“It Ain’t Over Yet; We’ve Only Just Begun,” was the reassuring yet challenging title of Dr. Hyveth Williams’ sermon at Sligo Church on Sabbath, August 3. It was Sligo Church’s fourth annual homecoming. Members, former members and friends of Sligo from across the nation and beyond crowded into the church building to worship, celebrate, reconnect, and reminisce. Dr. Williams, in her message to over 1700 worshippers on Sabbath morning, cited much of what is going wrong in the world, remarking that everything seemed to be going the devil’s way. She reminded listeners that often things are not what they seem to be and that God is in control of the world and of their lives. The war is far from over and it’s a war that God is winning. Worshippers were urged by Dr. Williams to keep trusting God in all situations because ‘it ain’t over yet. It won’t be over until God declares it over.
Homecoming 2013, with the theme, “We’ve Only Just Begun,” commenced with Family Worship on Friday evening, led by Gerry Lopez, Children and Family Ministries pastor, and his family. Those in attendance celebrated the advent of the Sabbath and spoke of the various ways in which they welcome the Sabbath at home. The experience was enhanced with Challah and Kiddush, borrowed from the Jewish tradition of celebrating the arrival of the Sabbath.
Teaching a class of hundreds can be challenging but Dr Gaspar Colon made it look and feel like a fireside chat as he skillfully and thoughtfully led the discussion of the lesson on ‘The Fruit of Revival.’ Pastor Pranitha Fielder gave the mission feature, which focused on the female pastors who have served Sligo Church over the years and the immense contribution that these women have made to making Sligo the compassionate, accepting and serving community that it is today. On a day when the speaker for the worship services was a female pastor and one who previously served at Sligo, the mission feature could not have been more appropriate.
A highlight of each year’s Homecoming is the international luncheon, which this year was held at Sligo School. Close to one thousand members and guests feasted on dishes from the Americas, the Orient, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and other parts of the world. “The food is great,” said one very happy member as she savored a samosa, “and the fellowship is even better.”
To cap an unforgettable weekend, over 12 hundred joined Pastor Wintley Phipps on Sabbath evening for a time of worship in songs. The congregation launched into “Shall We Gather at the River” and other hymns with a fervor that suggested that they were in the mood for worship. Even, those who are not usually keen on singing traditional hymns joined in the spirit of worship and lent their voices to singing these songs of the Christian faith and experience. The enthusiasm and passion of the congregation in songs was matched by the melodious and appealing voice of Pastor Phipps as he premiered his newest album, Near the Cross, which features some of Fanny Crosby’s great hymns, backed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. This program was billed as a concert but was anything but a typical concert. Pastor Phipps and others ensured that it was an evening of worship and admiration of the One who loved us to the extent that He was prepared to die on a cross for us.
More than 3000 attended the weekend events, including those who joined on line. A number of information cards were filled out by guests, inviting the church to keep in touch with them or provide them with additional information about the church and its services.
Senior pastor, Charles Tapp, was pleased with the success of the weekend and believes that the objectives of Homecoming, which are, to restore, to reconnect and to revive our relationships with God and former members and our community at large, were realized.
We are already thinking of Homecoming 2014 but the homecoming that looms largest in our consciousness and our expectations is that when our Lord comes again and takes us to the place He has gone to prepare for us.
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Article by Don W McFarlane
Photos by Michael McKinnis and Paolo Esposito