Friday, October 02, 2009

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.

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