Saturday 28 April 2007

The words of J

Thanks to fellow blogger Felix Taylor for pointing out the existence of a promising new blog on WCG. Shadows of WCG is the work of a former member, and its definitely worth checking out. The writer goes by the handle "J." Well written, perceptive, balanced... great stuff.

Now we need a P, E, D and there'll be a set!

Thursday 26 April 2007


A thousand years before the Bible there was Gilgamesh. It's the oldest story that has come down to us from the earliest years of civilization. What is truly remarkable is that, despite the jarring strangeness of the world of 2750 BCE, it is also a familiar world filled with people very much like ourselves. Students of the Bible are usually captivated by the deluge story, this version predating the one that appears in Genesis, but there is so much more on offer.

I was first introduced to the Gilgamesh Epic by sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg's novel Gilgamesh. In my opinion it's an underrated work, and it's good to see it back in print, though it's no substitute for the real thing.

The problem with most translations of Gilgamesh is that they're the work of academics, and often fail to catch the power of the original. Which is why Stephen Mitchell's efforts in providing Gilgamesh: A New English Version are so successful, capturing the beauty, poetry, and yes even the raw eroticism of this tale from the beginning of history.

The setting is Uruk, now familiar to us from newspaper and TV reports as blood-soaked Mosul in Iraq. Gilgamesh is the lusty young monarch who teams up with a wild man known as Enkidu to bring down a monster, Humbaba. It's a tale of friendship, sexuality and death. The cast of minor characters include a sacred prostitute, the priestess Shamhat, whose task it is to bring Enkidu to Uruk.

They looked in amazement. The man was huge
and beautiful. Deep in Shamhat's loins
desire stirred. Her breath quickened
as she stared at this primordial being.
"Look," the trapper said, "there he is.
Now use your love-arts...
Stir up his lust when he approaches,
touch him, excite him, take his breath
with your kisses, show him what a woman is."

And then there's Utnapishtim, the original Noah.

On the seventh day,
I brought out a dove and set it free.
The dove flew off, then back to the ship,
because there was no place to land. I waited
then I brought out a swallow and set it free.
The swallow flew off, then flew back to the ship,
because there was no place to land. I waited
then I brought out a raven and set it free.
The raven flew off, and because the water
had receded, it found a branch, it sat there,
it ate, it flew off and didn't return.

Although the Gilgamesh epic is short (easily read in a single sitting, though I'd recommend you take it a little more slowly to appreciate it's depths) it is without a doubt superb literature, and any thoughtful reader will come away with some fresh insight into the human condition. Long ages before Ecclesiates, Gilgamesh receives this advice from a tavern keeper.

Humans are born, they live, then they die,
this is the order that the gods have decreed.

But until the end comes, enjoy your life,

spend it in hapiness, not despair.

Savour your food, make each of your days

a delight, bathe and anoint yourself,

wear bright clothes that are sparkling clean,

let music and dancing fill your house,

love the child who holds you by the hand,

and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.

That is the best way for a man to live.

Mitchell's version fairly sings, and is the best way to approach this remarkable tale, a journey to great-walled Uruk and the cedar forests of Lebanon, nearly 5000 years in the past.

Saturday 21 April 2007

Moderation in all things ?

The livingcog Yahoo moderator has changed that group's policy, and thusly inspired so have I.

My Livingcog yahoo group is now "closed" rather than public, at least for now anyways. Lurkers were getting posters into too much trouble!
Jackboots and Bibles perhaps? Nothing quite like an Internet heresy hunt. Freedom of speech is obviously a Laodicean virtue in LCG. This group is the most active of the COG boards. The picture is... the moderator's avatar? Looks like a Ron Dart disciple to me.

As of about five minutes ago AW is again unmoderated. However no more anonymous postings are possible, so you'll need to register with a gmail account if you haven't already.

Believe it or not, the first anniversary of this blog is only days away. Only one year? Feels like decades ;-)

Thursday 19 April 2007

Apocaholics and gun nuts

Two items caught my eye in the January-February Journal; one an ad, the other comments from the leader of a major splinter ministry.

The ad provides the title for this posting. You probably have to be as old as me to recognize the name Gary Alexander, another of high profile writers who didn't survive the traumas of the 1970s. Alexander was also responsible for a major booklet on the End Times theme, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1973).

Alexander's post-WCG career has apparently had it's colorful moments, and I believe you'll find some of the details chronicled in old issues of John Trechak's Ambassador Report. Now Gary is back as a self-proclaimed "apocaholic."

In 1990, I woke up to see that the world is getting better by almost all metrics - and I became richer and happier by sharing this good news with others.

I'm willing to bet from the tone of the ad that ol' Gary is actually trying to sell life insurance or some other plan to make a buck, but I still like the idea of an "Apocaholics Anonymous" group.

The second item was a report by Dixon Cartwright on a gathering of the good and the great in Lexington. While the serfs were amusing themselves at the Winter Family Tournament in December, the elite were gathered at an invitation-only conference. Nothing wrong with that, and the lineup included some of those in the independent wing of the COG movement with a proven record for integrity.

Among them was Ronald N.R.A. Dart.

Speaking of the Brookfield LCG killings, Dart opined: To me, I still to this day can't understand why three guys didn't just tackle him [murder-suicide Terry Ratzmann] all at once.

The former Armstrong evangelist went on: it almost seems like sometimes we've been spiritually castrated.

I have a 12-gauge and a 9-mm handgun in my house, and, if some guy breaks into our home and threatens my wife and me, he will go back down those stairs head over heels
In the wake of the recent killings in Virginia it's not difficult to imagine the opinions Mr Dart will be offering, but I can only wonder if the aging preacher would pause to afix his toupee first before grabbing the gun. I'd wager he'd be far more likely to shoot himself in the foot than face a life-threatening home invasion in his neighborhood. Then again, church members were fueled on fear and insecurity, so maybe it's no wonder if the preachers have fallen victim to their own nightmare rhetoric.

Then there's the ludicrous situation where LCG's Richard Ames jumps in to offer trite commentary on the Virginia tragedy: From Columbine to Kosovo, and from Blacksburg to Baghdad, our world is mired in violence, pain and suffering.

Blacksburg to Brookfield Mr Ames, remember Brookfield?

Monday 16 April 2007

Beware of flying folders

For the past week I've been struggling with an assignment on the Bible and ethical decision making. The Bible and what? Back in WCG days I can't recollect the word 'ethics' appearing anywhere. I guess the closest thing was the Meredith booklet on The Ten Commandments. I even checked the infamous STP. Ethics are missing in action.

I think most of my ethical struggles in those days - at least conscious ones - were about food. Could there be ham in that sandwich? All the big issues were deferred to the powers that be. One size solution fits all: just do what the church says!

In any case, I've come close to turfing the study guide out of the window more than once over recent days. I'm not sure the Bible has anything relevant to say about ethics at all. The track record of Christians generally is hardly impressive. Lest anyone think the COG tradition is different, remember back to the days of D&R when families were split up.

The Bible can and has been used to promote slavery and oppose slavery, to promote anti-Semitism and oppose anti-Semitism, to promote capital punishment and also oppose it. Prohibition, Sunday laws, military service, you name it. The Bible is a marvelously malleable weapon in anyone's culture war.

In New Zealand at the moment there's a huge debate going on over whether parents should be able to smack their kids (corporal punishment.) As usual the fundamentalists are up in arms, waving their Bibles and quoting scriptures in defense of their God-given right to belt the devil out of their progeny. At the other end of the spectrum non-fundamentalist Christians generally support a change in legislation that would give kids exactly the same protection adults have. It's a debate that has the community cleanly divided, and a lot of tempers frayed.

I notice that Samuel Martin, son of the late Ernest Martin and the guy in the picture, has a book out on the spanking issue. In one of those "isn't it a small world" moments I also noticed that it's been endorsed by my sister's Presbyterian minister. Hmm.

In any case, after a week of hard labor, I at last have a draft up even if it is completely unreadable. Even better, the study folder hasn't ended up in the hedge or crashing on top of the neighbour's cat.

But there's still time, still time...

Addendum: It's been pointed out that the impression might be given that Samuel Martin's book is pro-spanking. Absolutely not, as the link makes clear. I haven't read the book, but on the strength of what's available online it seems to be a valuable contribution to the debate from someone who has some real insight on the issue. If anyone has read the book and wants to provide a review, drop me an email at

Friday 13 April 2007

The Wright Stuff

It's the ultimate question, the holy grail of Armstrongism, a mystery more profound than the meaning of life...

What does the 'W' in Herbert W. Armstrong stand for?
There have been false trails. One officially sanctioned story had it that the 'W' was added sometime in the 1940s after mail-delivery confusion with another Herbert Armstrong in Pasadena (wouldn't want those donations going astray!) But a quick check of the Autobiography shows Armstrong was using the initial from the beginning of his journalistic career.

In the 1970s I came across an article called "The Spiritual Wilderness of Herbert William Armstrong" in the Australian Lutheran. Credible? I doubt it.

Now there's a new contender: Herbert Wright Armstrong. Just type the whole name into Google inside quote marks. Who'd dare argue with or Wikipedia? Yet as far as I know there's no documentation to prove it one way or another. So how did Herb pick up the new moniker? We can probably credit Tammy Roberts.

Herbert W. Armstrong was named after his mother's brother, Herschel Herbert WRIGHT. I speculate that the "W" in his name stands for WRIGHT...Herbert Wright Armstrong, a common practice to use the mother's maiden name as a middle name for her sons. (Tammy Roberts, Genealogy and HWA)

Speculation or not it now seems Herb is to be declared "Wright" regardless, courtesy of the Internet. Considering the energy he put into muddying the waters, one can only imagine that the "discovery", if correct, will have him rolling over in the Pasadena Lawn Cemetery.

And if Tammy has it wrong? Just look at that knowing smile!

The Retirement Dilemma

Thoughts on WCG's responsibilities to its former employees from Byker Bob, posted on the alumni forum, with followup comments by an ex-employee.
Next time you receive your annual statement from the Social Security Administration, assuming you ever worked for the Worldwide Church of God, or Ambassador College, take a look at all of the zeroes in the columns referring to taxed Social Security earnings, and taxed Medicare earnings. Now, picture yourself as one who worked for our favorite two institutions for the bulk of your career. What benefits are you scheduled to receive upon attaining the age of 66?

Here's the scenario. You worked for some organizations which were operating under the strange delusion (some called it prophecy that was revealed to God's Apostle, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong) that the world was going to end, and Jesus Christ was going to return long before you ever reached the age of retirement. Giving your money to the government, when it could have been given to "the work" was seen as not exercising good stewardship, so the decision was made by senior management of WCG/AC to opt out of the Social Security program, which was their perfect right as a non-profit religious organization.

This has been one of the most far reaching and influential decisions made on your behalf by the church and college. Now that we know that HWA was simply another false prophet, we can see that it would have been far wiser to hold back a little, and to save for retirement, but imagine the reaction of your local pastor if you had even suggested doing this back then! You would have been seen as lacking faith at the very least, or might even have been compared to Annanias and Saphira!

It doesn't matter what we might think of the people who are without retirement at this point in time, because the policy was equally unfair to everyone. Maybe you feel that the ministers who left the church are going to the Lake of Fire anyway, so what does it matter if they get retirement? Or, you might fall on the other side of the fence and assume that all ministers were our Nazi torturers, and regardless as to whether they have repented of their evil WCG roles, still deserve to suffer. But, what about long-term employees who opted to stay with the main body of WCG, and were fired for continuing to keep the sabbath privately in their own homes? What about the people who always tried to do the right thing, but got caught up in some of the final reductions in the church and college's work force as it all wound down prior to the sale of the campusses?

The problem is that opting out of the Social Security system was bad policy, and this bad policy is now affecting some of the people you might agree with, and some of the people you might vehemently disagree with.

What should be done? Some of the splinters have remedied this for the ministers who joined up with them, by providing continuing employment. But what of those whose consciences simply would not allow them to pursue such a course? What about the ministers who, in their 50's, suddenly found themselves beginning new careers and are only now accruing SS and Medicare benefits?

The WCG has continued to exist, uninterrupted from the time of these egregious policies, right up through the present. They may have changed their core beliefs, but the entity which originally caused the present hardships still exists, and IMO, should accept the responsibility of taking care of the people who were hurt by the original policies. Looking at this topic in a rational manner, it might even benefit the current WCG. How so? Well, if many of the aging ministers were taken care of financially, they wouldn't be selling out and continuing to teach Armstrongism just so that they could perpetuate their lifestyle! So there would be fewer leaders in the splinters, and fewer ministers would translate into accelerating the demise of a horrible false religious system.

I think we need to be making some noise about this before some of the people we knew and numbered as our friends are relegated to eating dogfood. Little Joe needs to exercise some leadership and to do the right thing for people who gave their all and are now about to pay the price for their dedication in ways they never imagined. Retirement benefits are not a paddle to be used in manipulating peoples' behavior, they are a form of basic human decency accorded to those who are too aged to be able to support themselves.


Response from a former employee:

WCG has always had a pick and choose mentality as to who got retirement care. Many who were in HWA's favor got retirement, homes and cars. But if you disagreed with him you got nothing. WCG carried on that tradition. WCG had a way of getting around full retirement for all employees. They called it 'discretionary assistance'. They made the decision to base your 'care' upon whether you were a full tithe payer and supported the church.

When the blow up happened those that went with the splinters automatically lost any 'discretionary assistance'. It did not matter who they were or what their health conditions were. The money was cut off with nothing more than a form letter.

WCG made numerous promises about retirement care when they started the process of selling the properties. They made big promises when they sold Big Sandy. They reneged on all of them. They made promises when they sold the jets. Again, they reneged. Then as the sale of the Pasadena property dragged on they started cutting the payments to those loyal employees that stood by them through all the changes. Many of them had serious health issues. It did not matter. The money was cut.

Only those employees around at the end of the sale process got retirement. If you worked for the church 30 or more years you got 60% of your income. Each year less you were there, you lost 5%. These employees can never have that retirement taken away from them, that money is locked into a special retirement fund run by an outside administrator. But sadly, WCG again failed to keep more of their promises. There were many who were told they would be brought back into the program or have their funds increased. Again, it never happened.

In the early 80's WCG gave employees the opportunity to opt back into Social Security. Many jumped at the chance, Most ministers and some employees did not. Now they are left high and dry by WCG. They also began offering the opportunity to join in 403b deductions for retirement in the late 80's. But to show how sneaky WCG really was concerning retirement, there were many teachers who had been for decades payed into a retirement fund for teachers of schools and colleges. 95% of the employees and many of the ministers were never told about this opportunity. Only a select few paid into it.

Wednesday 11 April 2007

WCG Home Remedies

Charlie K. reminds us of the "good old days" when church members traded in suitably kosher advice on everything imaginable, from natural deodorants to dandruff cures. Two recollections:

Use Cold Cream instead of Anti-perspirant/deodorant.

Rub your scalp with apple cider vinegar to cure dandruff. (I know someone who followed up on this...What a stink! You couldn't get close enough to see if the dandruff cleared up).

Okay, so who can add to the list... bearing in mind the obligatory warning: try these at your own risk!

Monday 9 April 2007

All Time Record?

LCG gushes: "In March of 2007 the website set an all-time record of 62,757 unique visitors! The previous high was in January 2007, which recorded 58,947."

At times like this it's a good idea to take the Alexa sobriety test. Today's rankings for LCG:

Tomorrow's World 318,017
COGwriter 284,374
LCG 564,153
COGL 5,377,141

Once again, Alexa shows that LCG's most effective site isn't its own. Bob Thiel's no-frills COGwriter runs rings around the official (and very expensive) LCG domains.

A quick round-up also reveals that Mark Armstrong's sites (intercontinentalcog and have both dropped off into the abyss - now ranking below the top million. Also in freefall, judging from the latest data, is ASK (the site founded by the late Ernest Martin.) Neither, however, are doing as poorly as Rod's COGL... that 5 million figure has to be a rogue result... doesn't it?

Well, it seems not. If you click across to Alexa's returns, then scroll down to the bottom, it seems clear that everything is going West: reach, rank and page views.

A smattering of other results:

Restored Church of God
RCG (Pack) 47,730
Real Truth (Pack) 79,289
Here's the real winner, though the reason is unclear.

United Church of God
UCG 129,075
GN 126,890
Beyond Today 300,422

Philadelphia Church of God
The Trumpet 260,787
PCG 1,061,330
Key of David 766,279

Odds & Ends
WCG 171,295
PTM (Albrecht) 715,321
Born to Win 183,650
AW Blog 255,047
The Journal 980,090
Bible Study (Ruth) 253,659
Coulter 742,732

Sunday 8 April 2007

Asparagus Ice Cream

No, really. Garlic ice cream is said to be more common, but asparagus, now that's really different!

Carolyn Smith-Kizer, better half to the famous Homer, is a woman of many talents, not least her passionate advocacy of 18th century French cuisine. Interviewed just last week for the Culinate blog, Carolyn reveals, among other things, the delights of asparagus ice cream (seen here swimming in strawberry sauce.) A dollop of this and it really would have been "a night to be much rememembered."

I have to confess that, being more the cookies & cream type, neither garlic nor asparagus confections have passed my lips, but for those adventurous souls with an interest in kitchen affairs from a COG-friendly perspective, Carolyn's revelations will doubtless prove inspirational. And get this, all you Laodicean lay-abouts, Carolyn's commitment to authenticity means she cooks over an open fire!

What about the French predilection for lard and blood sausage? Carolyn finds better things to tempt the palate with, and why not? No mention of those juicy little escargot though, perhaps served with butter and some of that garlic left over from the ice cream?

Carolyn's own food blog is found at

Friday 6 April 2007

Herbraic memorabilia

Oh dear lord, why doest thou tempt me so... and more importantly, can I bid for these items using third tithe money?

Just think what that armband could do for me next trick-or-treat! Assistant deacon! Such exhalted heights to aspire to! And - gasp - it's a sanctified pre-1967 RADIO Church of God armband... Maybe if I take out another mortgage...

"Imagine the power you will have when you strap this felt badge on your arm over that polyester suit! Feel the blood throbbing in your veins as power is FINALLY given to you to rule over people."
Does David ben Ariel have one of these? Does Geoffrey Neilson? Will Craig White be putting in a bid? This thing is priceless.

And then there's the limited edition, original Systematic Theology Project... be still my beating heart! David, Geoff and Craig, though, will probably want to give this one a miss

"This is an original copy of the famed and often maligned STP Project of the Worldwide Church of God from the early 70's. This is the project that was done to set into writing the beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God. In spite of the denials of HWA in 1975 and later, he was fully aware of ALL the articles that were done for the project. It was NOT done behind HWA back inspite of the lies that some of the splinter cults put out. This is also what helped lead to the downfall of GTA (among other fun 'things'). The STP Project has been in plastic sleeves since 1975. The STP Project was handed out at a ministerial conference and then several months later [was] recalled by HWA who had them all shredded. I was one of two people that shredded them. Somehow one just followed me home one day! There has been some highlighting of some of the papers."

Live dangerously! Lean to the Laodicean side... Bid now, bid often.

Meanwhile I think I'll just make a weak cup of tea and go and have a lie down while my wallet cools off in the freezer...

Glenn Mattson on LCG

Worth checking out is a raw and honest piece - appropriate perhaps for the season - by former LCG member Glenn Mattson. It was originally posted to the JLF board, but was picked up by Felix Taylor at Post-WCG Life & Theology. I think a lot of us have been where Glenn is at the moment.

Thursday 5 April 2007

Jared of Hippo?

There are online quizzes out there for almost everything, but it'd have to be a slow day for anyone to dream up Which Church Father Are You? (there are no recognised Church Mothers apparently.)

I've got to admit, having had a stab at the quiz, that I'm hugely curious as to which of these eminent gentlemen longtime AW commentator Jared Olar would be best compared to. Jared is one of the most knowledgable persons on the ex-COG planet about the Church Fathers, and a tireless advocate for the virtues of the Western Catholic tradition. Athanasius perhaps, or even Augustine?

Another prominent figure who has devoted much time to a study of the topic is LCG's "unofficial nuncio to the Laodiceans", Bob Thiel. I'd have guessed he'd be a definite Tertullian, but seeing that's who I came out as, it's not very likely!

"You possess many gifts, but patience isn’t one of them. You’re tough on yourself — and on others. You’re independent, too, and you don’t like to be told what to do. You wish the Church would be a little tighter in discipline. As for the pagans, you’ve pretty much written them off. Sometimes you think the Church would be a better place if you were in charge."

What, little ol' liberal me? The only consolation is that Tertullian is the only church father I can think of who ended his career being regarded as a heretic. There's hope for us all!

On a somewhat related matter, former WCG member Kevin Edgecomb, now an Eastern Orthodox Christian, has his own blog. Kevin was well known for his forthright views on certain newsboards several years back, and I confess to an exchange of fire with him on several occasions (though I'm sure I never won any points decisions.) Kevin is also linking to the Church Fathers quiz, and if you scroll down his page I think you'll agree that the perspective he offers - at least for an ex-WCG member - is quite unique.

Wednesday 4 April 2007


Greetings everyone, my name is Syd Hull, minister of Jesus Christ in His End Time body, the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Mr Herbert W. Armstrong.

Ahem. Can we do that again? Greetings everyone, my name is Syd Hull, minister of Jesus Christ in His End Time body, the Global Church of God, founded by Dr Roderick C. Meredith.

Um. Take three, harrumph! Greetings everyone, my name is Syd Hull, minister of Jesus Christ in His End Time body, the Living Church of God, founded by Dr Roderick C. Meredith to replace the Global Church of God which WAS His End Time Body till around last Tuesday.

Ah. Er. Ahem. Can we do that again? Greetings everyone, my name is Syd Hull, minister of Jesus Christ in His End Time body, the Restored Church of God, founded by Mr David C. Pack.

Oh shoot! Forget all that and let's take it from the top:

Greetings everyone, my name is Syd Hull, minister of Jesus Christ in His End Time body, which may or may not be the Enduring Church of God, founded by Mr Charles E. Bryce.

But regardless, brethren, GOD IS ON HIS THRONE, and Thiel STAYS disfellowshipped, so there!

(News that Syd is rumoured to have fled from Big Dave's cult - possibly to Bryce's embrace - appeared this week on Bob Thiel's website.)

Monday 2 April 2007

Lard or Lord?

I may well get into trouble for saying so, but there seems a clear correlation between religious fanaticism and food fanaticism. In the COG/ex-COG community you can almost guarantee that those good folk who hold the most conservative views about Herbert Armstrong or the Sabbath will be the most particular about what they eat (or don't eat). Follow the discussion on one of the fundamentalist COG forums for any length of time and you'll be bombarded with well-intentioned advice on what to avoid. An outsider might be forgiven for thinking they'd run into a hippie-style organic health cult (until they read the postings on prophecy.)

Our Seventh-day Adventist cousins are much the same. I browsed through the local Adventist Book Center some time ago, and was amazed to find that, while you couldn't find a decent Bible commentary in stock, there were “health products” aplenty. The Adventists have some different ideas from the COGs, pushing a strict vegetarian line, but the parallels are also uncanny.

There are reasons other than the obvious ones. Food restrictions are a very effective “purity barrier” which isolates a group from the wider world. Intensive food preparation avoids the problem of “idle hands” for the ladies: who knows what terrible vices they might get up to with that extra free time. Good grief, they might read something and then ask impertinent questions of the menfolk! And you certainly need to think twice before accepting an invitation to a meal at the home of non-church members, you never know what might end up on your plate.

There's also a correlation with fringe medicine. If “medical science” is suspect, the alternatives need to be explored. How many weird “natural” regimens have been adopted by members desperate to do something to get well (or stay well) without showing “lack of faith” by visiting a doctor? Eight times out of ten the “solution” will be to further restrict their diet. Nine times out of ten it will be totally futile.

Fanaticism tends to loop back on itself and hold hands with unlikely soul mates. Stalin and Hitler came from the two extremities of the Left/Right continuum, but in their totalitarianism they were one. “Greenies” and ageing hippies are light years removed from the Bible toting brethren that dutifully troop off to PCG Sabbath services each week, but they could probably happily swap bread recipes.

American Catholic theologian Bruce Malina has an interesting theory about religious views and gardening styles as well, but that's a post for another day.

Pondering the Passover

I got home tonight to discover my letter box had been "hit" by the local Jehovah's Witnesses; a mass produced leaflet with an invitation to attend "the anniversary of Jesus' death" which "falls on Monday, April 2, after sundown." Uh, and I thought it was yesterday evening.

JW's are the other significant minority sect, outside the Churches of God, that celebrate a version of the Passover, commemorating the Last Supper, only once each year.

I'll be giving the JW version a miss, though I think it's interesting that outsiders are now welcome to attend. As I understand it, only a very few, those who believe they are among the elect group of 144,000, take the emblems of the bread and wine. Garden variety JWs simply look on.

Is there a strategy here one or more of the COGs might wish to emulate? After all, interested outsiders are usually welcome to attend the various Feast of Tabernacles services (with the exception of the very closed communities of PCG and COG-AIC.)

Every Christian community seems to have its own tradition involving a symbolic meal of bread and wine, basing it on the New Testament accounts. Mass, Eucharist, Sacramental meal, Passover, Lord's Supper; the similarities are obvious despite the different names. The annual Church of God version had its strengths and weaknesses. Footwashing never seemed to make much sense to me in a society without dusty roads and open-toed sandals, but being a once a year event it seemed to mean a lot more than the monthly "Holy Communion" service I was used to in the Lutheran church of my childhood.

Whatever else the Passover means, it's a statement of commitment. If that commitment is to the life and teachings of Jesus (rather than a sect or Elijah-figure) then maybe that's an entirely legitimate thing to do.