Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End of the Year at The Gathering

There are far too many friends we have made in the last 11 years to mention, but if you are one of those who has been a part of this ministry - thank you.  May blessing return upon you in great abundance.

The Gathering has been serving the city of Salem, MA since 1999. During this last decade we have developed into one of the most unique missional communities in the United States.


For the entire month of October we serve the community of Salem, and the half a million visitors who come for Halloween experiences. The Gathering has become one of the top spiritual experiences in our city.

We train and equip Christians from around the world to help serve in mission alongside us teaching them to serve creatively during America's kooky, second largest holiday of the year.

We have made friends with the Witches of Salem (and in fact Witches around the world) without compromising our Christian faith, and we have trained thousands of people to navigate living their faith authentically in a post-Christian world.

We have been meeting for the last 4 years in a prime location in downtown Salem, allowing us to better serve the community and the tourists who visit here.

Our Most Challenging Year Yet?

Financially this has been our most challenging year, and we are entering the new year in our most vulnerable position yet. If you have been blessed by the work of The Gathering, or have participated in the outreaches we have been doing for the last 11 years in Salem, MA would you consider helping us as the New Year dawns?

The year before us will perhaps be our most challenging yet, and we may not be able to continue as we are currently serving without your help. You can give through paypal by following this link.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Gathering: Offering Peace, Welcoming Pilgrims, Pursing Gospel Mission

More than a Local Church: A Community Peace Project, a Pilgrimage Location, a Gospel Mission.

Over the last couple months The Gathering at Salem has been engaged in some of the most innovative and culturally appropriate missions work to be found in the United States.

Every October a half million pilgrims pour into our city to celebrate Halloween, experience alternative spiritualities and party with their friends. Every year we welcome these guests by extending hospitality, offering spiritual counsel and inviting them to experience the incredible grace of God. We could not maintain this mission without the hundreds of people serve beside us throughout the season, or without your generous prayer and financial support.

The rest of the year we continue to impact our city through community service, events designed to reach the city of Salem with lovingkindness, which we believe God has expressed to us through His Son.

Although we have been serving the Halloween pilgrims for 11 years, the last 3 we have had the great privilege of serving them from The Vault – a unique location at the very heart of the city. Since The Vault is a “safe place” for people to experience the hope of Jesus, our location has magnified our ability to introduce the city and its pilgrims to the mission of God.

Over the course of these 11 years, hundreds of people have expressed a desire to meet God, and we have helped them to meet Him. Tens of thousands have been counseled about spiritual issues as we teach them to know the voice of God. They have been served free hot cocoa, entertained by live music, and been blessed freely by our roving "monks." They have received apologies for the times when churches may have hurt them. They have learned about some of the most compelling challenges to social justice in our day, and we have all been gently touched by the Gospel of Love.

Preparation for the Coming Season:

Now, we move into the quieter Winter season. We will gather cold weather clothing for the poor. We will serve the families of Salem with music, and free hot cocoa during the holiday season, and we will create opportunities to meet the community in discussion groups and events in The Vault.

Our small church has become a place, which has been utilized for evangelical mission and social service by dozens of churches and hundreds of individuals each year. Our little group has sacrificially responded to make this mission a reality, but we are in need of help from our friends and those who believe in our mission in order to be able to continue the mission.

Would you consider helping to support the work of The Gathering at Salem this season by offering a one time gift, by joining list of friends who support us monthly and pray for us as we serve both our city and its pilgrims, perhaps with an offering at your church on Sunday morning, or adding our mission to the list of missions your church supports throughout the year? We are confident that God has placed us in Salem for such a time as this and we would deeply appreciate your support.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stories from Halloween (Part 4) Bridge Church Friends

From a letter to John Harding:

I had the opportunity to be on a prophetic team a couple of weeks before Halloween. Not surprisingly, the people who came for the "spiritual readings and dream interpretations" were very open to and hungry for the supernatural. (This made our jobs easy and exciting!) We were able to give several people encouraging words. They all seemed receptive and intrigued by how we got this insight into complete strangers.

A moment that stands-out for me, was when our team leader got a word for one of the young women who came for a reading. The word was that her view of her future was being limited by past hurts that were still affecting her. He then offered to stand in as the man who had wounded her and apologize. She was deeply moved and I think we all shed a few tears. She and her friends have since stayed in touch with our team and have shown an interest in finding out more about the supernatural.

What I personally took away from the day was a deep sense of the Father's urgent yet patient love for His lost sheep and the exhilaration of being able to participate in the revelation of that love to them. Giving prophetic words puts us in a place where we are given a glimpse of God's perspective and it forever changes our vision.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Even More Stories from Halloween Outreach '09

Here are three more tales from the October Outreach in Salem, MA. May they bless you as much as the people who were involved in them.

The experience I had at Salem was one of the most challenging times of my life. I tried to force the Lord to work through me and give each person the kind of experience that I wanted him or her to have. The Lord revealed to me the absolute need to trust in Him. Without His Spirit working through me, I am capable of nothing. The times that the Lord chose to use me as his instrument were so powerful, yet humbling. I realized that the encounters were not for me, but were meant for the benefit of the person sitting in front of me. Feeling the love the Father has for his people was so overwhelming and is something that I will never forget.
-Liz Koch
Intern Streams School of Ministry

A young woman came to our team looking to have a re-occurring dream interpreted.  She had dreamed several times over the last ten years about snakes in her bed.  It would terrify her so much she would jump out of bed screaming.  She admitted that she is generally terrified of snakes even in the natural.  We felt the meaning of the dream was simply that her general fear was so great it was ruining her rest.  Upon sharing this with her, she began to open up to us about her fears.  She seemed to have a great deal of trust in us even before sharing the dream but as we talked further her trust grew.  After talking through some of the sources of her fear, she explained to us that she has recently left the Mormon Church of which her family is still heavily involved and even has family ancestry that can be traced to Joseph Smith, the father of Mormonism.  Upon her sharing this, a marvelous shift came in the atmosphere.  Though her experience was marked with harassment for leaving Mormonism both from the people in her life and from the spiritual realm, we suddenly saw in her a courageous and bold seeker of Truth. And in that moment we watched as her concept of God transformed before our eyes.  He went from being a dictator that cruelly demanded things of her to a great big Goodness that Loved her immensely and knew her intimately! The Presence of God became so heavy and sweet as we communicated this to her that all of us were moved to tears.  I found myself filled with awe as God revealed to all of us (including this precious woman) what He felt about her.  It was truly an honor to meet this over comer and to encourage her that, contrary to what others may have pressed on her, she is on the right path as God draws her into her destiny!
-Ali Carter
Staff Streams School of Ministry

It’s October 31 Halloween and the streets are packed with more people than ever. As the night goes on our lines get so busy the wait become about two hours to receive a spiritual reading or dream interpretation. After ministering all day I begin to break down our tents and a man walks up to me. He asked if I could interpret a dream for him. To be truthful I was far too tired and weak to help him but I still agreed. He started by telling me that he had an experience 25 years ago that he has not understood since he has had it. He said others tried to interpret it but did really understand it. Their interpretation didn’t really stick with him. The Dream started out with Him in the back seat of a cop car in hand cuffs. There was also a cop car in front of him. From the side he saw a Buffalo charging the cop car in front and hit it with extreme force. He was so excited and continued to encourage the buffalo to hit the car. Soon the car was off the road and destroyed. A moment later the buffalo was charging the car he was in but just before it hit his car the buffalo changed into the most beautiful Native American women he had ever seen. She stood next to him with a love readapting from her that he had never felt before. He said this love changed him. It was like he tasted of something that was not from this planet. Since that day he has never forgot the Love he felt. He also told me that since then he has never felt a love so real and fulfilling. This man had given me tremendous favor to speak into his life. I then began to tell him that the Holy spirit had given him Justice where he was imprisoned. I was able to share a visitation I had years ago that was very similar to his experience. I told him how God wanted a relationship with him. He wanted to give him the Love he felt from the Native American women. This story taught me a lot, when I am weak and tired God has those he wants to touch. This man had waited 25 years for a interpretation and it amazes me that Jesus touched him so powerfully that 25 years later he was still searching for the answer.
-Lance Carter
Staff Streams School of Ministry

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Stories from Halloween Outreach '09

The following stories are just a few of the many that come from the gang at The Streams Ministries Internship in New London, New Hampshire. This team has joined us faithfully for the last 6 years, and October in Salem has become one of the life changing events for the interns, and a primary training ground for their prophetic proclamations and blessings.

This comes from one of the Leaders, Brandon Crummer:
I was standing outside of our ministry tents with a group of us that were doing “healings” and “spiritual encounters.” A lady came out from being ministered to and said, “It was okay, but I wish they had said something about my eyes.” I overheard her say that and then I asked her, “What’s wrong with your eyes?” She then began to say, “No, it’s ok I am not going to worry about it.” Again I said, “No seriously what’s wrong with your eyes I really want to know?” She began to tell me how she has Macular Degeneration and is losing her eyesight. I told her that my Grandfather has the same disease and was one of the first people to receive all the experimental tests. This instantly gave me favor. I then asked if I could pray for her. As I prayed she took off her glasses and began to look around. At first she said it was a little better but the second time I prayed she yelled, “Oh my God I can read that guys shirt!” While praying, I watched as the cloudiness in her eyes began to shrink to just a small spot in the corner of her left eye. As we prayed one last time she cried, gave me a big hug and then disappeared into the crowd.
-Brandon Crummer
Staff Streams School of Ministry

My experience at Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts was a life changing one.  I’ve never felt so much overwhelming love in my heart for complete strangers before.  I went into this outreach doubting the Lord’s ability to move and left with a much greater knowledge of His unconditional love for His people. I remember one woman who came into our tent who was oppressed by a demon, lonely,  depressed, and lost. We got to minister to her for almost 45 minutes and she left released from the demon that was following her, alive in her new life in Jesus, and overflowing with the Joy of the Lord. Her countenance was completely switched around by the time she left our tent.  The funny thing was, she asked for an encounter with Jesus!  She was so open to a touch from the Lord and ended up asking Jesus to come into her heart and change her forever.  I cried for about 20 minutes after that encounter.  It no doubt touched her life, but it surprisingly touched mine deeply as well. All we had to do was be there.  We both left Salem with a new revelation of God’s love, and I am so, so grateful for it.  I will never be the same, and I’m sure every person who walked into our tent, whether by happenchance or on purpose, were forever changed as well.
- Jourdan Meyers
Intern Streams School of Ministry

For me, the Haunted Happenings outreach was a first for many things. I quickly realized that in addition to never traveling to Salem before, it was a bit intimidating attending my first formal outreach and giving my first prophetic words in an environment swarming with psychics and witches. Once we began to minister, however, I saw how the thirst of the people in Salem for deep spirituality drew the presence of the Holy Spirit in such a thick and powerful way. I no longer needed to worry about performing because it was not me touching those people anyway. My weakness, combined with their hunger, was a perfect situation for the Lord to pour out His love on them. Whether it was the lady who walked away with her glasses in her hand after being healed of Macular Degeneration, or the countless people whose jaw hit the floor when they found out that the Lord knows and loves them, God was thoroughly demonstrating love to His people in very powerful and intimate ways. Many who came expecting the typical festivities of an October weekend in Salem were surprised to find that the Lord had other plans. They entered our tents with mere curiosity and exited completely changed from the experience, as was I.
-Kyle Koch
Intern Streams School of Ministry

Friday, November 13, 2009

rehashing halloween by g13

so i'm way behind on the halloween rehash and i'm disinclined to write at the moment that i have had to bribe myself with the king of kong in order to push this puppy out. so please forgive my errors, failure to praise everyone and any other unintentional offense.

first, it was a remarkable
halloween season. on the first saturday i served (10/16) i had my requisite, "oh God, i really don't want to do this!" moment, but thanks to the steady presence of rennie and old practice, i quickly got in groove and enjoyed the season thoroughly.

for the first time, this year a number of our friends and family invested in our efforts. dozens of our friends partnered with us to raise $800 so that we could match equal
exchange's gift and make our hot cocoa slave free. that was excellent (and expect the ask will be repeated next year so that we can take our cups down the bio-degradable route)! my own family and close friends donated $1100 in operating support to our little adventure. those dollars came in quite handy during a year when The Gathering has found it difficult to keep our heads above water, much less purchase supplies for the outreach. we were seriously humbled by the generosity of our friends and family. thank you for honoring God by setting us free to serve!

we also had a wonderful, diverse group of friends serve beside us throughout the season. for the first time in six years of serving at haunted happenings several friends from our christian churches, churches of Christ tradition came out to serve beside us. i hope that
tim and the sojourn crew as well as jessica from manchester know that their presence meant the world to me. deep down in the part that i don't like to talk about at parties, i think i wrestle with rejection issues, so the distance that has developed between me and the ccoc has often pained me. so the presence of these friends was nothing short of sacramental.

jessie and libby browning and the good folks from their home church in beverly monked up on halloween and spent six hours in the street laying hands on and blessing people they had never met. i didn't have the courage to do anything more than serve hot cocoa during my first experience in 2003, so i was amazed by their boldness! i am also thankful to my hetero-life partner james for reprising his rector role and accompanying this group for the first couple of hours. james, you are the only one i want wearing my habit.

on hallows eve and
halloween the incomparable anita coco and her not for sale crew offered people an opportunity to experience "death by chocolate" for a second year. this was the second year to host this event, we had over 300 guests attend and many, many more folks than last year were interested in discussing fair trade and acting upon what they had learned. extra props to the guy whose name i'm forgetting who made the kickin' sign for this event. it really made a difference.

did i mention how amazing
carrie erwin was throughout the whole halloween season? i had no idea how she would take to it, but within minutes of starting she was barking at guests in the street, anchoring the cocoa booth, dancing with strangers dressed as gasoline. seriously, she was amazing.

paul, joyce, jeff c and other first time volunteers were amazing as well. did i mention how impressed i was with carrie erwin?

ben corey, the independent baptist from maine carved an unexpected niche by becoming the master of the Jesus deck and a spot on dream interpreter as well. i wasn't sure how much time he could commit, but he consistently under-promised and over-delivered and we were all so blessed by his presence.

joe riffe, who i think is mortified by the picture above, led a prayer room for us, stepped out of his comfort zone to bless strangers and talk to reporters and provided some of the vital, Spirit-filled energy we needed to make it through the last two days of the season. thankful for him.

my remarkable Friends' friends
callid (like "salad) and kristina worked beside us on the big day. kristina works for an organic farmers cooperative in upstate new york so she was a perfect facilitator for death by chocolate. callid has treasures of past experience that i was unaware of - such as performing street magic - so he was a wizard on the streets. for instance, callid composed my favorite bark of the season: "come to death by chocolate. a terrifying experience that will completely change your life! or not." there were a number of small moments, such as kristina's discussion of the almost paramilitary training that activists from the civil rights movement had to go through in order to be assigned to a lunch counter, that i treasure from their visit. they also left us with a bottle of amazing upstate new york wine. please come back soon.

this season i realized, much like i have been realizing at work lately, that my days as a non-stop, hands-on street minister or service deliverer are on the wane and i am being led into more of an administrative role. this transition is bitter-sweet for me - right now it's much more of the former than the latter - since i have grown to love laying hands on strangers*, helping young adults find jobs, finding the perfect h1 n1 pitch that simultaneously repel and attract people to our cocoa booth. however, it is clear that my role is more about training and deploying than about being front line all the time. a friend named
tim hawkins recently quoted another friend who said that discipleship, or training up people in the way they should go, is 99% encouragement. if that is the case, and i suspect it is, and administration has any part to play in discipleship, and i think it does, then i have a lot of growing to do.

i could go on, by explaining in great detail what an honor it is to serve beside pastor phil wyman or outlining the many, many unexpected lessons i have learned from my benediction laden brethren from the bridge church and streams ministries, but that is enough for now.

i hope that gives you a little taste of what the season was like. now that we're a couple of weeks beyond it and
i've had a chance to rest, i cannot think about october without cribbing little preston: "again, daddy. again!"

* that doesn't sound quite right.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stories from Halloween (Part 3) Three short stories

Today's stories come from Mike Crockett from The Gathering, and from one of the Bridge Church gang in Beverly. Below are the posts as they were sent to me. They exemplify the change which often happens in us as we seek to help others.

From Mike Crockett:

Dennis and I (dressed in a Monk’s robe) met with Nancy, who asked for a “spiritual reading.” Nancy was a committed Christian who was going through a difficult period in her life, caring for a loved one. She also was distraught about what she felt were failures in her life and had been teased and bullied by fellow classmates years ago in High School, something that was difficult to get over. Nancy was also in her 30s and wanted to have children and didn’t see this as a possibility with her spending so much energy caring for a loved one. I shared with Nancy that sometimes, life just stinks, without rhyme or reason. I mentioned the FOOTPRINTS poem and the passage in Isaiah where sometimes all we can do and all God asks us to do “walk and not faint” instead of “run on wings like eagles…” I shared with her the difficult adoption experience my wife and I had which turned out for joy and shared with her that I had gone through difficulties similar to hers, particularly after graduating college, and described God had brought me through. She was so encouraged to know not just I but millions of Christians around the world often feel, like Nancy, that they suffer in silence. Dennis prayed with Nancy and we talked for a while longer. Nancy left the Vault overjoyed. -----

Diane shared with me a dream of her and her two youngest daughters driving in a car. In her dream, a boy her older middle school daughter liked waved from the side of the road. Her daughter, who didn’t want to be embarrassed by having a boy she liked see her, hid in her seat. Suddenly, in Diane’s dream, the car went in reverse spontaneously and landed in a lake. The car began to sink, and water began to come into the sinking car. Diane was afraid. The boy her daughter liked called from the side of the lake, “You guys need help?” Then Diane woke up. She shared with me she was afraid of the dream, and felt it might mean a bad event in the future – event death. I shared with her that even though, in her dream, the car sinking in the water, that it did not mean death. I demonstrated that a dream with an encounter with water, particularly a large amount, even a fearful encounter, can speak to a significant spiritual encounter in ones life. The boy her daughter liked could represent someone, or even multiple individuals, such as a community, who are ready to help her and her family through life’s difficulties. Diane left greatly encouraged, feeling her wonderful experience with us in the Vault was worth any amount of time waiting in line.

From one of the Bridge Church Gang:

I was able to minister to an older military vet who had been through a lot in his past in the war.
He was testing the ministry team to see if we were accurate or not. After we ministered to the others in his group we asked if we could get a spiritual word for him. He agreed and we all were able to connect and give him some encouraging words from God that were accurate. This opened up a little discussion afterward and we were able to encourage him to be the man of God that God had made him to be. We were using his language and I believe that all three in their group were blessed by our encouraging and life giving ministry to where they were in their walk with God that day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stories from Halloween (Part 2) from the Prof. Carlos Z

The following stories come from the Prof. Carlos Z., one of the crew from The Gathering. Carlos worked with the Bridge Church gang from Beverly interpreting dreams, and doing what we call Spiritual Readings. Here is what Carlos had to say about his experiences:

Two stories come in mind when looking back and reflecting on Halloween.

The lst instance occurred on Saturday the 24th. I was on a team with Drew and Beth from the Bridge Church and we were doing Spiritual Readings for about an hour. A woman came who said that she had a dream. The dream was an invitation from God to join him on his earthly kingdom. I did not realize that she connected with me, and Drew said "Carlos why don't you begin and help this woman invite Christ into her heart." She had already agreed to accept Christ because of the revelation from the dream and the spiritual readings. You must understand I had never said the sinners prayer or accepted Christ in the typical way, so I felt awkward in trying to do it with this woman. But I went forward like a child trying to not look stupid in front of a class. I was blown away and she thanked us. A week later she returned and thanked me again. I was in awe how the Holy Spirit helped move this woman into a relationship with Christ.

The other story occurred the following evening. Two young ladies from Americorp in Maine had come to us. They wanted a spiritual reading. They had waited almost 30 minutes since I did not feel comfortable doing one by myself. No one was around at that time. because they were tearing down the sound equipment from the stage. I asked Matt the Pirate if he could jump in since these women had waited and I felt bad. He said that he had not done anything like it in almost a decade. I him it was okay just to give it his best shot. I explained to the two young ladies what a Spiritual Reading was as we started. The moment Matt looked at them and opened his mouth the Holy Spirit surrounded us. Unbeknownst to us these ladies needed spiritual healing from a lot of pain. Both the words from Matt and myself helped these girls heal. Tears rolled down their faces and ours. They had pain from their work and from personal issues in their lives. We inspired them to turn to Christ as the Redeemer and Comforter in times of trouble, and we spoke blessings them to continue their work in Maine. I was left speechless and felt blessed to be able to help these two girls. Also I thanked Matt and told him he has gift that he should open.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

James Shewey Talks about Mormonism

Tonight is a teaching and discussion on NRMs (New Religious Movements) and world religions. Tonight the discussion is on Mormonism.

It is 7pm. The Gathering gang is typically a little late so we are waiting a few minutes to jump into the teaching. Nancy is here. Tim is visiting, because he liked the topic and he is quite eclectic in his view of religion. James, and his wife Nicole who will teach on Jehovah's Witnesses are here. Mike and Will are here as well.

7:09 and Joanne just arrived, and Mike followed by bringing in popcorn. Oh yeah! Popcorn and a Mormon. Carrie arrived just in time for the popcorn.

7:15 and we are off and running.

James worked with LDS kids in California, and took them to Utah and was involved in interfaith dialogues at BYU.

He asked the question about what we had heard about salvation. Not much was known by the group except by Mike and I. Currently the church teaches that salvation is "by grace alone."

There is now a wandering dialogue about the beliefs and practices of Mormonism.

James has brought the discussion into the point of Christology. The Triune nature of God is being considered against the Mormon idea of God being triune in purpose. A review of church history and the Trinity is following the development of the doctrine of the trinity.

7:37 James just read the Nicene creed.

Monarchism is being discussed: That the Father is above in power and authority over the other members of the Godhead.

Modalism: There are three faces to God, masks we might say, which show the different characters of the trinity.

After some debate between a couple people about whether it is important believe some of the specifics of Christianity, or whether all people have the Spirit of God.

I jumped in and mentioned some of my disagreement with some very harsh Church Fathers who established hard lines of heresy, and potentially kept very well meaning seekers from being seen as followers of Christ.

A discussion is now going on about relationship as a means of pursuing sharing our lives with one another. Mike asks what the dynamics of that relationship looks like.

8:13 After James mentions the Mormon belief that all people can become gods, Tim excuses himself. He has been a little uncomfortable since he had a little debate with one of the others about what constitutes true spirituality. I saw this coming about 5 minutes before it occurred.

Follow up and concluding discussions include dealing with Mormon missionaries, and the Mormon belief that the Fall of Man was necessary and good for humanity.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Stories from Halloween Outreach in Salem (Part 1: those who joined us this year)

Over the next 2 weeks I will relate some short stories, and give thanks to the people who have helped us make this year's outreach over the month long Halloween season in Salem, MA.

Halloween in Salem began on October 1st with the Halloween Parade. We handed out fliers to invite people to the Halloween Children's Day we host each year. During this same time friends from around the United States were preparing to come to join us for outreach at the end of the month during our most busy days.

This year we were joined by Steve Pate and Justin Henk from Church on the Coast (The Carlsbad Foursquare Church) in Carlsbad, CA. Steve has been here on and off since the second year of outreach in 2000, and Justin was here for the first time. Allan Henninger was here as well. Allan is a former YWAM leader, and also a former Foursquare Pastor now living and serving in the Los Angeles area. If it was not for these three guys we would never have been able to accomplish the task of running the stage and live music we provide for the city as smoothly as it went.

Janine and Laura who are teachers of the Streams Ministries Internship Classes were here from Tennessee. The Streams Ministries Internship from New Hampshire, and some of the interns from Canada joined us for three weeks of outreach. Together the internships sent about 15 people to help serve. The Bridge Church from Beverly Massachusetts led by John Harding sent prophetic teams to serve throughout the month of October. The Bridge Church in New London, NH came with their Pastor Scott Evelyn. Pastor Scott is one of the initiators of the dynamic outreach to The Burning Man Festival. Rob from Coeur d'Alene, ID who organizes The Burning Man Festival outreach also joined us. These people were involved with prophetic ministry, healing prayer, and free spiritual counseling services to the thousands of people on the streets of Salem.

Grace Fellowship (a CMA Church) in Danvers, MA under the guidance of Anita Coco sent a group of people to run a Not for Sale event in the basement vault of The Gathering.

The First Church of Salem and their pastor Jeffrey Barz-Snell organized a event on the 24th.

Other friends who came to serve included: Tim Hawkins and Nine of his group from Sojourn Collegiate Ministries in Boston. Jesse and Liby Browning an Marcos Reyna from a house church in Beverly, Ben Corey who was an awesome Jesus Deck reader from Grace Chapel in Lexington, and of course the infamous James Wilcox.

The musicians who played on our stage included Mamadou Diop and his band (as well as the drummers he has trained who formed a drum circle), Grateful Ted and Peter Tintendo, Paul Phillips with Tom Conlon and The Petty Thieves, Judy C(ooper), Jim Trick, Lisa Press and her husband Simon, Sarah Vanilla who goes by Lush now, Paul Duffy and the Front Street Coffeehouse Open Mic gang, Debra Crosby's Talent Quest TV Show, Hail Plankton, Dave Mangione and the Vic Morrows, Eric Brown and his band Phatmaxx, and Brian Serfes and DJ Xpress with the Salem Beatbox Championships.

The next post will give thanks to all the gang from Church on the Coast who made this year come together, and have been the backbone of outreach for 11 Halloween seasons now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Letter to Our Friends and Partners

Greetings Friends,

It is impossible in the space of a short post to communicate the number of ways The Gathering reaches out to the city of Salem, MA, it's 500,000 October visitors, and the people seeking out alternative spiritualities like Witchcraft and Paganism. There is no other location in the world with the unique opportunities which have been provided to our small church. Our website says it well: We're a small church with a big mission.

Pastor Jeff Gentry blogs about some of our activities at his site:

• We will serve thousands of people free hot cocoa, and this year Equal Exchange has joined us to help serve Fair Trade (that means not produced by slaves) Hot Cocoa.
• We will personally minister to a couple thousand people in spiritual counseling opportunities, and they will stand in line to sit down with us.
• We will train people to understand and communicate with the unique culture around us in Salem, MA.
• We will help sponsor's sustainability event day on October 24th.
• We will provide the largest free outdoor entertainment venue in the city.
• We will take people through an experience of death and afterlife to allow them to consider the ramifications of eternity.
• We will send people onto the streets dressed as monks to offer free blessings.
• 7/24 prayer will join us for two nights of prayer at The Vault.

... and yet, there is still more happening.

Please consider praying for us each day this season. We are dependent upon the good graces of God, and freedom of His Spirit.

Also consider joining us as partners in support of the ministry at The Gathering. We have recently set up a paypal link on our website which allows you to set up a monthly debit from your account. Some of you have asked me about this in the past, because you wanted to give regularly in an automated manner. You can find the link to this partner support page here:

You are our friends, our acquaintances and a large part of our success. Thank You.

Salem (Peace) to You,

Pastor Phil
The Gathering at Salem
217 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970

Friday, October 02, 2009

Trick or Treating on October 2nd?!

Mayor's Night Out is a time when people can go to a number of events, haunted houses, and wax museums for free, and there is a trick or treating event for the kids of the city. The Gathering has been involved in this for about 5 years. The crowds of kids are getting thicker each year. It has been going on this evening for about 30 minutes now - here are scenes from the Trick or Treating outside the Vault:

Does your town look like this on October 2nd?

This is one of the ways we make sure that the city views The Gathering as a safe place to be in October. Future postings this month will show the ministry we do in both proclamation of the Gospel, and social action.

You can help support our work by visiting our website and giving through paypal.

Gathering Update, Oct. '09

I just finished building the duck house for our five "girls," only to find out that the five female ducks we have been raising since they were one day old are not all girls. Despite having them "sexed" before they were sent to us, one of the girls turned out to be a boy.

Last week the hot water heater in our house gave up the ghost, and leaked all over the basement. $800 later all is well - everything except the checkbook.

The stories which come from home mirror the stories of life at The Gathering. We are on the verge of the most fruitful season of the year - October is almost upon us, and we will start an extremely hard working time of planting the seeds of a harvest of grace and peace.

Like our growing ducks, new life springs up around our ministry each year in October. Like the one boy duck, who we thought was a girl this new life comes with surprises, and does not look like we expected. Like a new hot water heater this outreach comes with a cost.

Unless you have visited Salem, MA in October you can not imagine the potential for touching people with God's love. Over the last 30 years Salem has grown into one of the foremost destinations for people who enjoy Halloween, and for those who are interested in alternative spirituality with 500,000 visitors coming in the month of October.

Often Christians have avoided the festival, believing that the ground was "too hard" for effective outreach. But, 10 years ago we arrived in Salem, and felt that we had a responsibility to touch the multitude of celebrants with the Good News of God's grace and love, and we were surprised to find a welcome reception for the Gospel amidst the October crowds.

So it is that we have found ourselves with great favor in the city - partially due to the interactive, fun and non-confrontational approach we take toward the Halloween season.

Our festival outreach has grown to serve well over 5,000 people in face to face interaction each year, and another 40,000 to 50,000 people who experience our festival and live music events. It has been noted by local Christians, even by the politicians and most surprising to us - even by the Witches - that the work of our church has been influential in establishing an environment of peace, which had not existed 15 years ago during October in Salem. These are a few of our activities this year:

• Hosting Children’s Day – which provides low-cost food and family friendly entertainment for about 3,000 people
• Participating in innovative evangelism by offering P(s)alm Readings from the ancient, mystic wisdom of the scriptures and donning monks robes to go out 2 x 2 offering free blessings to thousands of people
• Serving 8,000-10,000 cups of free hot cocoa throughout October as an act of hospitality
• Partnering with organizations like Not For Sale – a non-profit that speaks out on behalf of the 27 million people who are currently in slavery today (see )

Our small church has been a sacrificially serving and giving group of people, and because of the sacrifice we have been able to support this prime location where we meet in downtown Salem. From this remarkable place so many people (Christian and non-Christian, both from near and far away) have benefited.

It is this time of year in which we typically feel the pinch of financial stress. But this year has been more stressful than most, and we have seen a difference between the giving and the bills, which amounts to about $8,000 deficit over the summer. Like our deceased hot water heater, there has been a rather quick financial leak in the house of the Lord here at The Gathering this summer, even in the midst of a continued surge of God's warm grace and power.

In the past it has been many of you, our friends, who have been part of the sustaining dynamic, which has allowed us to retain this outreach location in downtown Salem. On a daily basis I am reminded of the power of this place. The doors are opened and the passing people (both locals and visitors) wander in to talk, to ask questions, and they consistently find a combination of peace and amazement here.

Please join us in being a part of this life-changing, year round outreach. Especially at this time we need your help in prayer, and in giving. You can join our partners in giving by visiting us at The Gathering Website.

This year Church on the Coast, and Oasis Bridge Church from Carlsbad, CA; The Movement from San Marcos, CA, The Northshore Bridge Church and Harbor Light Church from Beverly, MA; Streams Ministries from Lincoln, New Hampshire; Dennis Huxley and Friends from upstate New York; the Massachusetts branch for Not for Sale (an international anti-human slavery movement) and Allen Henninger from Pasadena, CA should be among the many who join us to help reach Salem and its 500,000 visitors with blessings and good news.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How Green is God? Pub Theology Discussion

Tonight was a bit o' Pub Theology lite, but that doesn't mean that discussion points weren't thoughtful, and observant.

Some points from the evening:

Elizabeth made note that texts from the Old Testament such as the sabbath rest for the land, and God's call to man as caretaker over the earth seemed to mark a distinct call from God for humanity to care about this planet, and therefore it was evident that God cares. Yet, she noted that it is not as easy to find a Green theology in the New Testament. Jesus, and the apostles who write the epistles appear to aim the primary concern at our behavior toward one another almost at the exclusion of the previous OT commands which might have been somewhat more focused on caring over the earth.

Carlos had just returned from lengthy walking trip through Spain. In his discussions with Spanish farmers (mostly Catholic) he found that they considered earth safe farming techniques (organic farming, and the avoidance of over poisoning the land) to be part of what it means to live a life of Christian faith.

Adam noted that he had grown up with some particular biases which now followed into a consideration of the current trends toward a Green lifestyle. he does not own a car now, and uses public transportation. He is careful about using energy at home, and consequently has a low carbon footprint. Nonetheless, as a good evangelical he does have the opinion that there is a chronic and irredeemable problem with the world. If it is gonna burn, he wonders how much effort saving it is worth.

Now this led to a short description of different eschatalogical views by me. I quickly and simply outlined pre-millennial, post-millennial, and a-millennial views of millennium and how these worked either toward, or in opposition to developing a green theology. Without going into the discussion here, and assuming many of you readers will understand the distinctions it was observed that a pre-millennial position naturally leans away from a green theology, and since most evangelicals are of a pre-millennial disposition it is problematic for the evangelical church to develop a concerted effort toward limiting our carbon footprint.

Mary noted some of the scarier elements of the science behind global warming. We discussed the idea of "saving the earth," and playing devil's advocate, I posed the question "who or what are we saving it for?" - especially if we have a pre-millennial theological position. If its all gonna burn how can we really do anything anyway?

Carlos suggested that we are saving it for our children. Adam mentioned that if the rapture was to occur they would miss that future anyway. I ended by noting that at the very least our society believes that true spirituality cares about saving the earth for our children and grandchildren, and a church that does not care does not appear to be serving humanity. Mary had noted earlier in the evening that some of the things evangelicals believe make a green theology nearly impossible to develop.

Although the evening highlighted this fact, we were a greener thinking group than might have been discussing theological issues when I first joined this Christian tribe 30 years ago.

Friday, September 18, 2009

October Coming! Get ready to Perform!

Taking a Page from Welsh traditions, The Gathering is arranging for a series of talent competitions this October. Although talent competitions are fairly universal, they are also strangely Welsh in feel. Following the Eisteddfod model we will be organizing (or organising for you British isle types) three competitions during the October Haunted Happenings season.

1. Salem Children's Day Talent Show - Saturday, Oct. 10th 2pm to 5pm on the Salem Common. This coincides with the Salem Halloween Children's Day. Typically 2-3,000 people are in attendance. Registration fee is $5, but sponsorships are available for those who can not afford the registration fee. Children up to age 12 are eligible for this competition.

2. Beat Down Salem! Salem Beat Box Championship - Thanks to Brian Serfes for his inspiration and work in pulling this great show together. Saturday, October 17th from 1pm to 5pm. This is an all age competition for the Salem Beat Box Champ. Free Registration.

3. Ysbrydnos: 2009 Salem Bardic Competition - calling all poets, storytellers, musicians, and any combination thereof. This is the event to win the bardic staff and the title 2009 Bard of Salem. Special consideration is given to creativity, originality, and a certain spiritual je ne sais quoi. Registration is $10. The event will take place over October 30th, and 31st with the winning of the Bardic Staff taking place on the Fountain Stage at the Museum Place Mall on Essex Street on Halloween evening.

For more information on any of these competitions call The Gathering at 978-744-8444, or e-mail pastorphil at You could be the next Bard.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Vault in The Vault

Yes, we call our meeting place The Vault. But we call it that because the big old vault is the main piece of furniture in the room. That room is now completely empty, and ready for painting.

Thanks to Mike Pelletier and his hard work, and for that old forklift he owns. Thanks to his hired help. Thanks to the guys from church who helped out. Glenn is a beast of a worker. Tom has been there for some good old dirty work, and yep that's me with with the crew. Jeff Menasco is not pictured, but he helped Glenn level the floor.

These pictures were taken by Kirsten who was visiting Tom and Mary. Thanks Kirsten.

I sure am looking forward to what this old vault space will become.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Service - Sunday, August 16th

This morning Carl lead worship. We began with a recitation of the Apostle's Creed (the Lutheran Version), and the Celtic Prayer "Come I This Day."

Carl and Melissa ended the worship music with the song "Continue." Oh my gosh they are good together, and this was one of the sweetest worship songs I've heard done in quite some time.

I preached my portion of the message first (Pastor Phil writing here). We have been talking about Knowing God for the month of August, and this week we are talking about that very Christian word "sanctification."

I outlined a history of sanctification very briefly, and hopefully with a minor degree of accuracy. I will outline that later, as Ryan is preaching now, and I want to capture his thoughts.

Ryan started with an illustration from the movie "The Mission." If you are familiar with the moment the pack off armor is cut off "the missionary" you will know the illustration.

After this beginning Ryan takes us to the story of The Good Samaritan, and has told that Jesus will turn the idea of sanctification upside down. The religious leaders pass the guy who has been beat up, and Ryan ties this into the laws of sanctification - the fact that you can not touch the dead or you will be unclean, and so there is this complication with helping the guy who might be dead on the side of the road. But the "syncretist," outsider comes along and helps the guy left for dead.

So the Samaritan is more an instrument of reconciliation and the ways of God than the religious leaders.

So, in conclusion Ryan asks, "what does this say about how we live?"

The religious leaders tried to serve God in sanctification from unclean things. He loved God, but did not love His neighbor, and therefore served God in a faulty, broken way.

Reaching out across barriers to serve people with mercy is part of being set apart for God - sanctified.

Now 6 hours later I am completing the part of the message I promised earlier:

A quick breakdown of the some thoughts about sanctification in different Christian traditions:

Roman Catholicism: Sanctification is received as a divine gift. This shows itself clearly in Augustine's confession. The idea of suffering as part of the path of our drawing close to God also plays a part in the Catholic concept of sanctification.

Orthodoxy: (I know a bit too generic to place it all in one big box, but hey, I'm a Pentecostal boy. This will be the best I can do.) Theosis (partaking of the Divine nature in oneness with God is the dynamic reality of our sanctification. There is an impartation of divine life into the human being.

Lutheranism: Luther spoke of the work of the Spirit through the power of God's Word as being the transforming element.

Reformed: Jesus is our Sanctification, and our union with Him is what creates dynamic character change in movement toward honoring, loving, serving God more fully.

Methodism and John Wesley: Wesley's thinking sparked the transition toward what become the Holiness and Pentecostal movements. Sanctification was viewed by many proponents of his theology as a second work of grace. This occurs instantaneously and is an experience happening to believers after their salvation. Others view the work as ongoing through life with moments of seeking God and receiving transformation in sudden releases of grace.

These views of sanctification were shared with the approach that none were wrong, none were the full picture, but that each presented elements we can value and incorporate into our belief system, and spiritual practice.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Join us in Prayer, Service and Giving this October

Here in Salem Massachusetts the coming months are our most active. With the onset of a revival in alternative spirituality, and the increased commercial success of the Halloween holiday Salem has become perhaps the world's most visited place for people interested in the occult and Witchcraft. This fact also places our small Christian church front and center in providing guidance to spiritual seekers in this new age of postmodern spirituality.

Our location on the Heritage Trial - the red line running through Salem's downtown, ensures that most of the million people who visit Salem each year walk by our front doors. While the tourism increases from the beginning of the summer, and peaks throughout October our location becomes more dynamic as an outreach center. This is why we are here - to touch our world with grace as it searches for meaning.

Our mission has expanded each year, and we now minister to thousands of people. Of course the cost of maintaining this ministry is significant, but our small group has done remarkable things in the ten years of ministry in Salem. We have accomplished outreach goals unheard of for churches much larger.

Below are highlights of our halloween events are discussed below in this YouTube clip:

People from all over the US, Canada, and even the UK have been participants in the our outreach programs. We have become a small church with a global impact.

Christians from across the globe come to learn new ways of impacting our rapidly changing society, and visitors from around the globe stop in to experience God in ways they have never before known.

Of course this comes with a great price. Time, energy, and money are sacrificed year after year by our small and committed group who hold fast to the belief that there is a God Who cares for all people, and wants to touch them with His love.

This is the time of year when the outreach expands beyond the capacity for us to carry by ourselves: a Children's Day with 2,000 to 3,000 locals in attendance, a stage with 10 days of live music, ministry tents with free spiritual counseling touching thousands of people who will stand in line, free hot cocoa to chilly visitors, and lessons with dramatic social commentary are all part of our upcoming Fall Outreach. In terms of time, energy and money we are stretched beyond ourselves.

And so it is at this time that we reach out to our friends and ask for your prayer, your consideration to join us in these labors of love during the month of October, and in financial support. Our small faithful group continues to hold a unique and significant place of prominence in a time, and in a place often thought to be devoid of Christian influence, and thousands of Christians and non-Christians from outside our four walls are influenced for the better by our outreach.

Like most of our nation during this current season, we too have been crunched by the financially challenging times. Your prayer, your words of support, the rolling up of your sleeves for those who can join us this October, and your generous giving continue to be the things which get us over the hump each year.

Will you join us in concern for our world, which passes by our doors in these coming months?

If you would like to be part of this October's Prayer Team simply e-mail me at pastorphil (at) request to be added to the list.

If you would like to join us in October as we touch the world, which comes to our door, you can e-mail me at pastorphil (at) asking for more information about joining the outreach this Fall.

If you would like to give toward this grand project and help fund these endeavors you can go to our website at and click on the make a donation button to reach the secure Paypal giving page.

May the Lord be Your Peace and Your Strength. Thank you for being part of our strength in Him.

Gwyn Eich Byd (A Welsh Blessing),
Pastor Phil

Last Night at Pub Theology

Slade, Matt the Pirate and Mary the Goth Theologian, James (who had the ultimate statement on entropic spirituality for the evening), Mary the posh bathroom model/salesperson, Tom the chess-king, Elizabeth the violist who keeps us on track, The Prof. Carlos Z. who is heading to Spain tomorrow with 15 students for three months , and myself were the crew for Pub Theology last night.

We started by asking whether our philosophies dictated our actions, or whether it is possible that our experiences and actions informed and transformed our philosophies and theology. Of course, the answer was yes, but to varying degrees with each person. The discussion then migrated to the subject of entropy - I gave the 2nd law of thermodynamics definition of it, to which Slade my fellow anarchist (a title I only half jokingly apply to myself, but that's another long post to be sure, and it is tied to the idea of Christian Freedom, and the activities of God) added his retort on increasing disorder. This then moved to a discussion of spiritual entropy. James kicked this off by stating that unless we worked on serving others spiritual entropy was inevitable. I asked if he would either like to share that at church, or if I could steal it. I prefer the former.

James asked us why we were Christians at one point. That was a rather cool exchange. So often that discussion can be rather canned, but in a Pub it takes on a new life. We were loud, we were animated, we had fun, and we hung out for about 2 and a half hours - Nice.

Pub Theology with The Gathering occurs once a month on the last Tuesday of the month at The Old Spot in Salem.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

10 Years of Service in Salem, MA

As of June this year we began celebrating our 10th year living and ministering in Salem, Massachusetts. It has been a wild adventure at times, and we are thankful to the people who have blessed us during this season. The following is a press release which has been sent out, and we would love to have you join us as we do celebration 2.0 on Sunday, July 26th. (We will be doing a celebration in honor of some various aspect of our community life once a month for a number of months.)

The Gathering: Celebrating 10 Years of Service in Salem

On July 26th at 10am The Gathering will be celebrating 10 years of service in the community of Salem. The celebration will occur at the church's 10am Sunday service at The Vault - 217 Essex Street in Salem.

The Gathering began in the summer of 1999 with two families from Southern California. From the first year this new church had established itself as an organization dedicated to serving the city of Salem.

In their first October, they provided free live music on the streets of Salem, began to give away free hot cocoa, and offered free spiritual counsel to visitors and locals alike.

From this simple beginning the outreach of The Gathering has grown to include 40 to 50 hours of live music at The Fountain stage on Essex Street each October, organizing and sponsoring the Annual Salem Halloween Children's Day on the Common, serving up to 10,000 cups of free hot cocoa each October, offering free dream interpretation and spiritual counsel to thousands each year, painting children's faces during the city's 4th of July celebration, serving the crowds during the Christmas Tree Burning each January, supplying sound for community events, and collecting and distributing warm clothing to those in need each winter.

The story of this service has appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, on syndicated radio programs, and across the nation and in the Caribbean in local newspapers.

Pastor Phil Wyman has estimated that The Gathering has contributed $750,000 to the city of Salem and its visitors in the last 10 years in donations, and volunteer labor. "I have been a pastor for 24 years, and I am constantly amazed by the dedication of our church members and the constant hospitality we have extended through them and through our extended Gathering family far and near in service to our community." says Pastor Phil.

The celebration will relive the stories of this service to the community. For more information, you can call The Gathering at 978-744-8444, or e-mail at

Monday, July 06, 2009

Face Painting on the Fourth of July

For the last 5 years (I think) The Gathering has been painting faces for free for the children of Salem on the 4th of July. Down on Derby Wharf during the day, before the fireworks happen there is a kids fair, asnd we paint faces. Fortunately there are some of us (well, "us" in not an accurate term, because I am not one of the "us") who are professional artists. Jeff, Brian, Kay, and Adam were our professionals this year. A high school girl from Ipswich named Rea spontaneously joined us this year, and she was good too.

Below are pictures from the day. Thanks to all who helped out: Jeff M, Jeff G, Carlos, Jodi, Brian, Diane, Mike, Kay, Adam, and Rea. They made a great team. As you can tell by the pictures below there were quite a few faces wanting to be painted. The size of the line is not at its peak, and it looked like this non-stop for 3 and a half hours.

Free is just too good to pass up.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Salem Living Green Fair

The Salem Living Green and Renewable Energy Fair has begun. We are the location for the speaker series, and it will begin at 11am.

Rinus Oestrook from the Salem Chamber of Commerce began by declaring this Salem Green Day.

I introduced the first speaker, and before doing so I highlighted the Free Washington DC Conference on June 25-26, Convergence on Zero, and mentioned that if we get a good Boston area turnout that Paul Allen the leader of the Centre for Alternative Technology wants to meet with us.

The Green House Doctor

Paul Marquis is the first speaker. He is the "Green House Doctor," and was voted "Best Green Consultant" by Boston Magazine in 2007. He is talking about Green materials for your home - especially dealing with historic restorations.

Paul is talking about recycled content and is considering other issues - such as using wood may require treatment, and that treatment may be harmful. Products need to be considered for being made from recycled products, if they can be recycled later, how long lasting they are, whether they need treatment during their life. In such considerations materials made from recycled plastics may be better than wood, because of the need for regular harsh treatment.

Now he is talking about the standards for historic homes. Everything on the outside of the home is subject to the historic commission's jurisdiction, unless hardship can be declared in that restoration to historic levels. So if you have clapboard siding, and need to replace it you may not be able to change it to something else, but you can make sure to use FSC certified lumber.

When you are choosing green Products there is no Gold Standard: General criteria though:

Lumber: FSC certified, torrified wood (in New England there is a company called Cambia Lumber which makes torrified lumber), another product Pure Wood.

Paints: Hey, I paint my house with C2 - it is on his list! Yeah. Then he mentioned milk paint. Rinus sitting next to me here has used it, and says it is the best thing for furniture refinishing.

Raw Food Discussion

Kristen Overlook and Anna Forkan from Revitalive Health and Wellness, LLC are talking about Eating Green, and they are raw food people. They both studied under the mother of the raw food movement Dr. Ann Wigmore.

This discussion has none of the "Don't kill animals!" type of guilt inducing perspective. They are talking about the fun side of Raw food! that's how they put it.

American's eat 8oz. of beef a day. could power a house off that kind of energy - that is their point.

Now - to "unfired foods." Reference to "The China Study". Also a reference to the Pottenger Cat Study. Now there was some debate about Pottenger's Cats on NPR this week, and it seems that not everyone thinks the study has accuracy, and applicability to this issue.

Protein? From where? Greens - Juiced Greens - Wheat Grass is high on the list. 75% of their diet is greens.

They are talking about good bacteria now. Quote from Louis Pasteur "The microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything." Kristin says this was a late in life quote from Mr. Pasteurization. Otherwise, if we had listened to him, we may not have pasteurized everything, because there are positive healing enzymes in "living food." It is not getting rid of them, but using them properly.

Now Kristin is giving testimonies of people who have been healed through a raw food diet in Central American missions they have been on.

Now - contrasting thee digestive tracts of carnivors and and humans. 33ft of GI tract or us. 6ft for a big cat. Carnivors have other enzymes we do not.

The FDA allows milk to have a certain number "puss sacks." Yummmmmmm.

Now there is a discussion of coffee - heavy metal, cadmium is in coffee. Steak: vacuum sealed left on the counter for three days --> it had worms! from where? they were already living in it.

Now they are talking about poop! Colon discussion. Jeff Cox asked if they believe in enemas. Yes they doo, uhm I mean do. They like to talk about poo, because the colon is so important to our health.

Solar Energy Incentives by Sunlight Solar

Nick and Ryan from Sunlight Solar are talking about incentives for solar panels. In MA, there are great incentive programs for both commercial, as well as private homes.

The basics is that the sun rays received by the panels is converted in an inverter and thus connected to the home. Helps roll back the meter saving monetary levels.

PPA(Power Purchasing Agreements) or third parties are involved with no up front costs with 10 or 15 year buy out options. The rationale is both environmental and financial. For example the installation of a 5kW system would amount to planting 30 acres of trees or not driving 237,000 miles. The end result is the removal OF 190,000 lbs of CO2 gases.

In MA, 4 rebates that individuals can qualify for

1. $ per $ subtract from the invoice
2. $5 per watt(performance based)
3. Maximum, about $50,000
4. Adjusted for orientation, shade and tilt angle

Federally, $2000 max for residence systems and operating prior to Dec 31, 2008

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ysbrydnos 2009 - an Eisteddfod coming this October!

We will be looking for musicians, poets, and storytellers for the October Spirit Night 2009 bardic Competition. Ysbrydnos (euhs-bruhd-nos) is one of the Welsh words for Halloween Night. It means Spirit-Night, and this October the the Fountain Stage sponsored by The Gathering will be hosting an Eisteddfod (a Bardic Competition). There will be a Children's Competition in a couple age groups, and an adult competition. The winning adult will be crowned the Bard of Salem for the year. More information to come later. For now, keep your calendar clear enough to compete!

Today Jeff Menasco and I created the logo for the event. Well, actually, I simply came up with the idea of the first letter as a harp, and sketched it out, then took it to Jeff, and he banged out this cool logo in a little over an hour of work with me looking over his shoulder, and giving my two cents here and there. I am pretty darn happy with it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Salem Summer Solstice Fair - sponsored by The Gathering - Looking for Dancers, Jugglers, Spinners, Drummers...

Click on the flyer below for a full size image. Come join the party on June 21st!

Tonight - Halloween Prep Meeting

It is time already to prep for Halloween. Okay that's not accurate, we've been talking for over a month now. Tonight at 6pm the group of outreach preparers will gathering at The Vault to plan for the month of October.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday, June 7th Morning Service

10:10 - Small churches usually start late. Lyle Schaller said so back in the 70's with his book The Small Church is Different. It is still true for us in Salem today. But, now here I go to pull this talkative crew together.

10:17 - He says that but we still didn't start church until now. The Gathering starts really late. This is Gentry by the way.

10:20 - There is a pretty full house here today and a good energy is pervading the place. Maybe that energy is the Holy Spirit. Hopefully it is.

Phil invited everyone to participate in the service today in the way that they feel led. Usually that just means that a couple of extra people play drums or something and maybe a few extra prayers are prayed. But with this crew, you never really know what an invitation to contribution will bring.

10:25 - After a few community recitations - "Come I This Day" and "The Beatitudes" - we are going to sing one of Phil's original songs, "Fall From Heaven." I am glad to be a part of a church where we have so many musicians and artists who bless us with their creative contributions. Carl writes great songs too, btw, and Phil's scripture chants are available for use in your church or community worship.

10:31 - I just ran into a family of tourists who were taking pictures of the outside of our building. Since the doors were open and we welcome interruptions, I invited them in to take pics. They politely refused, but we always welcome that sort of thing.

10:37 - Teaching time. We'll see what Phil has to bring today. The bulletin text is I Corinthians 15:12-19.

We're starting with a Scripture chant. Thank God. Sing along at home: God be merciful unto us and bless us. And cause His face to shine upon us..."

Today really is one of those days where it feels like anything can happen.

Phil is interspersing the chant above with the prayers of the people. People are asking for the end to war in Iraq and Afghanistan; parenting two year olds (namely mine); for a member's parents who are going to work with the Mennonite Mission in Indonesia for four years.

10:47 - Now Phil is starting teaching. Sorry for the false alarm.

Phil is starting by contrasting times of worship that try to replicate heaven on earth - extremely high church, beautiful cathedrals, professionally produced evangelistic/healing services, the mormon tabernacle - with worship gatherings which welcome the chaos of ordinary life - where we don't necessarily try to control people's weaknesses, awkward social interactions, the banging and clanging of real life interactions. Phil says that he prefers churches where anarchy, hopefully God's, breaks out and faith is worked out in the context of the mess.

Carlos quickly asked: "how do you know when the anarchy is God's or Satan's?"

Jeff M responded: "look at the outcomes." James S responded: um, actually I was typing, not listening.

Took a bathroom break. Who knows what I missed.

Phil: "When we get together in these moments, we should experience real life. Praying for two year olds in the midst of our frustration is real life. That's the way it ought to be."

A lot of joking about children, "spiritual warfare," murphy's law, etc.

Phil: "Through stories I want to give some philosophical background to who we are and what we do." Phil then identified a guest and asked if we could pray for his pain. The man said yes, he has a broken shoulder. We stopped and prayed.

The first story I'm going to tell...Phil is telling his story about God slapping him, which is also his conversion story.

"I want to explain how my story has influenced my view on this idea or concept that we call evangelism.

* Evangelism has become one of these terms that is loathed. According to recent studies, Evangelicals, who take their name from this emphases on the proclamation of the good news, are trusted by others about as much as prostitutes or lawyers

* One of the things that makes evangelism so hard, that makes it feel forced on people, is that Christians think they are solely responsible for the work of proclamation or evangelism. But, as my story suggests, God is already working in people's lives. We should never judge people based on what we think God is doing in their lives. We don't know what God is doing. So one of my assumptions in our work in Salem is that God is already working in their lives and we just need to trust his work and accompany people. Maybe we can help people interpret their experience or help them in other ways

* When I was younger I had the strong sense that God was more interested in my hereafter than in the here and now. I think that is true in a sense, though every single moment has the capacity to be an eternal moment. By opening myself to these eternal moments I am making my way to the great eternal moment in his presence. However, by focusing too much on people's hereafter we can put too much pressure on them to make choices in keeping with our hope for their eternal life

* James S - "When we went on mission trips to Utah we were always asked this really awkward question on our return: 'How many people did you convert.' That's an extremely awkward question, because I was out to sow seeds, to produce or reap the harvest is not something I can make happen."

Aside: there is the sound of a trumpet wafting through the streets. I don't know if it is recorded or not. Is this the weekend of the jazz festival. Btw - this aside was interrupted by someone asking for the men's room. There is always a lot of traffic around here to and from the johns.

Aside, Aside: More people are just wandering in and sitting down. That's cool.

* Sometimes in caring for the world here and now, we can lose sight of the eternal implications of what we are doing. We tend to have this pendulum swing as believers between coming too focused on there hereafter or, on the other side, of becoming too focused on the here and now. We need to find the terrible tension and balance between the here and now and the hereafter. Phil gives the illustration of a tightrope walker, who is balancing between his right and his left. As evangelistic Christians we have to be able to balance on that line.

* Reading of the scripture: "If Christ is not risen, your faith is future; you are still in your sins...If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." Phil - If we believe in the resurrection and it did not, in fact, of occur, we are following an empty hope. I Cor 9:23 - "I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some." In my case, I study witchcraft and other religions in order that I might serve and know people well.

11:38 - Turn to Eucharist.

12:01 - this is Phil typing after the service now. Wow, I went really long compared to usual. I like the service to be about an hour and fifteen minutes, including fellowshipping and starting late. We started on small church time - 15 minutes late, and then went about an hour and a half, and so it was a really long service for us.

Friday, June 05, 2009

10 Years!

The Gathering has been in Salem, Massachusetts for 10 years now. On June 21st, we will be hosting a Summer Solstice Fair on the streets near the church with a drum circle, and British Rock from Brittanica. We will tell our story on that Sunday morning service as well.

Then more to come in July, August, September, and... as well.

Come hang out with us on June 21st!

10am - service
noon to 5pm - Summer Solstice Fair
6pm - An evening of thankful reflection

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday, May 31st at The Gathering - evening service

Just as we have been splitting the messages into two parts with two preachers in the morning service, we repeat this pattern in the evening as well. So once again Jeff Gentry and myself (Pastor Phil) are doing the teaching. Jeff is teaching on the first half of James 5, and I and teaching on the last half.

It is slowly growing darker now at 7:05 after we sang together, and prayed about needs. Only the smallest lights in the room are on, and candles are lit. At the communion table there are four candles on candlesticks, and a black box with with an orthodox icon and a candle in it, and a Celtic cross about 16 inches tall.

The evening service is a very small group often, and tonight there are about 10 of us.

One guy, who is a part of the church is sleeping in the back. He's sleeping off a drinking session. It's probably safer here than out on the street.

There is a pile of books on the floor in the middle of the room. It represents our attempt to find answers to life in black and white. A small beautifully carved wooden cross sits atop it.

Jeff is teaching again on patience and gossiping from the text of James 5.

"Patience in suffering" is a part of the text being developed here. Job, Moses in the desert, Abraham, Joseph imprisoned.... Now we are discussing personal models. Jeff suggests Mother Theresa, and James Shewey mentions a professor he had who told his students to prepare for the last days by taking the garbage out for mom when she asks - otherwise live our life now in preparation for the future. The guy in the back mentions Bev and I. He says that from time to time, and Bev an get embarrassed a little but love him a lot.

Now at 8:15 - I taught and connected Pentecost, and the openness of sharing the gifts of the spirit as discussed in ! Cor. 14:26-33 with James 5. The Carlos (the Prof. Carlos Z.) presented communion. Our sleeping friend woke up, and was a little trouble during communion because he was "sauced."

The service was a nice open service with good discussion times, and a little male heavy tonight, which is unique for Sunday evenings.