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 (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 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 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

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 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 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.