This is a small Church of God fellowship that meets about 35 miles west of downtown Chicago. The average attendance is about ten. The group consists mainly of former CGI members who tried a large COG organization when Garner Ted Armstrong’s problems surfaced in late 1995. For various reasons, about three years ago they decided to form their own fellowship.
The group is led by Ken Svehla, who was an Elder in the CGI. They are fortunate to have a piano-playing member, so songs are part of their service, which starts with one hour of interactive bible study. This is followed by a sermon. Ken mentions that they strongly encourage members to be interactive, all should have an opportunity to speak their mind openly. Although this policy has some negative aspects, this fellowship feels it is much more preferable than the strict government controls and suppression of the congregation so many of us have experienced in the past.
The group has had many guest speakers, including Wayne Cole, Garry Pifer, Dave Havir, and Tom Justus. They cooperate closely with the Active Bible COG in downtown Chicago (see the last issue of Servants’ News). For the past four years they have been a co-sponsor of the Chicago area Christian Renewal Conferences organized by Christian Educational Ministries. Michael Linacre, who pastors the Active Bible COG, is a frequent visitor and speaker.
Ken, and his wife, Trisha, are very much involved in the community’s Battered Wives programs. Other church members will often help Ken and Trisha as they carry out some aspect of helping those unfortunate victims and their children.
When COG Downers Grove first started their own web site, they included various articles. Then they noticed there are many other sites that, combined, provide vast numbers of very good articles.
A member recalled trying to get some web information about Destin, Florida, Feast sites. She wasn’t able to find the information she wanted. Her experience prompted the Downers Grove church to change their web site to something different. For more than a year they have been offering a web site where any Sabbath-keeping fellowship group or congregation can list themselves.
Laureen Blissard, who heads up the web site project, says they would like to become one place where people can go to find a Sabbath group near their home or near their travel itinerary; or to find information about various Feast sites. The site is off to a good start. Several US and a Canadian fellowship groups are listed, and more fellowships, no matter where in the world they are located, are urged to make themselves known.
Laureen can be reached at 630-416-7115. The church's web address is www.wherecog.org. Laureen’s e-mail address is Blissard@wherecog.org. One of their objectives is to have a very user-friendly site. A local fellowship can even arrange to have a sub-directory listing from the major site. Laureen is presently trying to work out a link with Mapquest so people accessing a listed fellowship can also receive a map and directions.
The COG Downers Grove meets at 1:00p.m. at the Oak Brook Park District Building. The address is 1300 Forest Gate Road, Oak Brook, IL. It is west of I-294 and east of Hwy 83, just north of 31st Street, a map is on the web site. Prospective visitors should call first, however, because one Sabbath a month they use as an opportunity to visit other groups. Ken’s number is (630) 968-6153. Or, you can reach Laureen as noted above.
— “Onethird Century in-COGs”
[Sometimes, new congregations are born out of old struggles. The Sept/Oct 2000 issue, page 28, contained a letter about the difficulties Darwin and Laura Lee experienced with the UCG-IA. I wrote to UCG-IA on their behalf and never received a response. This article, by Laura, explains what they have done to begin a Sabbath study. —NSE]
We are an interdependent Church of God group, which simply means we are willing to work with others as they will allow us or as we are able to.
We did not break away from an already existing Church of God group in order to specifically start our own church group. Neither Darwin or myself would make really good public speakers. We have a tendency to shake, and turn red at the thought. Public speaking is definitely not our talent.
I, Laura, was suspended from the United Church of God an International Association on November 17, 1999. Darwin got honorable mention in that letter also, but not by name. On October 26, 2000, Darwin and I were both disfellowshipped from the United Church of God an International Association. After our experience with UCG-IA, we lost any interest we may have had in the past for joining any corporate church. We find it to be a disgusting thing, when a church group throws people out for personality. The Bible does clearly say someone can be put out for major sin, but we feel that if that is the case, that corporate group (or any other group) should be able to clearly state the sin, which warranted them to throw that person out. If you cannot state the major sin which warrants you to throw someone out of your church group, then you do not have authority from God to do so, as written in His Word the Bible.
Because we were no longer allowed to attend with UCG-IA since November 17, 1999, we visited other groups in the area. We found that some people were disfellowshipped (or suspended) from all Church of God groups in the area and were not allowed to attend any of them. We found many people who were not attending, because they didn't want to join any other corporate-type church groups. We found many people who felt God’s people should be allowed to speak to each other about the Bible openly. We found that many stated there is a lack of love in the corporate churches in this area. To put it simply, we saw a need to provide a service which just wasn’t here, and we had the ability to provide it.
We had our first Bible study here on June 30, 2000, and our first church service. on December 16, 2000. We do not collect tithes here; however, we do have a list of places from which we get on going help. We may, at times, ask for donations for something we need for Bible studies or Church services.
We have found that Ray Wooten’s group has a phone hook up for all Holy Day Services including the Feast of Tabernacles. We are still in need of a person who would be overseer for traditional Passover services.
[There is no scriptural requirement for an “overseer”, “elder”, or “minister” to be present at a Passover service or to “officiate” over bread and wine. The Bible teaches: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1Cor 11:28). There is no stated function that a “church official” must do. The Roman Catholic and other Orthodox Churches made sacraments out of bread and wine and required one of their priests to administer them. The Protestants largely followed. Many fellowships take turns reading the relevant scriptures, washing feet, breaking bread, etc. — NSE]
Darwin, I and others have found by the “school of hard knocks” that most of the corporate Church of God groups do not encourage visitors. We feel this is sad, and we definitely know that this is not what God wants for us. God is building a family, and He is including everyone who wants to be in that family. Why is it so hard for so many people who profess to be Christians, to understand this concept? We encourage all visiting. We do not care where you have chosen to attend on a regular or irregular basis. Working out your salvation is between you and God, not between us and you. We even invite people who are not interested in our Bible studies or Church services to come and join us for fellowship and visiting. We have open fellowship and a potluck meal (bring food), before our Bible studies.
We also have open fellowship after our Bible studies, and before and after Church services. We will not be offended if you come for fellowship and visiting and leave at the times our Bible studies or services start. Our back door will be unlocked at 6:30p.m. before Bible Studies and at 12:00noon before services and will remain that way until all have left. Again, we have nothing to join, and we don't expect loyalty to us only. You are free to come and go at any point you want to. The door is not locked.
Darwin has spent many hours in the last several weeks working on our sound system. As he started working on this, we found we do not have to confine ourselves to all sitting downstairs or upstairs for services if it gets too crowded you can go upstairs or down. Darwin has mounted 2 speakers in our living room, 2 speakers in our dining room, and you can control the volume upstairs separately, with the volume control on the stereo in the dining room. Downstairs, Darwin has added an additional speaker near the furnace area to hopefully help us all hear better when the furnace kicks in. We can run our speaker phone through the entire system, upstairs and downstairs, so everyone can hear.
We can also use the system for live speakers. Even though Darwin and I are not public speakers, we would certainly welcome those who are. Besides welcoming live speakers any week, we also welcome cassette tapes or video tapes. It would be great if we know far enough in advance to put these special speakers or tapes and videos into our invitations which we send out. If you don't know until a few days before that you want to speak, that is fine to, we are flexible. Darwin has our sound system all set up so he can put a video in downstairs in the VCR and run the sound and picture both upstairs and downstairs.
[This is a good example of using one’s talents instead of simply asking people to donate money to buy or rent buildings and equipment. — NSE]
On the subject of music, Ray Wooten’s group has sent us one Church of God International song book, this is what they use for services, so if you have this song book, please bring it with you when you come to services here for that phone hook up. Dave Havir’s group uses the last WCG song book, and the UCG-IA song book. If anyone out there has a UCG-IA songbook that they can donate to us as a group, that would be great, because we plan to sing with joy.
[The UCG-IA songbook is the same as the CGI songbook. — NSE]
Also, the old WCG song books also have some of the same songs in them. For the future, we have already contacted Mark Graham for song books and CDs, so we can also have song services when we have live speakers, tapes or videos. Darwin also hooked a CD player into our sound system.
When we do phone hook up with Ray Wooten's group and Dave Havir’s group, both groups use different speakers, and both group’s provide regular church services, complete with song services. Ken Westby does not provide song services.
If you know of any other places that provide phone hook up Sabbath or Holy Days services, please contact Darwin or Laura at 701-258-7172 (leave a message).
We have a table downstairs , where we put study papers and tapes that are free for the taking. We will also be taping all services through our sound system starting with the week of December 30, 2000. We will not dub any tapes on the Sabbath, but will have it ready for you by the next Sabbath or we can mail it to you.
We are providing a service. We want contact with us to be a pleasant experience. If you keep the Sabbath, we want that to be a joy. We welcome all visitors.
Contact Darwin & Laura Lee, PO Box 2333, Bismarck, ND 58502, tel: 701-258-7172. Please call for directions. Leave a message—we will return your phone call.