Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Advent - Day 25 - Merry Christmas

This painting by Cambiaso of the Virgin and Child with John the Baptist has the young John with a Lamb. When they both came to the time of their ministry, John would declare Jesus to be the Lamb of God, and here this is prefigured by this painting.

Consider the concept of God presenting Himself as a Lamb to the world, as you view this oil painting from 1550 on this Christmas Day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent - Day 24

Raphael's Alba Madonna shows Mary, the infant Jesus, and John the Baptist at a young age. John is handing Jesus a cross, which Jesus is accepting. Though the moment is not a real scriptural event, but rather a fantasy piece, it gives us a picture of the John's ministry, which will prepare the way for the Lord, and of Jesus acceptance of His ministry, which includes His sacrifice upon the cross.

Consider these aspects of the the Advent today: Christ was born to become our sacrifice and Savior.

Click on image for a larger picture.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent - Day 23

The humble beginnings of our Savior are illustrated well by this 16th century work entitled The Nativity by Corregio.

Can you recognize your need for humility in this season remembering the humble birth of our Savior? As you consider the humble surroundings of this painting recall your own need for humility.

Click on the image for a larger picture.

Advent - Day 22

In 1259 Pisano sculpted the marble pulpit at the baptistery at Pisa, and it includes the adoration of the magi giving their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts are said to symbolically and prophetically represent kingship, divinity and death. Perhaps more importantly for us to consider is the fact that they represent giving our best to God.

Consider this sculpting, and ask yourself if you have given your best to God. In a season of giving, we can easily forget giving to the One Who has given His all for us.

Click on the picture for a larger image.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Advent - Day 21

The Adoration of the Magi:

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." (Matthew 2:1-2)

His birth was prophesied even by the heavens themselves, and recognized by wise men who came from distant lands. There should be no distance too far, or mystery too deep which can hinder our search for God. The magi from far away lands model the search for God we should be willing to embark upon if necessary.

Consider this work of art by Gentile de Fabriano a 15th century Italian Gothic painter.

Click upon the picture for a larger image.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Advent - Day 20

Following the movement of art rather than that of scripture, I want to look at the Adoration of the Shepherds, a 15th century Flemish painting by Hugo Van Der Groes. Take some time to meditate on this moment of worship as it appears in this massive old painting.

The person of Jesus, Who is the Messianic promise, Who has come to save us is revealed to common shepherds. These same shepherds go to see the babe lying in the feeding trough. Each of us are the common people of this earth who have had the Messiah come to us as well. Contemplate this art and consider your place in worshiping Christ the Lord.

The painting comes in three panels and links to the three parts are listed below.

left panel
center panel
right panel

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent - Day 19

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to men." (Luke 2:9ff)

We, as people living in a materialistic world, often struggle with the concept of hearing, or experiencing God. The story of the Advent of Christ returns us to the primary place where God and man meet one another in intimate interaction. Heaven bursts upon the scene of this earthly drudgery to shine it's light upon us. Then the great treasure store of divine repository is revealed in a baby lying in a feeding trough.

Could it be that the angels sing about simple things, apparently mundane things in your life? In Christ is the greatest treasure of divinity revealed to humans, but within ourselves we are told that there is this "treasure in earthen vessels." Perhaps the angels sing about this too.

Consider this work of art by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, and meditate upon the vast goodness of the God found in Jesus, and deposited by faith in you as well - "Christ in you the hope of Glory." Click on the image for a larger picture.

18th Day of the Advent

In this last week as we come to Christmas I will be sending out a short devotional thought, and a link to devotional art each day. For Tuesday the 18th of December the verse for our consideration and meditation is this:

"And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2: 6-7)

Consider the birth of our Savior. It was not easy, or convenient. Laid in a feeding trough, because there was no other place for him, the Savior of mankind came to this earth in humble means. Later the struggle would increase as Herod would seek His death. The path of following God is not an easy path, but our way has been laid out before us by One who modeled living through the hard way for us. Our way certainly can not be as difficult as His.

This work of art by Boticelli is worth a long meditative look. At first glance it might appear peaceful, but as you look deeper into the painting you will find spiritual struggle all around the manger scene. Consider this aspect of our Lord's birth this 18 Day of Advent. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

No Services

There was no morning service. There will be no evening service today - December 16th either. The evil Nor'easter has battered us back into our homes! ;-)

See you on a better weather day.
Pastor Phil

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

YWAM Tragedy in Colorado

The YWAM Mission training center in Arvada Colorado experienced tragedy in the form of a shooting this week. The shooter then went on to visit a mega-church in Colorado Springs, killing two more people before being killed. The press release from the YWAM center can be found here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Really Long, but Really Good Post on Emergent

So, here is a great post on the American Academy of Religion conference in San Diego. Some Emergent conversation was part of the agenda. There is the good and bad, or the pro and con of it in this post by Christine Scheller. Go here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Article in USA Today about some of our Emergent Friends

So USA Today had an article about the Emergent Church. It is well done, and worth a read here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Some Post Halloween Thoughts - Dialogue with Fiona Horne

Having been in Seattle at the Off the Map conference for the last 4 days, I am only now getting to posting some blogs about the Halloween season. I will add a story here and there as I have time to do so.

So here goes a mention of the Pagan/Christian Dialogue: Fiona Horne (from Mad, Mad House - a Sci-Fi channel reality series), Christian Day from Festival of the Dead, John Paul Jackson, and myself (Pastor Phil from The Gathering) held a dialogue about the Christian and Pagan worldviews, both what we might have as agreements, and what we certainly have as differences.

The church was a packed house on a Saturday Night October 28th. We passed out flyers, and at 8pm the people came flooding in. The interns from Streams, our friends from the Bridge Church, Pagans from the community, and visitors who were familiar with Fiona all came in.

The discussion centered around each person defining their spirituality, and describing some practices which were important to them. There was also reference to Spirituality and the media with the recognition that a media presence often causes people to perceive on individual as shallow.

I found Fiona gracious and intelligent. She has a deep sense of spirituality wiithin her Witchy practices, and although they are far different than my own, they are marked by peace, and graciousness. Only if some Christians I know were are gracious as she is. I found this to be true both in preparation for the dialogue, and during. Fiona shared her experience with a remarkable incident when "the Christian God" spoke to her during the filming of Mad, Mad House.

Christian Day is highly entertaining, and creatively funny. He had people laughing throughout the meeting. He and I have a friendship which goes back almost 12 years now, and it was good to hold this dialogue with him.

John Paul Jackson really did well in a setting which was new for him. Too many preachers would come off as judgmental, and condemning. John Paul never does, and he was as gentle as ever.

People attending laughed (Dennis laughed so hard he nearly busted some stitches from a surgery he recently had), cried, and people wanted to stay around and talk after.

It was a remarkable event, and we hope to do more of the same in the future.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

10pm and just getting to Blogging

We had three bands this evening: The Robb Taylor Band, Mamadou Diop, and Tom Conlon. We love Tom, and he was experiencing Salem on Halloween for the first time - it was tamer than he expected. Of course, now it is getting wild on the streets, and the police are moving people toward the train station, and the ending fireworks show.

Hundreds of people went through dream interpretations, "spiritual readings" (which is a form of propphetic ministry), and our confessional booth.

The sign waving folks from Repent America came by to tell uus that we aere ompromising, or getting into syncretism because we are doing Dream Interpretation - darn, someone should have told that to Daniel, and perhaps his book should be removed from the scriptures. Later in the evening, one of their crew was arrested.

Well, I have to walk toward home now, and will perhaps post some more thoughts a little later, but then again I have to be off to the airport by 5:00am to head for the Off the Map Conference in Seattle.

I love this place.

Tents Up, Streets Fillling

So, Streams Ministries interns are here. They are setting up their tents, and our buddy Allen Henninger from pasadena, CA is making sure the stage is ready for the first band which goes on at 4pm. A few of us will play a bit to start of the day of music. The streets are filling up with costumed people, and the sign carrying street preachers are out.

It's Halloween in Salem at 3:00pm.

Halloween Day Begins

I arrived at 10am, and April, who is celebrating her 7th Halloween since she first visited is as a young Witch, and then shortly after going through our "Psalm Reading Booth" became a Christian. April will be ministering with us today.

It's just before noon. The streets are not busy yet, but the vendors and the businesses are getting ready. A few groups of youth who have come in on busses are wandering around town, and waiting for thigs to really wake up. Any minute Streams ministry interns will be joining us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Streams Ministries Interns

For the seven busiest days of our outreach here in Salem, we will see over 50,000 people pass our stage. We will give away thousands of cups of free hot cocoa, and best of all, this provides the impetus for people to stop, hang out in our area (which is the primest, of prime spots in town, and then stand in line to receive free Dream Interpretation, or Spiritual Readings in the booths which are set up.

Over the last 4 years, interns from Streams Academy School of Ministry have joined us to provide the bulk of Dream Interpretation. I train them in the skills of communicating to Neo-Pagans, and then they hit the streets for seven days of ministry. This year we have been joined by another 30 people from local Bridge Churches.

So far there have been great stories from the people serving. So here is a retelling of one story from Broi who shared her experience with us this last Sunday morning. She was doing a spiritual reading for three giirls, and felt moved to say that one of the girls would receive peaceful rest from this day on. The girl began to cry, and said that she was tormented with an inability to sleep well, and would even sleep walk at times. She had even cut herself during these times of sleepwalking. Broi spoke blessing to her, and declared that she would rest well for this day on.

The following morning the girls returned to Salem, even though they were on their way back home to tell Broi that the sleepless girl had slept so peacefully, and well that the other girls could not wake her up that morning.

This is just a small example of the thousands of interactions which we have each year.

Live Music, Free Hot Cocoa!

So, one more year we serve the streets of Salem during Haunted Happenings wth live music, and free hot cocoa. We are now doing seven days of both. The members of The Gathering are the most awesome servants of the Gracious Nazarene I know. Blessings on them all.

The Brimstone Chronicles

On Friday, October 19th we held an event we called the Brimstone Chronicles. Thsi was a new and strange event for us to host. It was sponsored in part by a group called Festival of the Dead. A friend of mine who is a Witch is the Festival of the Dead owner. He wanted to have a Christian event which spoke ot the issue of sdeath and afterlife. Christian Day (my Witch friend) asked if we would host it - we said yes. I responded by saying that our religion certianly had something valuable to say about life and death. After all, is based upon a guy who rose from the dead.

So the day of the event came. It was an interactive event comprised of "the stations of Torment and Bliss," a feast, dance, live music, readings from Dante's Inferno, and drama from the history of redemption.

We asked for people to give to the cause of helping the homeless, and in turn gave them indulgences for thiekr sins, only to have Jeff Gentry play Martin Luther and decry the evils of indulgences, thus playing out the story of the reformation, and the call to salvation by faith alone. Mike Crockett played the part of a Baptiost preacher recalling the famous sermon by Jonthan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Carl, Melissa, and James read portions of Dante's Inferno.

We began the evening with a funeral service, and a mirror was placed in the bottom of the casket to allow ourselves to consider our own mortality. We put people through a series of stations: They had to serve one another a apple - since like Adam and Eve, we have all eaten the apple and given the apple to others. They laid in a casket and the lid was closed, they feasted at the table of marriage super of the Lamb, they were locked in a vault to reinact the sensory deprivation of Outer Darkness, and we created a light at the end of the tunnel experience which was prepared by a real life story by Lucy Lincoln.

This was the first pay event we have held in nine years, and it was $50/person. We had turn out of Christians, Pagans, and tweeners - they all appeared to love the event. It seems that perhaps this will be a repeat.

Updates on our Halloween Events

Thus far we have held the Brimstone Chronicles, run 6 days of live music on the stage downtown, served up a couple thousand cups of free hot cocoa, hosted Streams Ministries Interns and a couple groups from nearby Bridge Fellowship Churches to do Dream Interpretation, opened our doors to our Reverse Confessionals, and held a Pagan/Christian Dialogue with Fiona Horne, Christiian Day, John Paul Jackson, and myself.

Today I will be updating blogs and e-mails about events thus far.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Children's Day - John Morehead - Prep for The Brimstone Chronicles

So this last weekend was as full as any Halloween season second weekend oin October yet. Our Annual Halloween Children's Day is getting easier and easier to run. I suppose after 5 years we've got it down. Cooking hotdogs, blowing up balloons, making crafts with the kids, sponsoring entertainment, organizing a costume parade, and keeping vendors happy is what the day entails. We had about 2,000 people who came to the event, and it was generally fun for all.

John W. Morehead joined us this week, and spoke on Sunday evening about the 10 reasons he loves Halloween as a Christian. Yep, he's jealous about not living in Salem, where our Halloween is a month long! It was a good teaching with a good follow up discussion. On Monday and Tuesday, John went around the cty, and I introduced him to my Pagan and Witch friends, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He especially liked talking with Christian Day, and our friend Dr. Rose Wolf. Being a Sci-Fi, and Fantasy literature fan meeting Rose whose doctorate is in Sci-Fi Literature was a pleasure for John.

So, now we are getting ready for our Friday Evening event - The Brimstone Chronicles.

Some Prayer for John Armstrong

Our friend John Armstrong could use some prayer for health, and strength. Please add that to your list of things you pray for. He will not be joining us November 9-11 it turns out, and his health is the mitigating factor. We'll miss meeting him face to face, but will look forward to another day to do so. Until then - keep him in your prayers.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Halloween Children's Day - Today!

That's right. We at The Gathering sponsor a Halloween Children's Day. Dominos Pizza helps organize it with us, and we provide the volunteers. There will be a costume contest, and prizes for three age groups, free entertainment, and inflatable rides, and slides, and more.

This is the twelfth annual of this event. We took over the reigns of this event about five years ago when the Haunted Happenings committee disolved, and the day was going to be ended. So we ganged up with Dominic Benvenuti from Dominos, and kept the day alive.

10am to 5pm is the time, and it happens on the Salem Common. Hope to see you there!

Thanks to all the people from the Gathering who will be there tomorrow - Bev, Jeff, Jeff, Kellie, Diane, Kevin, Carlos, Carl, Melissa, Joanne, Stef, Mike, Elijah, Rhonda, Elizabeth, Phillip, Jim, and I know I am forgetting a few, but will remember them in the thank yous manana.

John Morehead - Sunday Evening, Oct. 14th

John Morehead will be with us this Sunday. He will be some sharing on Sunday morning during part of the the service, and teaching the Sunday evening service. John and I have been working on similar projects over the years, and he comes with a great resource of information to encourage us through the season of outreach.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Author John W. Crawford at The Gathering Sunday, Oct. 21

I received a book in the mail today. It came to me free because I wrote a few pages of the book.

John Crawford compiled a book of 100 Pastor's profiles from around the US, and including a few other countries. The Pastors were categorized by denomination, or in some cases non-denomination. Due to our unique relationship with that denominational issue, we were categorized toward the end of the book under "Special Interest Part 1." I suppose that's an accurate gauge of our situation.

The way the book worked was like this: He wrote and asked if Pastors would like to participate. Those in the book responded affirmatively. Then he sent some specific questions, and we replied. Our replies and his questions are in the book.

On Sunday evening the 21st, John Crawford will be at The Gathering to tell us more about the book, and the publishing industry, and of course to sell books.

Hey come on down - Sunday the 20th at 6pm at The Gathering.

Saturday's Training, and Sunday's Service

The Saturday training session had about 20 people (mostly from local Bridge Churches in the area). They came to learn about our outreach in Salem, and to spend the afternoon doing Dream Interpretation and Spiritual Readings. A number of people shared their paradigm shift in coming to understand that Witches and Neo-Pagans where not worshipers of Satan, and this gave them a new perspective on them as people. At 2pm we opened the doors and began to share in Dream Interpretation and Spiritual Readings. People began to come in the doors, and we had a line waiting for an opportunity to receive ministry for the next three hours. The streets of Salem were more crowded than usual for this early time of the Halloween season - perhaps the wonderfully warm weather brought them all here.

After the event we sat together and discussed the good things which occured. It included many stories of people who were touched by the event. Some from Pagan backgrounds, others who were initially antagonistic, because we were Christians, but then were pleasantly surprised by what tey discovered. A good number in the group shared of their own paradign shift which occurred in respect with how to treat Neo-Pagans, and even a few found that they were now more loving toward the gay people they encountered. Well, that was a big change, and a valuable lesson for all.

Many of them will be back in the next couple weeks.

Sunday evening Derek Myers (who is staying at our house right now) joined us. Derek pastors a Foursquare church on the Pauma Valley Indian reservation near Escondido, California. (I went to High School in Escondido.) We learned how much similarity there is in his ministry and our own. In Salem we have taken some flak for identifying with the people who live here, and ocntextualizing the Gospel. Those who minister on the reservations have had some of the same difficulties. Keep Derek and his church in your prayers. Check out his website at The Church Website.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Training Session Tomorrow

Haunted Happenings is upon us. Tomorrow, Saturday, October 6th we are holding a training time from 10am to noon. Friends from the Bridge Church will be joining us. If you would like to be part of the training time, cost per person is $10, $15/couple. For those wishing to join our outreach over October, these training times are required to be a part of our counseling tents.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Halloween Begins

2005 parade. This year the theme was The Wizard of Oz.

Over the course of October, you can keep up with the Halloween season in Salem here at The Gathering's Blog.

Tonight the Halloween Parade kicked off the Haunted Happenings Season. Each Halloween Parade for the last five years, we have used the evening to pass out flyers for the Children's Halloween Day we sponsor with Domino's Pizza. I run off 2,000 flyers, and a few of us pass them out to the people watching the parade, and then to the parade marchers as they arrive at Salem Common at the end of the parade.

Tonight Jeff M, Jeff G, Jim Burrell, and myself passed out the flyers. Jeff and Jeff followed the parade route from the church to the beginning of the parade. Jim and I covered Essex Street, and when the parade got moving, we stood on the Common and passed out flyers to the parents and kids who marched in the parade.

So here are the highlights:
1) We passed out all 2,000 flyers.
2) Jim and I saw the Mayor. I gave her a hug, and she said she would be there and that The Children's Day was her family's favorite event.
3) As Jim and I passed out flyers on the Common, two men who come every year to Salem passed out Gospel tracts in front of us.

One Gospel tract man said to me."What are you passing out? Giving glory to God tonight?"

"Well, our church is sponsoring a Children's Halloween Day next week." I replied.

"Halloween? Church? Do you think those go together?" He asked.

"Well, it does mean Holy Evening." was my comeback.

One might have expected a slight pause, but he spoke quickly, "It's the Catholic Church which calls it All Saints Eve."

I responded just as quickly, "Well, I believe in the saints, after all, I am one."

"If you studied the history of the day, you would know better." He said.

"I figure every day is holy, and at every opportunity we have a chance to redeem days as well."

Then he made some comment about knowing better, and God's judgment, and started passing out tracts in front of me.

As we passed out our flyers for a free Halloween Children's Day, and he passed out his tracts, I had to be loud and announce the Children's Day event. If I did not, people assumed I was passing out some religious literature, and wanted nothing to do with it. So I smiled and said jokingly, this is the most important information you'll get tonight, and the parents laughed and agreed. Well, I had been using that line all night before the Gospel Tract Man came, but somehow people thought it was funnier when he was around. Go figure. Maybe they'll see churches aren't afraid of Halloween, or scared to do something for their kids around the season, and it will change their minds about Jesus' followers just a little - then maybe that flyer is the most important thing they'll get tonight. Who knows.

Monday, September 24, 2007

John Armstrong and the Thin Place Gathering

November 9-11 The Gathering will be holding a conference we call The Thin Place Gathering. John Armstrong will be here to teach about missional church life. "Missional Church Life" is shorthand for living in Christian community with healthy sense of mission to the world. Make plans now for the event.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Headed to Eisteddfod

Thursday our team (Carlos Zeisel, Elizabeth Steadman, Mizumi Graham, Kevin Menasco, Josh Rivera, Pastor Phil) head for the UK. During this time we are there we will spend a week at the Royal National Eisteddfod working in Y Gorlan on Maes B. Translated that means we will be working in the sheepfold (a name for the food service tent run by a Christian organization) on the Youth Field where all the drinking and rock and roll occurs.

The above photo is a discussion occuring in front of some art whcih our team did on outr last trip to Eisteddfod 2 years ago. Please keep us in prayer.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hiking Franconia Notch

Hey GatherGang,

Meet us at 8am for the trip to New Hampshire, and the day of hiking Franconia Notch. It will be an all day event, and those who are interested can call the church office at 978-744-8444. If you have already told Carl and Melissa you are coming, then you are in. Remember: bring water, a lunch, comfortable hiking shoes, and a little cash to help the drivers with gas (maybe some for dinner on the way home.) If you can drive, let us know. This will be an all day event - expect to be gone for about 9-12 hours.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sanjaya - Tonight!

Okay, so Josh Rivera is not really Sanjaya, but he sure could win a look alike contest. Well, Josh is playing at The Vault tonight to raise money for our mission to Wales. Josh Rivera, Carl Nystadt, James Wilcox, Phil Wyman, Peter Mercier, and maybe even Bev Wyman laying down some flute tracks. $10 at the door. 7:30pm. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Christian Lindbeck - If You Missed His Message on Father's Day

Even if you didn't miss it, check it out again. It is filled with information worth meditating on. He's a great teacher, and we'll miss the family greatly as they make the move to Seattle. You will find his message here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Beth Maynard's Message on mp3

You can access the message from Sunday morning from Beth Maynard now. Beth and her husband lead a Neo-Monastic community in Gloucester Crossing in Beverly, and she was our guest speaker on Sunday morning. So if you missed the message, and want to hear it, you can find it here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Elijah Does the Inconceivable!

So Elijah has a kidney transplant on Wednesday. He gets out of the hospital on Saturday evening, and comes home to have some lemon chicken rice soup (if you haven't been to Cafe Kushko for lemon chicken rice soup, you should go and try it - it is great soup and it is sodium free!) So this morning Elijah rises earlier than usual, despite having a big ol' scar on his belly. He's a musician, and musicians get up sometime around lunch time - right? Then he walks to church. Okay it's only about 12-15 minutes from our house to the church by foot, but this silly boy just had organ about the size of video game controller placed in his body a few days ago. Yeah Elijah! Go! So you can see he's doing fairly well. Then he joined us for lunch with our guest speaker Beth Maynard (message to be appear online soon) at Beerworks.- but, no beer for Elijah, at least not for about three months.

Walked to church? Inconceivable!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Elijah Wyman Made it Home!

Here's the latest news on Elijah and his Kidney.

Jason Rozen (the donor) went home about noon today. He was feeling fine, and he's our hero.

Elijah's rashes have subsided. They occasionally pop up, but not nearly as bad as initially.

Usually a kidney transplant patient does not go home until after the fourth day. Elijah spent three nights in the hospital, and was doing well enough to come home this evening. We ordered Lemon Chicken Rice Soup from Cafe Kushko, and they delivered it shortly after he got home.

He has named his new kidney Otis - as in "O dis ain't mine."

Bev and I ran around disinfecting everything - the doorknobs, the floors, the counters, Elijah's cat (okay we didn't really disinfect the cat, but we thought about it.) We had to send Crash (Elijah's dog) off to be baby sat for a few days, because Crash fulfills his name, and runs and jumps on Elijah's belly when Elijah is laying down. Crash will stay with Rhonda's sister for some time.

Elijah is upstairs playing his guitar and singing at this moment, and although it usually is a bit of a disturbance when he taps his foot on the wood floor above my head, it is a very comforting sound right now.

So, if you were going to visit the hospital - don't. Elijah's not there anymore.

I am sorry I have not been able to respond personally to every one of you who have sent your support, and questions to us. I've had hundreds over the last few days. I do want to thank you from the bottom of my heart however. Your prayers, and your concerns, and your words of support have meant the world to us.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, a gwyn eich byd,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Elijah's Kidney Transplant - Wednesday Morning

Our son Elijah is going in to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston on Wednesday morning. Sometime around 9:30am he is scheduled to have the transplant. His friend Jason is donating the kidney, and will be in for the surgery about an hour before. Your prayers for Jason and Elijah would be greatly appreciated.

For those who have asked about donating to the Elijah Wyman Kidney Fund - click here.

For more info on what is happening Tuesday the 5th see The Why Man Blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Friday Night $1 Movie at The Vault

That's right it has returned! The Dollar Movie at The Vault. The month of June features Pirate Movies, and they're guaranteed to be better than Pirates of the Caribbean 3 - okay, that was just Pastor Phil's prejudice showing. Anyway here's the lineup. Join us at 8pm each Friday

June 1st:
The Crimson Pirate: Burt Lancaster, Nick Cravat Director: Robert Siodmak (1952)

June 8th:
The Black Pirate - silent film ~ Douglas Fairbanks, Fred Becker, Charles Belcher, Sam de Grasse, and Billie Dove (1926)

June 15th:
Captain Kidd - Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott, Barbara Britton, and John Carradine (1945)

June 22nd:
Captain Blood - Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, and Basil Rathbone (1935)

June 29th:
NO MOVIE - Concert by El Rivera! A fundraiser for the Mission to Wales.

Interview with Relevant

I was asked to answer some questions for a leadership newsletter, and it seemed appropriate to place it here on the church blog since the answers have to do with us, and how do things at The Gathering. So here it is:

The church you pastor recently sponsored an event that featured, among others, Tony Jones and Jay Bakker. Can you tell us what the vision of the seminar was?

We have seen a growing number of people who identify with God, but struggle with organized Christianity. Among non-Christians - particularly Neo-Pagans, which Salem is famous for, God is an easy topic of discussion, but once organized religion enters the dialogue there is often little positive they have to say about it. Jesus has a good reputation among the people we know, but the Institutional Church has a bad reputation. Recognizing that this appears to be a trend in our society, we developed the seminar to speak to the issue, to hear from people who typically dislike church in order to find out why, and to discuss how we might make the discovery of God easier for people who don't like church. We expect that this seminar was the first of many on this topic.

The topic of the seminar was "God: For People Who Hate Church." What was it about those speakers specifically that made them a good fit?

Jay Bakker has a strange and difficult history with the highest levels of American Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity. As a young boy his parents became the central focus of one of America's largest religious scandals. Despite this history he has navigated his way back to God, and even into ministry. His history, and the fact that he holds church in bar in New York City were tailor made for the topic.

Tony Jones has been a pivotal voice in the Emergent Conversation. That conversation began as a consideration of the cultural shift in Western society, and a concern that the church had done little to respond to the transformation occurring. Youth were dropping out of church, and message of the Gospel appeared to be couched in a style and in terms reminiscent of the 50's. His work in thinking through this issue, and being a voice for change made him a perfect fit for the conference.

Our third speaker, Jim Henderson from Off-the-Map.org (of the atheist who sold his soul on e-bay fame), was the motivating factor for getting the conference started. Jim was in the area for the dates of the conference, and from there we put it all together. Jim teaches evangelical Christians to share their faith without loosing their reputation - or at least that's my version of what he does so well.

Karen Ward from the Apostles' Church in Seattle was also at the conference, and joined us for an open discussion on rethinking the way we "do church." Her unique style of doing church as a celebration (or as she calls it a "party") of life, and of the liturgical year was a refreshing new way to view church life.

You've personally been involved with some unique outreach. How did you become involved with reaching out to the Pagan community of Salem?

We moved from Southern California 8 years ago to plant a church in Salem, MA. The two most famous things for which Salem is noted are Witches, and Halloween. I knew that I needed a missional response to these people called Witches, and to the month-long season of Halloween in Salem.

Having been active in missions to non-Christian religions for 20 years, I understood the basic beliefs of American Neo-Pagans, but I wanted to understand their culture - how they thought, and how they lived, and so I embarked on an anthropological study of Witches, Wiccans, Druids, and assorted occultists, and what I discovered was that I had been wrong concerning a number of assumptions we Christians believe about this misunderstood demographic.

Once we moved to Salem we determined to treat Neo-Pagans like any other people group, and give them the basic respect due to everyone. I hate to admit that this was unique for an evangelical church to treat Witches like they were regular people created in God's image, but it was apparently a new approach in our city. I suspect this might be true in most American cities. But, we stuck to the plan, and simply treated Witches with the same respect we give everyone else, and consequently have developed good friends among Salem's Neo-Pagan population.

We also decided that instead of gathering in the church during the Halloween season, we would take our faith to the streets in the form of a party. Salem was already an enormous Halloween party, so we decided to create a party within that party. It started off with a little favor from the city leaders, and since that time has grown to 7 days of live music, a children's day with 2,000-3,000 in attendance, 10,000 cups of free hot cocoa, a variety of workshops, and ministry tents offering spiritual counseling to thousands of people each October. This Halloween outreach has grown exponentially in the last 8 years, and has become a training ground for people interested in learning to minister in post-modern, and Neo-Pagan contexts.

Note: For anyone who would like to join us for our outreach during Halloween, we have a week long training experience in postmodern and Neo-Pagan outreach. click here for more info.

Your ministry has drawn some criticism. Were you surprised at the negative feedback from some of your peers who said you crossed the line?

Yes and no.

No, we were not surprised, because I remarked early in our move to Salem, that it would not be the Witches who would cause us trouble, but Christians. Like Jesus, Who was not persecuted by unbelievers, but by the religious leaders, we anticipated anger and misunderstanding from certain Christian circles. I assumed Witches would be pleasantly appreciative to be treated like real people instead of enemies. I also assumed that many Christians would be fearful, and perhaps even superstitious about being around Witches, and this turned out to be true.

Yes, we were surprised, because our biggest troubles came from our former denomination. They supported our vision, and even gave us a significant grant to increase our outreach to the Neo-Pagan community, but when one of the denominational leaders falsely accused us of aberrant practices, they refused to listen to our side of the story, and kicked us out. Everyone who visited our church and our outreaches thought we did a great job, and effectively preached the Gospel. Our accusers had never even visited us, and made assumptions off hearsay.

Right now there are lots of books and resources for people interested in church growth, technology and church and even church marketing-topics centered around reaching people who are unchurched. Generally, there aren't too many that discuss connecting people who "hate church." How has this message been received?

We have had almost unanimously positive responses both locally, and from afar, among Christians, and those who do not follow Jesus. The conference was generally understood to be a discussion about re-visioning the manner in which we gather in our pursuit of God, and finding ways to make God relevant to our society.

For pastors and leaders who want to reach communities in their areas that contain people that do "hate church," how do you recommend connecting with them and telling them about God?

Hang out where they hang out. Find out what they like to do, and go do it with them. Find ways to serve people outside the church walls, and make yourself available for community events.

We bought a trailer, and filled it with a sound system, outdoor chairs, tents, a helium tank, and other party supplies. When the city needs extra help at events they call us to run sound and live music, put up tents and chairs, paint children's faces, and give away balloons.

We have held events such as our philosophy discussion group which we call the Dead Philosopher's Society. We have $1 Movie Nights in the church and show old movies.

We run an online discussion called Circle and Cross Talk between Neo-Pagans and Christians, but we do not allow either Pagans or Christians to get preachy. People are allowed to share their beliefs in a safe environment. We have even held live Circle and Cross Talk gatherings.

We open the doors of our meeting place for free Dream Interpretation times, and like Daniel seek to speak into people's lives through their dreams. We by no means assume every dream is from God, but we have discovered that God is both wooing, and warning people today through their dreams. We also offer times for confessions, and we do the confessing - apologizing for the sins of the church through the ages (a la Don Miller), and even for our own failure to live like Christ. These ministries have helped to pave the way for people who normally distrust churches to identify with us in a positive way.

These types of outreach will not work in every community. Salem is unique. Yet there are creative ways to reach every community, and a little listening can go a long way in learning about people.

What's the biggest challenge in going into communities that "hate church"?


Christian leaders are the biggest challenge. We do silly things like assume that if people avoid church they must also hate God, or are uninterested in spirituality. We hang out our shingle, or throw our little Christian parties, and expect people to show up. We have developed ways of doing church which may work for some people, but are uninteresting, or even offensive to others. Instead of changing our style of gathering for those who don't appreciate our Christian culture, we change our style of music, and expect that to be the answer.

Our inability to adapt to another culture makes us the biggest challenge in connecting with those who dislike church.

A lot of up-and-coming pastors and leaders are truly interested in being missional and creating culturally-relevant ministry. What's your advice to them?

Listen to the people you want to touch. Learn how they feel about Christianity, and why they feel that way. Don't become quickly defensive, and jump to the rescue of the Church. Many people have legitimate complaints, and their voices can be valuable guides in helping you adapt your outreach to their needs, and their spiritual passions. This does not mean changing the Gospel message, but it may mean adapting our style of gathering, and our vocabulary.

If you come into contact with people who are part of a NRM (New Religious Movement), or are involved in the occult do not consider them as enemies to your faith. Treat them with the same respect you would give anyone else. You may end up being surprised to find that they are as normal as you - maybe even more so, since they aren't waiting for some guy on a white horse to come riding out of the sky like we are. ;-)

Find out what people like to do, where they like to go, and find a way to join them, and serve them there. It usually works well to find a need and fill it. We saw that people were attending city events in the park like the Chowder Fest, and the Ice Cream Social, and they had no place to sit, and there was no music. We offered the use of our $5 plastic outdoor chairs (we have 100), and our sound system. People loved having a place to sit, and we helped make the city look good. This kind of service is a win-win situation.

Don't be afraid to serve alongside the people who dislike church. Neo-Pagans have helped us set up for events. I have an atheist friend who helps run our movie nights, and is my sci-fi trivia expert for the times we do sci-fi series. Musicians who are not Christians, and do not like church help provide entertainment on our stage during October. These things have helped us to gain a good reputation among the people who do not attend church in Salem.

But of course...expect a few critics.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Elijah's Rotten Kidney's Videos

Dan Stevens is making some videos for Elijahs Wyman's Kidney Transplant Fund. Check out this one.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Elijah's Kidney Fund - Help Needed

Elijah Wyman will facing a kidney transplant within the next two weeks. It has been a rough road over the last ear and a half since he was discovered to have a life threatening, rare kidney disease. Your prayers, words of encouragement, and even financial support through this extremely expensive process are deeply appreciated now. You can donate through The Gathering to Elijah's Kidney Fund.

It is during these times when we discover what it means to have others help us with those burdens which are too great for us to carry on our own. You can visit the donation page HERE.

Blessings on you, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Phil, Bev, Rhonda, Crash, Puppy, Holly, Forrest, and especially Elijah Wyman

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Front Page Yahoo!

Our conference made the front page of Yahoo.com as the featured story today. Woo-Hoo! The story from the Christian Science Monitor was posted as the feature article. Fun - fun.

Here's were "Christians and atheists start a calmer dialogue" can be accessed directly.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Conference Makes the News! - Christian Science Monitor

The conference made the news. Jim Henderson and I look pretty darn handsome there. Okay, I'm blowin' smoke, but heck we're making news.

Melanie took the photos, and we laughed a bunch through the experience. Jane Lampman who wrote the story was very easy to talk to, and she reminded me so much of my own Christian Science upbringing. I enjoy watching Jim in these interview situations. He's been there - done that, and really has a great way of turning a quote, and making the interviewer feel comfortable and cared for. Now that's a turn of events, eh?

So, here's Christians and atheists start a calmer dialogue. Read on reader -->

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Emergent and Pentecostalism?

At the end of our conference "God for People Who Hate Church" I asked Tony Jones (our final speaker) this question, "How can the Emergent conversation connect better with those from Pentecostal traditions?" I asked this question because I know other Emergent leaning Pentecostals, and they have had some struggle feeling as thought the really fit, or were welcome in the Emergent conversation.

Why might this be? Is there something inate to the conversation as it began which makes Pentecostals feel unwelcome? or is the other way around? Is there something inate to Pentecostalism which makes the Emergent discussion difficult for them to be a part of? Perhaps it is simply that the discussion has not reached deep enough to find enough Pentecostal ears.

Personally, I feel that I am navigating these relational waters fine, but there are others who are struggling. What do you think, and what is it you observe.

For Tony's answer to this question check out the podcast of his message, and jump ahead to the end of the message. There you find my question, and his answer. Does the answer hit home? Does it speak deeply enough for you to become an answer?

On my personal catharsis blog I question who I am on the basis of this strange but growing alliance.

Pagan Discussion Panel is Up on Podcast

John Smulo and I led a discussion group with three Pagans from Salem. Teri Kalgren from the Witches' Education Bureau, solitary Wiccan practitioner Krista Grillo, and Druid Suzy Wade were the panelists. The podcast is up in two parts. Altogether it was almost an hour and a half of discussion and Q&A time. Check it out at the Salem Gathering Website.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Jay Bakker: for People Who Hate Conferences

So, I've got more podcasts up. There are only two more to do, but so far you can listen to Jay Bakker, Tony Jones, Jim Henderson's first session, and the Atheist Panel discussion.

Hendo's second session seems to have a strange radio show taped over the top of it. At the beginning of it, it says, "You got a problem with that Phil?" Dang, I was wondering where that come from in the conference at first. Anyway, I am going to see if I can find the show hidden somewhere in the audio. Jim and Barb Henderson spoke together during that session, and it was really cool to see and hear, so I am hoping we've got Barb under the radio theater show somewhere.

The Pagan Dialogue with myself and JJ the Smu (John Smulo) may take a bit of time to edit as well, but it's there, and will be up in a day or two.

You can find what we've got up now on The Gathering's website podcast list.

I'll add some color commentary in a day or so about my thoughts, my favs, my surprises, my agreements, and disagreements. (Hee-hee - Tony Jones did tell me that I had to be willing to smash his idols if I would be part of Emergent - dude I'm into iconoclasm!) ;-)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

First Podcast From "God: for People Who Hate Church" - Jim Henderson (Friday, May 4th)

You can find the first Podcast from our conference here in Salem, MA at our church website.

Jim Henderson pushes some boundaries of our thinking about church life, and incarnational ministry. If you like Jim, this may be an opportunity to here him speak more freely than you have heard before. Heck, when you speak at a conference entitled "God: for People Who Hate Church" it 's a bit difficult to get much more provocative than that! So, Jim says he felt pretty free to speak up. Check it out!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saturday 2:30pm Neo-Pagan/Christian Panel Discussion

Welcome to the Saturday Pagan/Christian Discussion Panel.

There are three Pagan women who will be on the panel. It was tough to get this group at this time, because so many people are away, and involved with a Beltane event, but somehow we've got an unblelievably cool group of three on this panel:

Teri Kalgren is a long time Salem Witch, and the head of the Witches' Education Bureau - she is an herbalist, and a very knowledgeable one at that. She owns two stores in town - The Broom Closet, and Artemesia Botanicals.

Suzy Wade is an ADF Druid, and owns a Celtic Gift shop called Special Creations. She is the ritual director for the Eastern Massachusetts Pagan Pride event.

Krista Grillo is a solitary Witch who recently quit her job at Christian Book Distributors where she worked for about 6 years - can you imagine pimping Jesus product as a Witch!? :-)

Presenting the panel, and asking questions from a Christian Perspective are Pastor Phil Wyman of The Gathering, and JJ the Smu - John Smulo from Sacramento, CA. (see John's Blog here

christian/wiccan dialogue

hey there, this is g13 live blogging from the gathering space. right now the witches, wiccans, neo-druids and christians are introducing themselves and i'm already behind. here goes....

a moment ago suzy the neo-druid said that the last time this type of dialogue took place in salem things went horribly awry. i kind of wish that i could hear the story of that event rather than listening to introductions.

enjoy non-sequiturs? i sure hope so.

pastor phil says he hopes that beginning right now we can begin to break christian misconceptions that have made it difficult for christians to understand these people that he loves. i'll second that beautiful hope...even though i am just starting to journey beyond myth and misconceptions in regards to witches, wiccans, neo-druids and other practitioners of neo-paganism. so away with my cherished misconceptions of neo-pagans today and away with my distaste for mormons tomorrow!

actually, maybe i'll have my mormon myopia worked on next year.

both teri (irish-catholic cum neo-pagan), suzy (jew cum neo-druid) and krista (catholic cum wiccan) both have roots in the judeo-christian tradition. i would assume that, this being america, most neo-pagan practitioners have some judeo-christian roots in their background. thus, in a forum like this they might be just as proficient at helping jews and christians understand themselves as they are able to elucidate neo-pagan thought and practice.

to wit: suzy just told a story about her childhood wherein a rabbi taught her that noah's son ham was a black child who was cursed for seeing his parents participating in some "night swimming." interesting. i would have never have thought that such despicable racial teachings were taught in the synagogues of late 20th century judaism, wherein, by most accounts, the civil rights movement was greatly supported and trumpeted.

it's already becoming quite apparent that there is at least as much diversity within neo-paganism as there is within 21st century "christianity." reductionists and simpletons* beware!

maybe i'm biased because i know her well, but krista is telling an affecting story about how the death of her mother raised terribly difficult questions and resurrected doubts about the mercy and love of God. after krista distanced herself from catholicism she tried atheism, but found the potential despondency that might result from such thoughts terrifying. she then stumbled across wicca for the solitary practitioner, found it persuasive and, after a brief discussion with her husband wherein she stated that she would probably not perform some of the more radical rites nor demand wiccan adherence from aforementioned man, began to practice. she then took up a job at christianbook.com where she was able to maintain her beliefs, but not openly display pentacles for six years. g13 may or may not have shared a cube with krista at that work place at some point in the dark and mystifying path. he'd tell you the truth, but then he'd be subject to a lawsuit.

terri is reflecting on the amazing diversity of neo-pagan thought and practice right now. concluding an interesting piece that touched on polytheism, feminine energy** and her lapsed witch offspring with a shop-worn cliche she said that though neo-pagans have a great diversity of beliefs and practices they are all walking up the same mountain.

uh, terri just told an amazing story about a guest to her witch shop who was repulsed by teri's touch and asked "are you trying to suck out my soul?!" somehow, hearing her tell that story seemed to shine a spotlight on the horrible consequences on my own frank peretti inspired stereotypes concerning natural religions. she also told a tale of witches who were shop keepers standing "like prostitutes" on street corners as though to say "hey baby, want to make a wand?!" that wand crack made me snicker.

krista is telling tales*** about her experiences as a witch working at cbd. apparently krista was on the wrong end of an evangelism explosion in the midst of the cubes ("if you were crossing a busy street and this big, mack truck was coming towards you and you didn't see it, wouldn't you want me to pull you outta there?" krista's response: "yeah, i'd like the help but i think of myself as a responsible person who wouldn't mindlessly walk into traffic. let me walk) and, much to the evangelist's dismay, krista was not swayed by his wiles. shit. i suppose that's one less jewel in that evangelical's crown.

phil's question: what do you think about the practice of conversion?.

suzy: in my opinion, it does not matter which religion you practice the result is still the same. fortunately, she says she has never experienced anyone trying to convert her. moreover, she has never had anyone spit, harangue or throw rocks at her, until she moved to salem.

teri: i've had people try to convert me on a number of occasions. in one instance a couple of christians accosted her daughter and chased her to their upstairs apartment. teri says that the accosters said "megan wants the word of God" and, in response, teri told them to get their "fuzzy buts out of her house."

phil: so you find the whole process devaluing as though people are showing you no respect as they approach you with a conversion focus.

teri: if we can work with the energy that is resident in all matter amazing things can happen. you might call those things magic or miracles. we try to stay in harmony with such energy and so, perhaps, make changes that we call magic. (i'm not quoting her perfectly, but i hope that's the gist of it). meeting with evangelism focused christians is like visiting florida and having to spend 30 minutes time-share salesmen. ouch.

john: when it comes to ethical views in life are there elements of wicca that shape the ethics by which you live your life?

teri: a spell is basically a prayer. we all are asking for something we need help with. that is what a spell is for us. we have two laws and they encompass the whole theory of the ten commandments: do as thy will and harm none. that means i can do what i want but i must constantly be concerned with the intended and unintentionals consequences of my actions.

writers note: someone is sawing logs in the back row right.about.now.

suzy: neo-paganism today is a blanket term which all of the pagan and the neo-pagans use to talk about the general path that we all walk in slightly different ways. i.e., witches create a sacred circle to protect them before performing magic, neo-druids create sacred space so that they can be in harmony with creation. so again, different paths.same mountain.time for a transformed metaphor.

phil: so you aren't getting together and trying to turn us into toads are you?

teri: some of you are toads already! not you, phil, but truth is truth.

krista: in regards to the rule, you really have to consider the consequences. for instance, i knew a witch that worked a spell in order that she could reap all that she needed. unfortunately, a couple of weeks later a rich aunt of hers died and the woman received exactly the same amount that she had been hoping for. you've really got to consider the consequences before beginning spell work.

question: what is the book of shadows that i've been hearing about?

krista: i keep record of my dreams, fragments of poetry and other personal information in it. i know that some witches have really nice, leather bound volumes.

teri: the book of shadows is ultimately a legacy that leaves a record of who you are. i also teach, so i keep some teaching materials in there as well. it's basically like a prayer book.

question: why the term shadows?

teri: because in ancient times you had to hide these books or you would be killed.

comment from crowd: recently a well-known witch from salem died and a portion of poetry from his book of shadows was read at his memorial service and i was really touched by the passion and depth of his thoughts and reflections. i was almost jealous of the sincerity and beauty of this man's thoughts.

teri: then write:)

question: do you think that you still hold onto a fragment of belief in the judeo-christian god or have you let it go entirely.

suzy: i have completely let it go. i honor my tradition by calling my family on yom kippur and passover but the jewish conception of God is not something i treasure.

krista: i still worry a little bit about whether i will end up in a good place, maybe not in the christian version of hell, but somewhere where i am alone. i am still focused upon and hope that i am a good person.

teri: i really don't think that buddhist, christian, hindu, greek, etc. gods are different. when we pray or call upon somebody i think we are focusing on aspects of God. i.e., when i call for wisdom i'm not going to go looking for pan or bacchus.

question: is witchcraft all-inclusive or is it exclusive? for instance, is there a hierarchy of witches in the town that keeps records?

krista: well, i'm a solitary. some branches are okay with the practice of solitaries, some aren't. they may not accept me as a solitary but i don't have to practice with them.

suzy: we have a hierarchy just like druids throughout history have had. we elect an arch druid, we have three degrees of teaching and you have to go through initiation in order to be accepted into the ADF proper.

phil: is there a hierarchy of witches in salem, a king, queen, etc?

teri: we have legends in their own mind. there are reasons witch and bitch still rhyme.

john: i would like to apologize to you personally for what christians have done to you and the lies that they have told. i hope that through the work of places like the gathering will help to reverse the harmful stereotypes and correct our mistakes.

room punctuated by awkward "slow clap"

suzy: i don't think that these errors are your fault. they pre-date christianity, you can even find such stereotypes coming from the lips of julius caesar, another pagan! i don't think you should take the blame for all this talk and things that you did not do, but that's just me.

phil: here we are a part of one human family who are pursuing truth. here as christians we are trying to walk the path of truth together and hopefully help make heaven happen around us. can you imagine being able to develop friendships with people who are so dramatically different than yourself and not feeling threatened by your differences because you are headed in the direction of life and truth? can you imagine a place where we share the truth humbly, gently and we share this life together? if you can imagine such a place i think we can find a place where we can break the stereotypes and violence.

teri: it's not all one sided. we have a lot of fundamentalist witches too. they've walked away from christianity because you have your stereotypes and you believed the satanist stories. we call them fundies too. we've got to deal with them as well. you can't really apologize for your ancestors, just be the best person you can be and take care of your stuff and hopefully we'll live a little healthier and happier. blessed be everyone.

room filled with a little more spontaneous clapping.

that's all for now. i hope that you were informed and entertained by this record. i own up to any incorrections in the transcription and am willing to hear any differences you might have and horde any flattering comments you'd like to leave.

blessed be indeed!


* such as myself.
** preach it sista! i'm a big believer in that.
*** i use the word not to suggest that krista's story is not factual, but because i wish the encounter has not happened.

Saturday 1pm - Finding God Outside the Church: a Panel Discussion

Rethinking the Finding of God

Pastor Phil Wyman from the Gathering facilitates a dialogue with Jim Henderson from Off-the-Map, One Punk Under God - Jay Bakker, Tony Jones of Emergent Village, Karen Ward of The Apostles Church in Seattle, Episcopal Priest Beth Maynard, Ken Nelson from Streams Ministries. Question: How do we find God outside the church as we know it today? Perhaps more importantly how do we express Him to others, who are looking other places than the church to find God?

ps: John Smulo, Prof Carlos Z and Dr. James will be live blogging

Saturday 10am - Athiests and Humanists and Christians: a Panel Discussion

Jim Henderson from Off-the-Map.org holds a discussion with three local Atheists and/or Humanists. This is not a debate, but a discussion to see Christianity from an outsider’s perspective.

Joining us today is Jonas Green (who is a good friend of The Gathering), Michael Bleiweiss who is also a member of Ethical Society in Boston, and Lou Jacobsen a local humanist who has spent the last 30 years working in Christian environments (as a administrator for military Chapels, and now still working in a Christian environment).

This is an incredible panel. All three guys are of Jewish heritage. Lou's experience with Christians for 25 years gives him a unique view of Christianity. Jonas goes to a UU church for community, and is a decidedly solid atheist. Michael is a third generation atheist (Wow! I never heard this before) - he describes his upbringing as socialist/communist, and his mother got kicked out of school for selling the Daily Worker paper.

Michael is a physicist, Lou has a Master's in psychology, and Jonas is a computer brainy guy tech at a large firm.

As a side note John Smulo and Prof. Carlos Z are conducting live blogging this morning, check their posts.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Stay Tuned With the Live Bloggers

Hey there to all out there in cyber-blogo land. Just a reminder that there are a bunch of us who are live blogging this conference. Just give a click onto one of the links at the top right. The three of us who are up and rolling at the moment are Carlos Z, John Smulo and myself who is presently hijacking Phil's account name (with permission of course).

Lending An Ear to Jim Henderson

Hey this is dr james logging in under Phil's moniker to give you the latest on the haps here in Salem. Jim Henderson from off-the-map is giving us an account on some of the innovative methods he has used in attempting to gain a better understanding on outsiders perspectives on Christianity.

Jim's a pretty intuitive guy, and is calling for a more level headed approach to befriending non-believers, as well as asking us to engage in more practical methods of discussion on Christianity and religion as a whole.

As some of you may know, Henderson is the guy who won the soul of an atheist off of Ebay. As he is someone who is passionate about "rescuing Jesus from religion" (his words) he took the opportunity to ask this atheist to simply attend a number of church services with no strings attached. From this he gained a clearer understanding of how this person understood Christians and the God we serve.

Friday Evening, 7pm, Opening of Conference - Phil Wyman, Jim Henderson

God for People Who Hate Church begins now. We will be taping most of the conference, and putting it to podcast as soon as possible. Being new to podcasting, it could take us awhile longer than necessary, but we will alert you to when it happens via this blog site, and through the Blog Square No More, and through the website for The Gathering.

Opening night begins with a montage of thoughts concerning experiences both good, and bad with church life. Philosophy Professor Bruce Meyers from Salem State College, our blogger buddy Agent B from Abilene, Texas, Eva Porcello, Bev Wyman, and Jeff Menasco will share their stories to set a framework for involving our heads and hearts with this difficult topic. Pastor Phil will set the theological framework for considering the fact that it is possible to be a pursuer of God, and also to be someone who finds themselves struggling to identify with the culture of modern Christianity.

Jim Henderson from Off-the-Map.org will then take the helm to lead us through the deep waters of this discussion.

So It Begins! Follow us here.

Hi Friends,

Our conference begins tonight. People are beginning to show up now. Karen Ward is in Town, Jim Henderson is here, Jay Bakker will be here in a couple hours. The Christian Science Monitor will be here today and tomorrow to talk to Jim Henderson and I. Of course, Tony Jones is too emergent to get here when everyone else does, he'll arrive at 11pm. ;-)

So, we are off and running. For those who will be here, see you soon. If you haven't registered and want to come, you can just come as you are, and register or any of the events tonight through Sunday morning.

View our flyer for the event at:

You can also follow live blogging of the event for those who can not make it, you can follow it right here on this Site

Gwyn eich byd, White your world!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Live Blogging from God For People Who Hate Church

May 4-6th - yep that only 3 days away! - we will provide some live blogging from our conference. Topics and themes of teachings and panel discussions will be provided by various observers. Carly Menasco, Kevin Menasco, Josh Rivera (see His blog rivera's Blog), and others will take a hand at some live commentary. If you follow the blogging on THIS BLOG SITE WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW (no clicking because you are already here), you can send some questions from distant places and get involved.

If you want to find the schedule for the conference, and follow along, go to our church website and follow the link to conference flyer. Of course, you will need to add or subtract hours to adapt to Eastern Standard Time US.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Interview with JJ the Smu!

John Smulo is going to be joining us for the conference God for People Who Hate Church in a couple weeks. He will join me on a discussion panel as we talk with some local Neo-Pagans to discuss what they believe, and practice, and how they have been treated by Christians. There are not too many people as likeminded, and understanding toward developing relationships with the Neo-Pagan community as John. I can really track with this guy, and have been pleasantly surprised by his progressive, and intelligent thinking. I had you consider sending some support to JJ the Smu a few days back. If you like what you see, go here to support John Smulo. John also runs a site called Missional Apologetics.

So I asked John if he would do a quickie interview for me. Here it is:

PHIL: Give us a sense of your background in ministry. You've spent time in Australia, you've pastored, taught in Bible College, and worked with New Religious groups. Describe some of these experiences for us.

JOHN: I’ve taught at Morling College in Sydney, Australia. I was also the Founding Director of the School of Apologetics at the Centre For Evangelism and Global Mission at Morling College. I miss this a lot. I found it a supporting environment to explore creative evangelistic and apologetic approaches. I’m currently teaching at Capitol Bible College in Sacramento, California. It’s a very different environment compared to Morling, but I’m enjoying it and it’s a privilege to be able to teach.

I’ve been a pastor in Australia and the US. This has been a source of joy and pain for me. I’ve increasingly transitioned from traditional churches and pastoral ministry to more of a emerging missional church context. I’m currently at the initial stages of planting a church.

My work with new religious movements has especially focused on Pagans and Satanists, which are quite different from each other. This has involved the blessing of making a number of friends in both communities, and the opportunity to be involved in speaking at events such as Pagans in the Pub. I’ve also focused my writing in these areas, and sought to develop missional apologetic approaches that interact with Satanism and Paganism.

PHIL: Have you had any experience with severe misunderstanding, rejection, or mild persecution in your dealings with New Religious Movements, such as Neo-Pagans and Satanists?

JOHN: I’ve not only experienced severe misunderstanding, rejection and persecution from fellow Christians because of my friendships and involvement with Pagans and Satanists, I still continue to. The ironic thing is that overall I’ve experienced far more support, and very little criticism, from Pagans and Satanists. Some have even been kind enough to put up portions of my work on their websites. At times, they’ve done this even when its somewhat critical. I think that we’re able to have open and productive conversations when there’s mutual respect.

PHIL: What are your current hopes for evangelical Christianity in its relationship to New Religious Movements, and how do you see yourself helping make these changes come to pass?

JOHN: My hopes are somewhat low for evangelical Christianity in its relationship to New Religious Movements, and only mildly optimistic for those who associate with the emerging church. We have to overcome a significant part of church history that has been antagonistic to people of other faiths. We also have to overcome largely negative apologetic methodologies that typically create barriers instead of bridges. What I am optimistic about, however, is the fact that each of us can make a difference in this regard by loving people like Jesus did, using our ears more than our mouth, and seeing people through God’s eyes rather than our stereotypes.

As for how I see myself helping to make positive changes come to pass, I think that the best I can do is work with like-minded people such as yourself for change, while continuing to build healthy relationships with people of other faiths.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Relevant Magazine Article

The online version of Relevant Magazine published a short story of mine today. It is called "Beyond the Pall." Initially the story ran on my blog Square No More. The editor who covers the Life Section told me earlier today that it would run in a couple weeks, but the head editor read the story today, loved it, and bumped it up to today. Wow, that's pretty cool. So, check it out at this link here, and leave a comment, because editors love articles which get comments. smile, smile, smile - that was a pre-emoticon action.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Quickie Interview with Tony Jones

God for People Who Hate Church is coming up May 4-6. Tony Jones will be one of the voices here at the event, so I asked Tony a few questions. Here are the questions, and here are Tony's answers. Of course, since he's coming to Salem, I thought I'd senstize him with a question of a Witchy nature.

Phil Wyman: I've read numerous critiques about the evangelistic effectiveness of the Emergent Conversation. Critics have suggested that Emergent is either redefining, or perhaps even doing away with the Great Commission. What's up with Emergent and evangelism? or perhaps better put, what's up with Tony Jones and his ideas about the Great Commission?

Tony Jones: Well, I'm all about making disciples, and it seem to me that was Jesus' concern, too. And that is a way of life that Jesus called people into, not simply saying a prayer, led by a guy on TV. I've even baptized some folks in my day! What I do reject is arguments about "effectiveness" of evangelization and discipleship, since that's a modern value that has been superimposed on the gospel. The gospel is not effective, it's scandalous.

Phil Wyman: Here at The Gathering in Salem, Massachusetts, we are concerned with the reputation which "church" has developed in the eyes of those who stand on the outside looking in. We are also concerned about those who have been abused by the wrong practices of churches in the recent past. Do you have suggestions for bridging this divide of offenses?

Tony Jones: I think we're accountable to God for our local incarnation of the church. You are responsible for The Gathering, I'm responsible for Solomon's Porch. Just because someone gets E Coli at a Taco Bell in California doesn't mean that you never ea[r] at a Taco Bell again (although I question the sanity of people who eat there!) -- so folks shouldn't hold it against The Gathering because other idiots have ruined other churches. People who disparage your church because of the failings of others.

Phil Wyman: You just sat down in a cafe for a bite. Someone plunks themselves down next to you. You look up and see a large man in a black cape, with an oversized silver pentacle hanging around his neck. In striking up a conversation he numerates a long list of the evils of Christendom both recent, and historical. He finishes his diatribe, and looks at you. How do you respond?

Tony Jones: I guess I ask him where is the perfect religion and how can I join? Religion is our fallible, human attempt to articulate who God is and how we relate to God. Often, we suck at that, to be sure. But Christianity is also full of earnest saints who've done great good in God's name. I'll put our saints up against our sinners anyday.

Interested in being there May 4-6, and seeing Tony in person? Check out more about the seminar at the website for the The Gathering.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

God for People Who Hate Church - One Month Away!


Jay Bakker, Jim Henderson, and Tony Jones are coming to Salem for our upcoming conference. Pass the information on, and maybe even invite a friend to come to part or all of the event.

We have noticed a growing phenomenon: People who are interested in God, but are struggling with the idea of going to church. In response to this cultural trend, we have developed the conference God For People Who Hate Church

We are just a month away from the conference. The registration page on our website is up and running. People can register for parts of the convention, or for the entire convention. The three days of convention comes with a lunch in a local Salem establishment on Saturday afternoon, and the cost for all is $75. You can read more about the conference by visiting the home page of our website. There you will find the conference flyer, and be able to download the information, or register for the event.

Once you have decided that you want to be there, or perhaps that you have a friend you want to bring you can go to the registration page

Grace and Goodness to You,
Pastor Phil

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tribal Identification with The Gathering

This is the first tribal identification with The Gathering. Is this a cool tatoo or what!? Yep, he pulled it right off the wall of The Vault, and the tatooo artist from New Hampshire did a great job of reproducing the photo given him.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Class on Christian Sexuality

Last night we held our basic Christian teaching class once again, and this time the subject was sex. The topic was presented pretty straight forward, and there were some words which you typically don't hear in church being offered as part of the discussion. The basic premise of the class is that there needs to be a new way of teaching the ancient mores passed down from the fathers of our faith, and that for today's people it might be beneficial to view sex as a part of the greater litugy of life in which we live our lives as a ritual expressing the character and works of the God we serve.

You can read up on a continuing series of blogs about Christian Sexuality. It is not as complete as last night's class, but by the time the series is over, it will be far more comprehensive.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

May Conference - God for People Who Hate Church

Here's a quick little note on a conference we are going to be doing here in Salem May 4-6.

You got it right the name of the conference is:

No joke! We are crazy enough to really do a conference with that title. Not only are we crazy enough to do that, but check out the line up!

Jay Bakker - Mr. One Punk Under God
Jim Henderson from Off-the-map.org
Listen to Jim
Tony Jones from Emergent Village

We will hold a few interesting sessions such as a dialogue with atheists, and another with some of our Pagan friends to learn what it is we do which offends the people we think we should be reaching.

We will hold an open dialogue about rethinking church, and hopefully find some unique ideas which excite our hearts.

There will be some late night movies on Friday and Saturday: Perhaps we'll check out Jesus Camp, or Frisbee: Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher

Maybe this is too radical for you. Maybe this is just what you are looking for. Anyway - You'll see more info later, and it will pop up on our church website soon too.

Wanna join us for the conference?

Registration materials are coming out any day now, but for now e-mail us, and we will get the information to you by snail, or by ch-ee-tah-mail Pastor Phil Wyman at The Gathering

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Josh, Church History, and A Knight's Tale

So, Josh has been with us for a couple weeks now. He has been working with us down at the church during the days, and staying with Carlos in Danvers. He has applied for a job at the hospital, and is preparing already for his first short term missions trip to Wales, and Scotland in the summer.

Tuesdays is basics of the Faith night at The Gathering. We've had a group of about 15 each week so far. Tonight James, and I covered 2,000 years of chruch history in an hour and 45 minutes. Darn! we went 15 minutes over. Oh well - I had a blast team teaching with James.

On Sunday Night, If you missed it, Mike Crockett taught on the Kingdom of God using a portion of the movie A Knight's Tale as his reference point. Cool - very cool.

Any thoughts on all this stuff? Leave a comment.