Philadelphia Church of God's name is derived from “Phila,” which means brotherly love, mentioned in the book of Revelation.
Approximately 5,000 people are part of Philadelphia Church of God faith communities—3,000 of them are in the United States and Canada, and the remaining 2,000 are on other continents.
Jason Cocomise, Philadelphia Church of God’s national conference planning director, is tasked with coordinating the Feast of Tabernacles. This comprehensive event includes six regional conferences in the states, which happen simultaneously. Feast of Tabernacles brings a combined estimated economic impact of more than $4 million annually, filling more than 10,000 room nights per year.
The conference gatherings, which happen each fall on dates based on the Hebrew lunisolar calendar, are for groups of 200 to 700, depending on location and space availability. Conference locations for this fall include Armstrong Auditorium in Edmond, Oklahoma; Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida; Hyatt Regency Lexington in Kentucky; Courtyard Lake George in New York; Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa in California; and Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, Washington.
“We try to pick peaceful settings where people can reflect and retreat,” says Cocomise. “The conference speakers focus on the idea of a better world that’s coming, so it’s all positive and filled with hope.”
The gatherings last nine days and include content for family members of all ages. Each conference day begins with a two-hour church service followed by optional age-specific activities and free time. A teambuilding ropes course excursion for teenagers is offered one day and a tourist outing for singles might be offered the next, for example.
“It’s easier to find subgroup venues, like securing a place for 20 teens to do an activity together [opposed to full-group activities],” he says.
Cocomise has found conference managers at the host resorts and hotels helpful in coordinating these elements and supporting his point people at each destination. In addition, following a similar format across all six events helps him streamline planning.
“Last year, we had 50 food and beverage events between the six locations,” he says. “I try to create some kind of pattern, like planning a family barbecue on the same night for all cities.”
Because the events aren’t connected live via technology, he’s found that a shared schedule creates more of a unified Feast of Tabernacles experience across the gatherings as well.
Booking multiyear contracts is another of Cocomise’s secrets to his six-city planning endeavor. He books three-year contracts whenever possible, citing benefits to relationship building, negotiation power and the quality of the events thanks to the ability to tweak each year. Because the conference spans nine days, attendees end up spending nearly a month in the destination over the three years.
Coordinating the Feast of Tabernacles is more than a job for Cocomise, who grew up in the denomination and has attended the conference since he was a child before joining the staff during college.
“I obviously have a lot of pride and history in it,” he says. “As a kid, I never thought about the logistical, nitty-gritty details, but now I’m married and bring my own kids.”