The Living Church of God is looking to open its wallets to the city beginning Sept. 30, but the 425 people on the way won't be partaking in any of Chattanooga best pork barbecue or catfish.
For the second year in a row, the city is one of the denomination's several Feast of Tabernacles sites in the country and 40 in the world.
Members, in keeping with a biblical command, set aside about 10 percent of their income -- on top of their 10 percent tithe to the church -- to spend at the annual festivals, according to James Sweat, feast site coordinator for the Charlotte, N.C.-based church and pastor of the denomination's church in Chattanooga.
"That can be anything they need to spend it on," he said.
Anything, that is, except pork products or food of any kind that has been prepared with pork derivatives such as lard or bacon fat. Members also don't eat shellfish of any kind, including shrimp, lobster, crab, oysters, clams, scallops, or fish
such as shark, catfish or any that do not have "fins and scales."
Those foods, according the Old Testament book of Leviticus, "are unclean to you" and "are an abomination to you."
The denomination is "completely different" from the Cleveland, Tenn.-based Church of God International, Anderson, Ind.-based North American Church of God or onetime Chattanooga-based (Original) Church of God, Sweat said.
"We teach the original Christianity of the Bible," he said.
Dexter Wakefield, director of business operations for the denomination, said last year was the first time Chattanooga served as a Feast site.
"Chattanooga, of course, is well located in a particular region for people to go there," he said. "It has a lot of things people can do. It also has good facilities."
Wakefield said the Chattanooga Choo Choo will serve at the host site, where there will be daily worship services, family-oriented gatherings and social activities through Monday, Oct. 8.
"It's a very active, very festive atmosphere," he said.
Members enjoyed sites such as the Tennessee Aquarium, the Imax Theater and the Southern Belle riverboat last year, Sweat said.
He said in 2011 they came "from all over, including overseas" to Chattanooga despite sites being available elsewhere.
Wakefield said the denomination, which has more than 340 congregations around the world, has designated Feast of Tabernacle, or Sukkot, sites for more than 50 years. He said he has been going to festivals for some 35 years, including many years with his now-grown four children.
"They looked forward to it very much every year," he said.
Many people take the Feast of Tabernacles as their vacation time, Wakefield said. Money is set aside for the occasion, children often get new clothes for the trip and youngsters receive gifts, he said.
"It's a very festive occasion," he said. "It's a happy, joyful occasion meant to picture the kingdom of God."
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Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...