Title: Good fellowship noted by convention visitors
John Pemberton had traveled all the way from his home near Liverpool, England, to be a part of the 114th International Convention of the Church of God adjacent to the Anderson University campus. He said it was worth the trip. "Absolutely tremendous," he said as he prepared to be a part of the convention's final service. When asked what he will remember most about the week, he was quick with a response.
"The friendship, the fellowship and love of my American brothers and sisters here," he said with a smile.
Friendship and fellowship were talked about most among the conventioneers as the 114th annual convention drew to a close.
"I'll remember the message and the fellowship," Sam Harrington of Bargersville said. "It has been real uplifting."
Harrington is a pastor at the Neighborhood Church of God. He said that when he returns to his congregation, he hopes to share with them information on what the church's plans are for the future.
According to Sam Collins, a writer for the communications office for the Church of God Ministries, those plans for the future involve growth.
"We really do see a part of our role as being missional," he said. "We hope to attempt to plant new churches to allow people better access to the gospel."
Collins said that church leaders have agreed to set a goal of increasing the number of congregations in the U.S. and Canada from the 2,353 churches that existed in 1999 to 5,000 churches by 2025. Outside of the U.S and Canada, church officials hope to increase the number of churches from 4,294 to 10,000 during the same period.
Also, the name of the convention will be changed from the "International Convention of the Church of God" to "The North American Convention of the Church of God" in order to reflect the fact that the convention is targeted at North American churches.
As church leaders focused on looking outward around the globe, at least one man came to the convention to experience a homecoming of sorts.
Maj. Andrew David Johnson of the U.S. Air Force stood outside of the auditorium.
Johnson, a native of Mississippi, graduated from Anderson University in 1982. He said he enjoyed coming back to Anderson because he had grown to love the town while at college.
"I actually cried when I left," he said.
He had traveled from Washington, D.C., where he is stationed. He said he'll remember the fellowship of the people here.
Back at the auditorium, Pemberton said he was eager to share what he had learned with his congregation.
"I want to tell them that God is working everywhere around the world," he said.
---- Paul Baylor is a reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin