Saturday, December 30, 2006

Serving up Warmth at the Bonfire - Thursday 1-4-06

Tree burning 06
Originally uploaded by coffeesnob.
Salem's Annual Christmas Tree Bonfire is this Thursday at 6pm at The Willows. We will be serving free hot cocoa, and making music. Set up will happen at 5pm. This is our third year helpding with this event. Last year there were almost 500 people there. It grows every year,and so we anticipate more people this year. This is a great time to meet the community, and serve up some warm chocolaty love in a cup.

Can you help? If so, call 978-744-8444, or see Phil or Jeff at church

Friday, December 29, 2006

In Honor of Harald Bredesen

Updated information:

Memorial is planned for:
Saturday, February 3 at 11AM
Church on the Way
The King's Place, West Campus
14800 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA
For more info follow at HARALDBREDESEN.COM

Some of my memories with Harald:

We invited Harald to come to Salem to be the main speaker for a conference we held called "Spirit Rising." During the day we were walking down the sidewalk together arm in arm - that is how Harald walked with you. In the middle of the conversation about our church, our city, our mayor, and our dreams for the ministry, Harald cried out with a loud voice- right there on the city street, "OH GOD!..." and preceeded to pray a beautiful prayer for us. Of course, those of you who knew Harald, know that you could not have a conversation with him without an interruption. It was always Harald interrupting God with praise and prayer.

Original Post in Honor of Harald Bredesen

I just received a call from Steve Maddox from Oasis Bridge in Oceanside, CA. Within the last hour Harald Bredesen passed away. You can read more about the situation here.

I met Harald for the first time, when I was helping run a drug and alcohol rehab program in Lake Wohlford, CA over 20 years ago. I was amazed at his gentle, yet bold demeanor, and his unbelievably childlike behavior. Over the years he has come in and out of our lives, and was one of our defenders during the time we were falsely accused. I was honored to know him personally.

I regularly refer to Harald as the greatest example I know of someone living in childlike simple faith. He was considered a primary leader in the charismatic movement. This man with a brilliant mind, and a simple faith sat with kings, presidents, and world leaders throughout his life.

He lived a full life, but nonetheless we have lost a someone I consider a great saint today. Please pray for his family.


Date: December 29, 2006

The Reverend Harald Bredesen, often called the father of the Charismatic Movement whose adherents now number in the hundreds of millions, died today at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, California. He died peacefully from injuries suffered in a fall on December 26. He was 88.

In his introduction to Harald’s book, Yes, Lord, entertainer Pat Boone wrote, "Abraham . . . Moses . . . Gideon . . . Elijah . . . I think I've known a man like these. His name is Harald Bredesen. Miracles trail him wherever he goes."

Pat Robertson called his ministry to world leaders “legendary.”

Bredesen was the founder of the Prince of Peace Prize, given to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1980, Mother Teresa in 1989, posthumously to King Hussein of Jordan (with King Abdullah receiving in his father’s stead) in 1999, and to Billy Graham in 2004. Sadat called the occasion he received the award “the high point of my entire life, more important to me even than the Nobel Peace Prize. That was in the political arena. This was spiritual.”

A Lutheran minister, Bredesen became the first ordained clergyman from a mainline denomination to receive the Pentecostal experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, openly tell of his experience, and keep his ordination and credentials in a mainline denomination. In a letter to the editor of Eternity Magazine, Harald Bredesen and Jean Stone Willans coined the term “Charismatic Renewal.”

In the late-1950s, he introduced Pat Robertson to the experience. Robertson went on to found the Christian Broadcasting Network where Harald was a founding board member. In Pat Robertson: A Personal, Political, and Religious Portrait, historian David Harrell wrote, “In the long run it was a chance encounter with Harald Bredesen that had the most far-reaching effect on the life and career of Pat Robertson.”

In his book, Reagan Inside/Out, Bob Slosser called Bredesen, “minister to world leaders.” In that role he touched the lives of many of the most influential figures of his time. A call to prayer that Harald wrote and proposed to his friend Anwar Sadat, was cabled by Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin to leaders around the world on the eve of the Camp David summit. According to pundits at the time, few summits began with so little going for them. Thirteen days later, President Carter announced the breakthrough by saying, “We began this summit with a call to prayer. The results have exceeded the expectations of any reasonable person. I am a Christian. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’”

Fresh out of seminary, Bredesen went to work for the World Council of Churches as the Public Relations Secretary for the World Council of Christian Education. In that role he solicited and received the support of President Harry Truman, King George VI, Queen Wilhelmina, King Haakon, King Gustav V, King Christian X, Generalisimo Chiang Kai Shek, Henry Ford, Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, and Harvey Firestone, Jr.

Despite his success, Harald felt something missing in his life and walk with God. In 1946, he went to a Pentecostal camp meeting where he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

He met and married Genevieve Corrick in 1954.

In 1957, he was called to pastor the historic First Reformed Church of Mount Vernon, New York and soon invited Robertson to join him as Assistant Pastor. Together with others who had received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Harald and Pat hosted Pentecostal style meetings in the old church during off hours. At one of those meetings, they felt the Lord wanted them to go public with their experiences.

The next day, Harald, Pat, and their friend, Dick Simmons, received an invitation to meet with Norman Vincent Peale’s wife, Ruth Stafford Peale, to discuss the topic with her. She went from that meeting to a board meeting at Guideposts Magazine where she spoke with the young writer, John Sherrill. His investigation led to his best seller, They Speak With Other Tongues. Harald introduced John to the young street preacher, David Wilkerson, who, with John, wrote The Cross and the Switchblade, one of the best selling books of all time. (Some sources place the number of copies in print at over fifty million.)

Father Francis McNutt and others credited these two books with sparking the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church now estimated to number over 120 million in over 230 countries. Statistics on the number of Charismatic Protestants are difficult to find, but it is clearly one of the most important religious movements of the last half century.

In its report on the Charismatic movement on the campus at Yale, Time magazine called the students who received glossolalia (tongues), “GlossalYalies.” It went on to say, “They date their experience to two campus visits by the Reverent Harald Bredesen.” The Saturday Evening Post dubbed him “Charismatic envoy to the campuses.” Encyclopedia Britannica’s first article on the Charismatic movement featured a photograph of Harald.

Bredesen hosted the long running Christian Broadcasting Network television program, “Charisma.” He authored the books Yes, Lord and Need A Miracle?, the CD “Toolkit for Eternity: A Walk with Harald Bredesen,” and the video, “How to Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

He is survived by his wife, Genevieve; his children, Dagni, Margaret, Christopher, and David; and five grandchildren.

Information regarding memorial services will be given later.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stations of the Manger Service

Many of our small group was away or busy for Christmas Eve, but our unique meeting which was a self guided tour through the Stations of the Manger was the perfect service for the evening. Below I will post the statements which preceded each station. The stations wre not artistic renderings of the events upon whicb a person would meditate, but rather the person themself became the art. Through their actions they performed something which was designed to draw thm into anm emotional attachment to life of Christ. The first few verses of Luke 2 were used as the basis for the Stations of the Manger.

Welcome: Given to people as they entered.

Welcome to The Gathering

Tonight we are holding an experiential tour through the Stations of the Manger. In contrast to our typical gathering, you will experience this by yourself instead of with the whole group.

One by one you will visit the 5 stations we have set up, and see, hear, taste, feel, and perform activities which will remind you of the meaning behind the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of the activities may seem a bit peculiar. You may feel childish behaving in the manner prescribed, but we believe that people learn through a variety of mediums, and each activity is designed to help you feel, and experience the meaning behind the birth and life of our Lord.

At the end of the experience, we have a seating section in the back corner of the room, where you can sit with others to talk about what you have discovered about the birth and life of Jesus.

Station 1 - Jesus was Oppressed for Us

Living as the Oppressed for the sake of the Oppressed

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus" (Luke 2:1)

Jesus lived as we do. He lived not as a ruler, but as one of the ruled. He was under the hand of an oppressive government just as many people are today. The King of the Universe became a common man under the hand of an oppressive regime. He understands our struggles with powerlessness and limitation.

"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Hebrews 2:10)

Participating in Station #1:

Jesus came to deliver the oppressed. Watch the video on the large screen, and consider the work of Jesus as our Deliverer, and consider His desire to make us deliverers of others as well. (The video is already loaded below o the previous post.)

Station 2 - Jesus was Taken Advantage of

"this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."

This station remembers the Son of God who was treated with disdain in this world. He came to this world he created, and yet he was taxed as we all are. People took from Him and did not give back. We remember Jesus who gave His all until there was nothing left to give.

Identification with Station 2:

If you have a purse, empty the contents of your purse into the box. If you are tithing or giving to the church tonight, now is the time to do so. If you have a few loose coins jingling around the bottom of your purse, you may want to place them into the offering box. Having emptied your purse and given those few coins, look into your purse and contemplate the how everything was taken from Jesus, even His robe at the time of His death. He came to the world to give His all, and the world took everything from Him.

If you only have what is in your pockets empty your pockets into the box, and follow the pattern above with your loose change. Pull your pockets inside-out, and let them hang out. Look at them and consider the Son of God Who gave everything or you. Consider how the world took everything from Him.

This station is in the middle of the room for all to see, because our struggle with being taken advantage of often is a public struggle.

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:10-11)

Station 3 - Jesus had Nowhere to Lay His Head - He lived as a Nomad

"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David"

Mary and Joseph had to leave their home while Mary was due to have her child. This moment of the birth of Christ foreshadowed the life He would live. His ministry was nomadic, and He had no place to call home. This station remembers the Son of God Who had no home, yet prepares one for us with His Father.

""And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Luke 9:58)

Identification of Station 3:

Take a sleeping bag, or a mattress and a blanket, and set it on the ground. Lie down an pull the covers up around your neck. As you lie there for the next couple minutes consider that Jesus spent his ministry as a nomad. He was homeless so that you might have place in heaven with Him. (While the person layed down, the song "Beggar" by Eli played queitly in the background.)

Station 4 - Jesus was Poor for Us

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger"

Action of Station 4:

Sit upon the stool and face the wall. Eat a small crust of bread, and have a little bit of watery soup. Consider the Son of God who became poor for you, that you might live an eternity without lack.

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

(The person was isolated in a tent, and sat on a stool facing a wall wiith a spotlight at their back which projected their own shadow against the wall. The song "Seek Up" by Dave Matthews was playing in the background.)

Station 5 - Jesus Experienced Isolation for Us

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)

There was no room for Jesus in the inn. There was no room for Jesus in the world. Sometimes this is still true today. The world hated Him, and He experienced isolation and rejection because of this.

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18)

Identification with Station 5

Sit alone in the silent, dark vault for one minute and contemplate the isolation, and rejection which Jesus experienced. He became isolated to save us from the permanent isolation of death.

(We have a large vault in our meeting place, and we closed the door on the person sitting in the vault, and left them in it for one minute. It is so dark that you can not see your hand in front of your face. We were seeking as complete an experience of sensory deprivation as we could provide.)

These were our 5 Stations of the Manger. Many people shared about the impact of each of these stations. I wondered if they would be as powerful as they had potential for, or if they would come off hokey, but a good number in the group were brought to the edge of tears. Typically station 4 with the bread and soup was most impacting, followed closely by the closing of the vault door, but there was not a station which did not provide significant impact for someone.

This was our first attempt at creating stations in this manner, and we were deeply moved by the experience.

Thanks to Jeff, Carlos, and Kevin who helped lead people into the experience, and offered advice at points of development.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stations of the Manger

This Sunday evening we will set up Stations of the Manger. and meditatively consider what impact the birth of Christ has upon us, and upon our world. We will consider that in He was a nomad with no place to lay His head, just as his parents had to travel far from home just before His birth. We will think on the fact that as His parents were taxed at His birth, He also lived to being taken advantage of - He was taxed by this world, and they returned nothing to Him. Our hearts will meditate upon His lonliness, as we remember there was no room for Him in the inn. Last we will consider His poverty, as we remember Him who became poor for us.

The following video is a preview, as it represents the first of our 5 Stations of the Manger.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Raise Money for Leukemia and See a Good Show too!

This Friday Aaron Thomas, Tom Conlon, and Laurel Grove are playing at The Vault. These are all really good musicians.

This show is organized by Samantha Hale! She's raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She's running a marathon in January down in Orlando to raise bucks for the kids too.

Cost: $8
Time: Friday the 15th at 7:30pm
Where: The Vault 217 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970

Be there and don't be Square!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Trumped Up, and 'Robbin'ed

I have to begin by stating that this is a weird church experience we were involved in this last weekend, but it came with a series of surprises, and quite frankly a new view of millionaires.

There were six of us involved in a fund raiser for the church. The Learning Annex, which was putting on a Real Estate Expo in Boston, called a few weeks ago to see if we had volunteers to send to their Expo. They would donate the money which would normally go to paying for temporary employees to the church for each hour worked. Six people donated their time.

Yeah to Mizumi, Jeff, Gerardo, Maria, Diane, and well I went too. Gerardo and I worked as VIP Ushers. Jeff was the Main Door Monitor. Mizumi, and Diane (who is the wife of one of Mizumi's work friends, and just donated her time though she doesn't go to the church - how cool, thanks Diane!) worked at the booths which sold some of the packages the teachers where offering. Unfortunately Maria was sick on the weekend, after going through the training with us - sorry Maria.

There were all kinds of famous, and rich speakers. The big names were Donald Trump, and Anthony Robbins. George Foreman spoke, and preached as well. The writer of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki spoke. Some of these guys were good, and others were well - you know. One speaker stood out remarkeably - his name was James Smith.

Now who knows what might really be a rip-off, and what might be for real, but this I know, we raised some money for the church, had the opportunity to minister to some of the people at the event, and saw a field which just may be ripe for the harvest.

Thanks volunteers for all your hours!

At the end of it all Mizumi was offered a job by The Learning Annex, Gerardo had made a pile of new friends (which I think happens everywhere), Diane got to hear every speaker she wanted to hear, and Jeff and I had sore feet. Would I do it again? I'll let you know when The Learning Annex calls next year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blessings, Cursings and Chess

This last Sunday we played Chess during the service. While worship was going, during the times of prayer for the world, and during the teaching on the subject of blessing, a chess board in the middle of the room was the center of our attention. We talked about the mount of Blessing - Gerazim, and the mount of Cursing - Ebal. The black players represented Ebal, and the white players represented Gerazim. Anybody who knew how to play chess was invited to join the game, and make a move for their team during the service.

It was on these two mountains that Moses commanded the children of Israel to stand once they entered the promised land. Six tribes on each mount, and the Levites reciting the law in the valley below. When the curses were pronounced, the tribes on Ebal responded, "Amen." When the blessings were pronounced the tribes on Gerazim responded, "Amen."

Since Chess is like life itself, we discovered a number of illustrations in the game which relate to blessing, and cursing.

The most simple of these illustrations came from the beginning of the Bible, and the beginning of the chess game. White goes first - always. Blessing came first as well. Blessings are given by God before any curse falls upon the earth. We believe this illustrates God's heart toward us - it is a heart of blessing, which is shown by his first contact with life. It was the contact of blessing.

Other illustrations of spirituality came from the game: often blessings and curses do not occur all at once. Like a chess game which has forethought, and preparation, some moves planned for many moves ahead, blessing and cursing are granted on the basis of our action - our set up moves as it were. This law of reciprocation is found in many faith paths. As followers of Jesus we call this the law of Sowing and Reaping. Some people have called this law the three-fold law believing that things would come back to us three-fold.

Are there illustrations in Chess which speak to you about walking with God?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanks to the Minstrels

Below is a list of all the musicians who joined us to help make the Halloween Stage a great event. We can't thank all of you enough - you are way too cool!

Up the Octave (Brandeis University Singing Group)
Robin Lore
The Fran McConville Band
Cocofeesh (Steve Brandi, and Carl Nystedt)
Paul Duffy
The Starving Artists (Brandeis University)
Peter Mercier
Laura Bullock
Dave and Kirsten
Josh Sturgeon
ARRRRRRRRR (Pirate Sea Chanties)
Casey Abrams
Mike Beaulieu and 3:16
El Rancho
The Grateful Ted Project
Judy C
Jim Trick
Elysian Sky Unplugged
Mamadou Diop
Brooke Wilcox
Laurel Grove

Dear musicy groups and peoples - We could not do the things we do over the Hallween season without your help, and talent. Thanks in really big piles of ooey gooey drippy thanks.

If you have a note of thanks to give to them, click the little comment button below and leave thanks. Follow their links and buy their stuff, if they have stuff to sell.

Pastor Phil

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Boams - Reho and Jero: A lesson in Leadership

Last week I taught on the division of Israel into two nations.

Rehoboam was set to become the king of Israel after Solomon's death. Rehoboam decided to neglect the advice of his father Solomon's wise counsellors. Instead of offering a kind hand to the people who were looking for tax relief, and a kinder, gentler government than Solomon offered, he took the advice of his friends, and told the nation that they would experience far more harshness under his rule.

Now of course, it is probable that Rehoboam was afraid that Jeroboam had returned from his exile to rebel against him. His strong stand was probably an act of defence against the perception that ease would give the people opportunity to rise up against him. Instead they rose up immediately, and broke away from Rehoboam. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel beat feet, and left for a gentler government under Jeroboam.

We can guarantee that a harsh manner of leading people will lead to those people living in rebellion. The heart of man has fled cruel standards since history began to speak. Our Lord Jesus freed us from the bondage of legalism under the law. Yet somehow we feel that harsh leadership is occassionally warranted in churchlife today. How is it that we do not learn?

Jeroboam came along to deliver the people from this harsh manner of government. He took the ten tribes to the north, and broke away from Rehoboam's cruel hand. Yet Rehoboam still had a trump card. He held Jerusalem - the religious center of Israel. So Jeroboam concocted a plan to keep the heart of his people with him in the north. Two golden calves were forged, and set up in high places to be worshiped. Then the lowlifes were brought in to be the priests - can you read between the lines here? We're talking the party dudes. Okay, not such a smart plan, but perhaps he never read about Moses and Aaron, and Israel wandering in the wilderness.

So one king attempts to navigate difficult leadership moments with cruelty, and the next provides his people with entertainments in the form of false gods and festivals around those dieties. These two styles of leadership are found in every generation of of history. Sometimes they are married together under a despot who provides sensational festival holidays.

These two styles of ruling are a picture of a deeper struggle in our own hearts. We tend to migrate toward legalism or licentious behavior, and sometimes bounce between the two over the course of our lives. Somewhere between the two is a land of grace and self-control. It is a land of love which views service to another as a higher goal than service to self. It is a land of freedom which allows people to grow, and progress gently despite the messiness of that freedom. Of course, this is a simplified view of the subject as can only be provided in short blog.

This story perhaps gives us a picture of the religious persuasions in the U.S. No wonder many people have fled Christianity for freer, more fun religious experiences. The Christian church has been perceived as cruel, and unbending by many people today - sometimes deservedly, sometimes unfairly. We are the Rehoboam of religion today, Jeroboam is waiting outside the doors of the church to take people to a land of festival fun. Should we be surprised that they have gone off with him?

I have had many people say to me, "I love Jesus, but I hate the church." At least they understand that Jesus is not the cruel dictator they have experienced through the harsh leadership of churches they attended.

May we all grow in grace, and learn to live balanced between Rehoboam, and Jeroboam.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

All the Help, All the Excitement, All the Friends

Another Halloween is over, and all the work has been worth it once again. There were a number of people who experienced an intimate interaction with the Person of Jesus, and even took steps to move toward Him. Pray that these interactions would bring the new life promised by Jesus to those who experienced His grace.

All the gang at The Gathering was so wonderful in all their efforts to make this year happen - Thanks all.

Some pictures from our Children's Day, and our Haunted Happenings Outreach events can be viewed in slide-shows on our website:
  • Haunted Happenings Outreach

  • Children's Day

  • Special Thanks has to be given to the following people and groups:
  • Streams Ministries Internship

  • Our Buddies from Sinners and Saints

  • Pastor Steve Pate from Church on the Coast

  • Jobey McGinty and Jamie

  • Josh Rivera - the Floridian Crazy Guy (See you soon bro!)
    John Psiakis - Yeah for the Sausage Man!
    The Rev. Allen Henninger - Thanks for being here bro.

    I will say more thanks in another post, but this is a beginning. All you musicans come next!

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Three Cheers for Suzanne! or, Yeah! We Made the Wall Street Journal

    I like Suzanne Sataline. She talked with me for days, followed me around Salem, and discussed theology into the wee hours with me.

    The story can be found here.

    Maybe in the near future it will become evident that living like Jesus, and loving people like He did will result in good things.

    The following places are where stories and blogs about us can be found:

    There are a few more out there. If you want to find them you can google search Phil Wyman, Wall Street Journal, and Salem.

    Thanks Suzanne

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Hot Dogs, Tootsie Pop Spiders, Pink Cadillacs, and Big Thanks

    Saturday was our 5th year (I think) of running the Salem Halloween Children's Day. It began as a community fun day for the children in Salem, and has been running for 10 years now. The Haunted Happenings committee sponsored and ran the event with the help of Domino's Pizza, and we got involved because we had a big sound system, and a trailer full of tents, chairs, and general party stuff. After helping for a few years, we discovered that the day was going to be nixed. I called Dominic Benvenuti from Domino's, and asked if he wanted to work together to keep it going. Voila! Children's Day was in our hands suddenly.

    This year we had about 3,500 people come to Children's Day. The coolest costume you've ever seen was created by a family in Peabody, who had their little kids driving around in a Pink Cadillac, and their oldest daughter was the hamburger stand girl on roller skates. The Big Bad Pig was not there this year, but I am told they are going to resurrect him next year, and that means I'll be piggin' again I think.

    It has been a day requiring a lot of work for our little church, but everyone has been real champs over the years, and this year was no exception.

    Thanks Bev, Anita, Jeff, Vic, Linda, Rennie, Joanne, Stef, Sam, Carly, Kevin, Diane, Carlos, Hank, and Gloria.

    Thanks also to friends from other places: John Tsiakis from "Loaf in a Round in Danvers, who helped us raise some money with hot dogs and sausages (John, you're the man!); Jeff, Kellie, James, and Brooke from "Sinners and Saints who are always there for us when there's a pile of things to do; Dan the Man Stevens who always brings some youth from 2nd Congregational Church in Peabody, and Mark Carr who unloaded and reloaded most of the trailer.

    More Pictures coming soon, and most of you (except maybe Vic who took the photos) should be in them.

    Pastor Phil

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Stuff We're Doing in Witch City!

    Well, here we are - 6 days into the Halloween season in Salem. Last Thursday was the parade to mark the opening of the season, and tomorrow we set up the stage inside the fountain on Essex Street.

    A ton of metal and wood will be delivered, and we will arrange it into a stage. This weekend, on Saturday the 14th, we will sponsor, and run the 10th Annual Halloween Children's Day. (Scroll down on the link page to find the info.)

    Movies begin playing at The Vault 3 times a week from now until Halloween.

    BYOT Autumn Art Sale happens in The Vault this weekend also. Eli and Ra are running the art sale.

    These are just three of the things we will be doing. Check out our calendar page (which I have already sent you to twice on this post) for more info.

    See at the stuff!

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Meeting to Organize - Friday, 6:30pm at The Vault

    That's right. Friday, October 6th at 6:30 we will meet to organize ourselves for Children's Day, The Fountain Stage, Dream Interpretation Tents, The Hot Cocoa Booth, Movie Nights, The Hot Dog Cart, and the Stage set up.

    All interested parties who can make it, come on down, and help us out with the preparation.

    Halloween Parade Tonight

    Well, the official kickoff for Halloween is here tonight. The Halloween Parade starts the month long series of events in Salem. Usually we are in the parade, but this year we will not be marching. The giant puppet will not walk the parade route.

    We will be passing out flyers for our 10th Annual Halloween Children's Day on October 14th on the Common, and will be providing Dream Interpretation from The Vault. It ought to be silly crowded around The Vault, because we are right on the parade route.

    My buddy Steve and his gang from California will be joining us for a few days. We always enjoy having Steve around, and he just might be part of tonight's ferstivities as well.

    So, come and hang out with us if you like. Flyer Passer Outers (Yep, I just made up that title - betchya couldn't tell) will be meeting at 5:30 at The Vault --> 217 Essex Street.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    "Sit Here Under My [Chair]"

    Okay I know James used the word "footstool" when referring to the poor manner in which rich people were treating others of lower class who visited the churches, but I don't have a footstool at church. In fact we don't have pews. We have padded chairs which we found on ebay, and purchased used for $11 each. Then we drove to New York with a U-Haul trailer to pick them up at a country club.

    Now we have 120 chairs, and we have a church of much smaller size. We even have 60 extra which are being stored in our vault. So, if someone asks to borrow our chairs, we figure that we have extras, and we can loan them out.

    Well, what would you do if a Witch asked to borrow 15 of your chairs for some workshops He would sponsor over the Halloween season in Salem?

    "Heavens no! Thou shalt not sully my holy chairs by thine unclean hiney!"

    "Well, I think that we will be needing them, and can not spare a chair at this time."

    "I will have to consult the church council, and my denominational leadership before I can offer help of this magnitude."

    "I will allow you to use our chairs, but please know that as a Bible believing Christian I stand firmly against your beliefs, and I am giving them to you, because it shows how Jesus gave His life for us even when we were sinners."

    "Sure, we've got more than enough. Do you need help hauling them over there?

    For far more reasons than I can list here, I chose the last response, and we gave our own chairs - not the extras in the vault. I know many Christians would have chosen any answer but the last one. At The Gathering we tend to think that honesty, grace, and helping out friends no matter who they are is a good thing. Perhaps some people would feel that we are helping to further a bad cause - like giving an alcoholic cash to get his next bottle. All I know is that a friend who happens to be a Witch asked for some help, and I did not have to break the Ten Commandments to do it.

    So, there you have it. Life in Salem gets more interesting all the time. I know that Christians will hear about the chairs, and freak out. I also know that there will be Witches who hear about the chairs, and will wonder what kind of manipulation we are masking by our kindness.

    Darn, I'm not even sure how generous it was. After all, we had 180 chairs, which is about double what we need right now. Well everybody has happy butts now, and that can only make Salem a better place to live, and maybe there will a person or two who realize that Christians don't have to be spooky, and afraid during Halloween, or around people who call themselves Witches.

    Friday, September 29, 2006

    Apologizing: the new apologetic

    Last year our friends from Sinners and Saints ran a confessional booth. It was based upon an idea which came from Donald Miller's book "Blue Like Jazz." James brought up the idea, and I loved it, because it fit with my belief that the best apologetic the church might offer today is an apology.

    The confessional booth is a reverse confession. People walk into our booth nervously anticipating giving a confession of their sins. Instead they experience a person dressed as a monk confessing the sins of the church through history, and even their own shortcoming to them.

    This evening when I returned from showing "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" at The Vault, I found an e-mail in my box asking asking me what things I believed the church needed to apologize for. Below is my response;

    "...where to begin...?

    Sexual Misconduct
    Repeated historic acts of Greed, Violence, Dishonesty, and Pride

    but, today it is not much different. Even in my own heart, I sometimes judge other people by what I see, or what I hear them say without taking time to know why they do and say what they do and say. We still pass judgment and determine who is in or out of our little club on the basis of personal preference, or ease of relationship.

    Sometimes the church sounds like they know it all. We do a good job of preaching without having learned to listen. Protestant preachers speak of the priesthood of all believers, but their believers still sit in the pews voiceless. We speak of grace, but we often judge people on the basis of fairly petty issues, and chase them away from the church. We exercise heavy handed leadership which may be fine for running an army, but is no good for creating the family which we are supposed to be.

    I can not express deeply enough how these things break my heart, and how sorry I am that anyone has experienced a heavy hand of oppression from the very community which should have offered liberty.

    This is not to say that the church has not done good things in its history, or that it is not doing good things today. It is merely the acknowledgment that we are far from perfect, and that we have hurt people - people who need to be told from someone in the church that we are sorry.

    Every time I roll my eyes in frustration at someone who is peculiar by my opinion, every time I prejudge someone's politics without hearing their story, every time I feel an urge to suggest that someone doesn't really fit with us, I have the seed of deTorquemada the Grand Inquisitor rearing up in me. So the apology is not some distant disconnected issue, but an issue of every humble follower's heart, and it is quite personal to me.

    Does that make sense?"

    We will be doing the confessional booth again this year. I think it may become a regular part of our lives.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Pagans, Preachers, and Free Hot Cocoa

    If you've never been to Salem, MA during the month of October, specifically the last two weeks, you've missed a carnival of religious experience.

    We have half a million visitors in October. Some come because they anticipate Halloween fun. Some come just for the Witchcraft and Pagan based events. A few come to witness. Witnessing is something Born-Again Christians do to non-Christians. Well sometimes we Born-Again Christians do it to people who we think are not born-again, even if they are Christians. It's called evangelism, and people don't like being evangelized most of the time.

    Some of the witnessing Christians bring big signs, and lots of little propaganda papers called tracts. Most of them come from far away places like Louisiana, or New York - which really isn't that far away. The big sign people sometimes cause quite a stir, but they don't mind being yelled at, because it is proof that they are "sold out" for Jesus. We Christians might be the only group who think that being a "sell out" is a good thing. I only thought of that just now. I'm not sure I want to be a sell out. I might have to think of another way to say I want to live my life for God completely.

    So we have Prachers with big signs, and one or two with megaphones, and we have Pagans of various kinds - you know Witches, Druids, Shamans (or is that Shamen), and the like. We also have people who just want to have fun, but are interested in all the spiritual stuff nonetheless. Then we have us.

    We put up the big stage in the fountain by the museum, and provide live music for 7 days. We give away some free hot cocoa. We do that to draw a big crowd, and on most days we can keep a crowd for a long time. I think the crowd is good for the businesses too, because any business near us gets a larger crowd from being near the happening spot.

    Then we have our tents. In the tent you can have your Psalm read (note: P-S-A-L-M not P-A-L-M), or a Dream Interpreted (Daniel in the Bible did Dream Interpretation - it was around a long time before Freud.) We also have a confessional booth, but the confessional booth comes with a surprise which we can't tell. You have to try it. We will do all of this for seven days.

    Sometimes people think that the preachers with the signs are with us - but they're not. Other people think that Tarot, or Palm Readers are doing the same thing we are, but it's different too. Some people are expecting us to preach on the stage, because we're a church, but we don't. One year a church helped us on the stage for one night. They preached on the stage, and we got in trouble for it.

    We don't preach on the stage. We just try to make a party which everyone wants to hang out at - but no beer. Then we have our tents, and you can stand in line with all the people who want to go in, or you can stay out and watch the music - whatever you like. We don't really preach in the tents either. Well maybe a few guys do, once in awhile, but we try to just talk about life, and God, and Jesus, and how God might be working in your life with your dreams, or your experiences. Then we try to help you understand what He might be saying.

    Our approach is kind of simple, and without a sales pitch. God's not for sale, and if He was He would be too expensive for you to purchase even a toenail clipping, or a strand of hair anyway. So we do all this stuff for free. Except it's really expensive for us to do it. So this year we have some really cool shirts with our name on them, and people seem to really like them, and then we'll have a classic horror movie in the late evening. Something like Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein - really scary stuff, and it's $5, unless you live in Salem, then it's a buck.

    Oh, and there's a nice guy named John. John is letting us use his hotdog cart, and we'll sell hotdogs, and sausages to make some money to pay for all this too.

    Now, with all this some people think we are really cool. Others think that we "sold out" - in the bad sense, because we don't preach from the stage. I try to tell them that we wouldn't have the stage if we preached there, but they don't seem to understand. Others are scared of us because they think that we are going to get preachy. So we've got all the Pagans, and the Preachers, and the people trying to figure out who's who. I hope you'll be one of them this year, and that this helps you understand what we do at Halloween.