For some, the North American Convention of the Church of God is a chance to see family and old friends or maybe make new ones. For others, it’s a venue to celebrate and share Christian fellowship.
Whatever their reasons, thousands were present Friday at Anderson University and Warner Auditorium during opening night of the weeklong faithfest.
“I think it’s a good start to the week, with the worship and everything,” said David Dooley of Middletown, Ohio.
Dooley said he has been coming to the convention for 10 years, and the event is something he and his family plan around.
“I think it’s a time to rejuvenate with all your brothers and sisters in Christ,” Dooley said, the children’s pastor at Breiel Church of God in his hometown.
David and Doris Griffin of Avon sad they have been coming to the convention for the last 10 years. They usually drive and camp all week at the university.
“It’s a time of refreshing,” Doris said about why she and her husband come to the convention on opening night. “Deepening your spirit through music,” David said.
Music was indeed the draw for many at the opening night concert, entitled “God … Our help, Our hope, Our home.” It included a 250-voice choir comprised of singers from around the state and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Special guests included Christian musicians Jay and Amy Rouse, Marc Clarke and Kim Tabor, who belted out songs as audience members clapped and raised their hands to the air.
For Vernon Reese of Muncie, the annual convention has been a part of his life since childhood. The son of a former pastor, he said he felt compelled to attend the convention’s opening event.
“I could have just stayed home and been comfortable, but I wanted to be here, it’s the first night,” Reese said, who even drove through the rain to attend. “I always try to be here on the first night.”
Karinda Holland of Indianapolis said she has attended the convention for the past dozen years. As someone who was raised in the Church of God denomination and is an AU alumna, she said she comes to the convention because it gives her a chance to see her friends.
Anderson University student Kevin Schuit called the convention a great time for fellowship.
“There’s so many friends that I know are here, that I can’t find yet, but I know I will find eventually, and it’s just a great time to be with a lot of people who all have the same interests and whose focus is in faith,” Schuit said.
The convention holds special meaning for Anderson resident Leah Green who met her husband during a convention. The Louisiana native said she was 14 years old when she met and began a long distance courtship with her childhood sweetheart, an Anderson native.
“So this is a special time for me, Church of God convention,” Green said.
She said she enjoys opening night of the convention, but the mid-week candlelight service is her favorite part.
Cluis Daniels, who traveled from Collinsville, Miss., said she and her husband have been coming to the annual convention for more than 30 years.
She said the people and the music have probably changed the most over the years.
“It seems like the younger people are bringing in their babies, and young ones, and if they can get their children interested, then they’ll be here with theirs,” Daniels said.
Among the evening’s featured speakers were Dr. Ronald V. Duncan, general director of Church of god ministries, and Andrea Morehead, Channel 13 news anchor.
“Anderson University is so very proud to host the first evening service for the international convention of the Church of God, which is what this is,” said AU spokesman Chris Williams.
Friday’s rainy weather didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of those who attended the convention.
“No, not really, we got in before it,” Doris Griffin said.
Green, who has camped on convention grounds for past conventions, said it’s just something people get used to.
“One of the years we came was during the 100 year storm, so this is nothing compared to that,” Green said.
-- Kate House is a Staff Reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.