INC services begin in South Dakota ghost town
MANILA, Philippines – While turmoil broke in the headquarters of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) in Manila, church services were beginning quietly in the former ghost town of Scenic, South Dakota, USA, earlier this July. The church purchased the ghost town in 2011 for about $700,000 (P30.8 million). (READ: Iglesia Ni Cristo and a ghost town)
On Wednesday, July 22, a video was posted on YouTube where the wife of Iglesia Ni Cristo founder Tenny Manalo and son Angel Manalo exposed a threat to their lives and asked for help in rescuing missing members. (READ: Iglesia ni Cristo head expels mother, brother)
The following day, INC General Evangelist Bienvenido Santiago announced the expulsion of Angel and Tenny in a news conference.
The purpose of the purchase of the town called Scenic remained a mystery for the past 3 years.
Historically, INC would set up their church in areas where there are a significant number of Filipinos. South Dakota is not one of those areas. According to latest numbers, there are only 1,864 Filipinos in the state of 864,000 people, making up only .2% of the population.
The first overseas INC congregation was set up in Honolulu in 1968. There are at least 2.5 million of members worldwide, with churches across the North America.
The plans for the South Dakota town have become a "little bit clearer," according to local newspaper Rapid City Journal. A pastor named Jose Ventilacion had arrived to open church services. He told the paper that the goal of opening in South Dakota was to "build a house of worship and try to establish a strong regional membership."
The 46-acre town already has a gas station, museum and bar, and a post office, the only business that was still operating at the time of the sale.
Ventilacion, the minister assigned to Scenic, told the Rapid City Journal: "We have started services in the Scenic Community Hall on Thursdays and Sundays. We thought it would be best to start by reaching out to people and build from there."
According to the paper, interest in buying the town began when Filipino American soldiers who were based in Rapid City were looking for a place to worship.
Iglesia Ni Cristo's head office in the US is located in Daly City, California, and has yet to reveal more details of the church's exact plans for the town.
The church celebrated its centennial anniversary in July 2014 with the opening of Ciudad de Victoria in Bulacan, where an estimated 2 million members attended. The 50,000-seater Philippine Arena, the largest indoor arena in the world, is located in the township.
The church will celebrate its 101st anniversary this Monday, July 27. – Rappler.com