Over the years, I have found that it is not uncommon to refer to the annual Church conference as “a Feast.” I have noted myself and others making the same association. Of course, the conference is not mentioned in the Bible as a commanded observance like the Feast of Tabernacles. However, there are several similarities that make it easy to draw this comparison.
Those who attend the conference gather together, in person if possible, to discuss doctrine, review the past year, and make plans for how we will perform the Work for the coming year, among other operational details of the Church. Thought and conversations are dedicated to matters that are spiritual. We take a great deal of time to carefully consider how we carry out the commission we have from God to preach the Gospel and feed the flock. In addition to the Work carried out during our meetings, we get to spend a lot of time together as brethren. We enjoy meals, leisure activities, and sometimes a modest adventure with one another. Like the Feast of Tabernacles, it is a time when we have a chance to focus our attention on the most important aspects of life and revive our energy for the year with brethren that we don’t normally see throughout the year. It’s no wonder to me that I so easily call the conference a “Feast,” given the similar focus on the Work of God and joy of camaraderie.
Coming home from the conference this year, I am contemplative of how valuable it is to spend time with brethren beyond the structured time of conference meetings or of Sabbath services. Only by spending time with another person are we able to have the kind of common experience that builds a relationship. A simple conversation about life, or even sitting quietly together, can have the power of building a bond of friendship. Being with one another helps us to understand the context of each other’s life in subtle ways that build empathy and deepen our capacity for love. As Christian brethren, the potential for building a meaningful relationship with others of like mind is great because we have the same purpose that drives us.
The instruction we have in Hebrews 10:24-25 carries tremendous meaning, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Reflecting on this passage, we not only see the importance of assembling together, but we can also see the purpose. It is far too easy to become weary as we battle against the influence of the world that stands opposed to the righteousness we strive to live by. To carry on day after day without the support from others can become a grueling task. To say it plainly and simply, we need one another for encouragement to hold fast to love and righteousness.
Assembling together on the weekly Sabbath and annual Holy Days is the commanded and ideal way to both give and receive the support we need. Yet, we are a Church with members spread out over long distances, which makes attending weekly and annual Sabbath services in person not always possible. We also understand that physical ailments may make it prohibitive to attend in person as well. Given any real limitations, we ought to carefully consider if we are taking advantage of the opportunities to be together when possible. If we are physically limited in our ability to gather together on the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, we can still connect in other ways. A simple note or phone call to someone when we’re thinking about them can be extremely uplifting, and it doesn’t take much commitment.
The fact is, we all need encouragement to endure until the end. Life is hard, and it doesn’t seem to get much easier when we consider the circumstances in the world around us. We can take heart in reading Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians, “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).