourselves, “What can I do to improve the quality, love, and genuineness of our local fellowship with God’s people, His called-out ones?”
Barbara and I wish you all a most inspiring Sabbath, Passover, Night to be Much Observed, and Days of Unleavened Bread! May God richly bless us all, as we strive to please Him with our obedience and love toward God the Father, Jesus Christ, and one another!