Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Gathering through the year in a glimpse

This year at The Gathering may one day be viewed as the year of blind survival.  We continued in many of the same community outreach projects as we have for many years now.  Christmas Tree Bonfire with the free hot cocoa, Fourth of July face-painting for the kids of the city, the month long Halloween outreach were among the many things we have once again done in our city.

Along with the standard yearly projects The Gathering has seen new faces, written new music for the Advent season, made new friends from far-away places, and like many individuals during this difficult economic season - we have struggled along and yet survived with gentle smiles at the end of the season.

The story of struggle and survival, and of grace in the midst of difficulty is the story of scripture.  It is the story of redemption, which is the story of Christ.  Each of us live through this story in our own way, as God works in our lives over the years.

This year we have stories of blessing which come from those who joined us from afar, and those who are members here at The Gathering.

Taloa Gibson joined us from Tulsa, Oklahoma during the summer and we created a podcast with Taloa reading Bible passages, and singing in his Native American tongue - Choctaw.  Mark and Anthea Searle joined us from the UK during the first days of October outreach, and were a greet blessing to the members of our church with their "More Light" ministry activities.  Mark and Anthea created a wonderful blog about the experience. (user: salem, pass: letmein)

A few of the stories from our Halloween outreach have been compiled here on The Gathering's blog, and include those who joined us from other churches and other states, as well as thoughts from our own gang at The Gathering.

Pub Theology has continued on the last Tuesday of each month with a group from The Gathering as well as friends from outside the church discussing relevant theological issues.  People from every perspective of life have joined us for these discussions, and it continues to be one of ways we network with the people of Salem and share our faith.

Our small church in the heart of Salem, MA continues to be an pilgrimage location for people who travel from afar, and for locals in need of a simple touch from the Lord.  People have found their first touch of God and have experienced His loving grace.  People have discovered an unencumbered and simple Christianity.  People have worked together as a family, and been servants of hospitality to others from around the world, and this is at the heart of this small community called The Gathering.

Our members are learning to serve, to teach, to offer hospitality, and to do this toward all people.  In a city known for its history and its contemporary expression of witchcraft we have had the unique opportunity to accepted by the many different groups in Salem, and still be recognized for our simple unwavering devotion to Jesus.

As this year ends and the next begins we are embarking on a recording project of chants and worship music we have written, and hope to have them available soon in the coming year. 

We recognize that it is many of you:  our friends, family, and fans who help us continue forward in our service.  Thank you for your prayer, and support through 2010.  We are ever indebted to you.

For those who would like donate to help us in our journey of serving the city of Salem you can donate securely online through Paypal on our website at

Unedited reports from October

Stories from October:

OK John here goes.  I was teamed with Nelleke and Allie and a couple came in visiting from Chicago.  She was kind of jovial and talkative and he was non-verbal and somewhat melancholy.  After hearing her we turned to him and he told us about a dream he had and it involved at the end, him chasing,with a stick/staff, rodents that were surrounding him.  He was also wearing a helmet.  Allie determined that the rodents had something to do with depression or mental illness, which he said he had for some time.  This is when we asked him if we could pray for him, and I asked if I could pray in the name of Jesus and he okayed that request.  We then layed hands on his head and put some anointing oil on his forehead, which he also okayed.  Now he had NOT been smiling at all up to this point and we asked how he felt and a great big smiley face came upon him, his countenance totally changed, Praise the LORD.  After this, girl A and B came to us.  They were visiting from a college.  Girl A had a pocketbook with three straps on it  and it seemed to me that they were tangled and the word entangled came to my thoughts.  I left it alone for a while because I didn't know what exactly what that meant and if it was for her.  Another word came to me about girl A, afraid, and I asked her if she was afraid of what was going on and she said no, but immediately girl B said to her, "You lie".  We didn't say anything about it.  The word entangled was still with me so I asked girl A, not B who owned the pocketbook. if she was entangled in something or with someone and immediately girl B leaned towards her and whispered into her ear.  Girl A started to let us know about some guy she was involved with but wanted out of it and he wasn't leaving her alone, so we began seriously praying for this to end and that he would be out her life.  After this girl B said to her friend " Do you feel better now" and the answer was "Yes".  I did ask if she had been a little afraid of this all the time and she did admit it and that was all that was said.  See you Sunday and say hello to Sabrina for me.  Jerry.  PS There is one thing I said to the man who was wearing the helmet in his dream which he agreed with but I could have maybe said it differently.  I said that the helmet was probably keeping your head on straight.  What do you think.

Hi John,
Jim said you were asking about what happened to the Saudi guys in Salem yesterday. I was on a team with Fotios and Barry when a Saudi Harvard professor M- in psychology came in with a friend Ma-, an MA student in business.  M- said that he had been in the gathering for a spiritual reading last year and this year he brought Ma- who had just arrived in the US. We first gave Ma- a spiritual reading. Unfortutely Barry and Fotios treated both guys like new age people, talking about the Creator in front of these Muslims. M-, the prof, said to Ma- 'they mean God' but Barry and Fotios did not pick up on it and kept talking about the Creator. They both got very good words for Ma-: they saw him as a royal person who takes good care of others. Ma- said that he doesn't like to be higher than others. We could not understand why that was a problem for him so there was a pause. Then I asked them straightaway if they were Muslims. They said yes. I said that we both believe in Jesus, except they call him Isa al Masih. M- said 'yes but he is a prophet for us but not for you Christians'. Fotios said 'he is the son of God for us' and then the conversation went on another topic. Ma- also asked if there was a spell on him as he has many enemies who are into black magic. (At this point it should have dawned on me that Ma- was afraid of being a royal person as this would attract the jealousy of his friends, or the evil eye or whatever but I only realized this hours later). Fotios said that he saw that Ma- was well protected. Ma- said that that that makes sense as he has had the impression since age 5 that there is some being from another dimension standing behind him, protecting him. Fotios and Barry tried to tell him that that is the Creator who wants to have a relationship with him, and that Ma- can take the initiative to make contact with him. I was afraid that this would affirm them in their belief in Allah so I became more and more nervous. Ma- said that he could see I wanted to say something. So I said that, according to the Quran Jesus will judge the world, so he is very important, so he can protect Ma-. I did not get any further. I'm not sure if I got the order right here, was I first or was Fotios first? Anyhow, I regret that I not having said that the person protecting him was Jesus in my view but on the other hand I cannot disagree with Fotios in front of them. I was also too slow to react because I was intimidated by the idea that I was talking to Muslims. We gave M- also an encouraging word but made no spiritual connection. I will just keep praying for them.

I learned from this that on the one hand I should not be intimidated and take more initiative, but on the other, I don't think we could improve anything as we were trained to help ex Catholics and new agers but not muslims as they are so rare. If you were to train us for Muslims as well the training would take a few more days... Besides that, we cannot correct each other in front of the clients, can we?

Thank you for your training and for leading us. We enjoyed the outreach very much and learned a lot.

Here's a little description of my last two sessions, which were such a blessing to me.
- JJ

Last Two Ministry Sessions, 2010-10-31 (around 9:00- 10:00 PM)


April (leader)
Dennis (with red headscarf & moccasins)
Jim Johansson

1)    To M- & J-

M- was coming back after getting prophecy last year because he got such accurate revelation last year. He definitely wasn’t disappointed this year in that department. I have seen by now a lot of accurate revelation, but the accuracy and confidence with which things were delivered here went beyond anything I had seen, and really left me in awe, both by Dennis and April.

April described very accurately J-'s personality, even noting that “someone with horns” (M-’s costume) teased her about some to these characteristics. Basically she was very childlike and starry-eyed.

Dennis described M- in great detail, how everything he does is focused on the future, at the expense of enjoying the present, and how he could correct this. Everything was extremely accurate and detailed.

We did a “spiritual encounter” for both of them. J- felt tingling and some heat. M- got some revelation, seeing a forge, and something being built, and some other things.

In the end M- revealed that he believed in the Norse gods. April talked some about this, apparently ineffectively. I wished I had asked him, “You’ve seen that the God of the Bible can give you accurate revelation, and solutions to your problems, showing that he loves you. Could the gods you are now following do that for you?” Unfortunately I didn’t ask that.

2)    D-

D- was quite a case, and quite a gift from God as my final Halloween experience here. He apparently slipped by the screeners, and suddenly just plopped himself down in the chair in front of us when the previous couple got up. He talked very much, and obviously used it as a defense mechanism as well. He turned out to be an ex-con, and he clearly had the ex-con ways of both manipulation and looking for someone’s tricks in everything, not trusting anything you say, always looking for your “angle”. He knew AA inside and out, plus NA (narcotics anonymous). He was using come-on language with April, which she of course ignored. He got up to walk away, when April called out to say we really wanted to do a reading for him, and he came back and sat down again.

April told Dennis to go first, apparently knowing he had something. D- jokingly asked, “So, are you going to tell me about my future?” When he saw how burdened Dennis was to give the word, he said, “Don’t worry, if you see me going to jail, I’m used to that. I’ve been there many times.”

Dennis told him, “I’m not going to tell you about your future, but about your past.” Then he said, with an obvious emotional struggle, “This is totally outside of what we do, but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway. When you were a little child, someone beat you brutally. You can do all the AA you want, but until you deal with this, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Finally D- was caught by surprise, and sat briefly with his mouth open. It turned out even worse that stated. After he had done something naughty, his grandmother told him to come to her, promising that she wouldn’t do anything to him. When she got a hold of him, she beat him bloody, to within an inch of his life. So she had betrayed his trust as well as nearly killing him.

Dennis told him that he would have to forgive his (dead) grandmother. Very surprisingly, D- was not only willing, but seemed to do it quite easily.

About that time, the Spirit came very powerfully on me, in a slightly different experience than I had ever had. It was like a freight train passing thru me, headed for David. As soon as I was about to say something, April said, “Jim, I think you’ve got a word for D-”.

I released this word, “God says he is going to grow you up into the full stature of the man he designed you to be.” I could barely choke out the last words with the overwhelming emotion that gripped me. I expected to see this freight train bowl D- over, but I really didn’t seem much impact on him. I repeated it to try and get him to remember it. I still couldn’t believe how he didn’t appear to be impacted, as it had totally penetrated my soul, and was still doing so an hour later.

After that April revealed that he had made some inner vow that kept him from getting married. It turned out he had done that in 11th grade after an unrequited love, and had dropped out of high school as a result. April discussed some psychological ins and outs with D-, showing, I thought, great insight.

Sometime in there there was more discussion of the abuse, and God gave me a second word; again I was very powerfully gripped by it. I delivered it, with somewhat less emotion than the first, but still it was very powerful in my soul. It was something like, “God says it ends with you. This generational curse of abuse ends with you.” (I motioned a horizontal cutting-off motion with my hand.) I then explained that he could get married with confidence, because now the abuse cycle was broken, and would not go on to his children if had had any. He then told us he had traced it back to his great grandmother; he assumed that it went back for many more generations, but he couldn’t trace it back any farther than her.

They led him to renounce that vow, and break the power of it. Strangely it turned out to be harder for him to do that forgiving his grandmother, but eventually he got there.

At this point Dennis suddenly says, “Now I’m going to reveal your future to you. You are going to be in demand to speak at AA meetings because of your powerful testimony. You will be travelling to different places to give your testimony.”

Several times D- showed he couldn’t believe what was happening, couldn’t believe April and I had just met, etc. His mind seemed to be wildly searching for some “angle”, and coming up blank. I trust eventually he concluded that there was no “angle” – we really were who we said, and were really getting revelation, and communicating the love of God.

Somewhere in all the talk, he had revealed that he prays to Jesus, but we didn’t explore where he was at spiritually beyond that while I was still there. Hopefully April and Dennis did more when I left. I felt I had to leave to get Byarta back home, as well as my wife, so I left D- in their hands.

From Dennis:

Hi, Phil. Here's a write up of a ministry experience I had on Sunday.
Wishing I was still in Salem hanging out with you.

It was late Halloween night and another successful, fulfilling season of ministering to people at Salem was just about over. The team I was ministering with at the time was just finishing up what seemed to be an effective session with two people, a couple. We had said our goodbyes, and they had no sooner stood to leave when a very animated man, gesturing and talking nonstop, came over and sat down, and began flirting with April, the lone woman on our team of three. April tactfully excused herself and walked away, saying she needed a short break, but would be back. The other team member and I (Forgive me, whoever you are, I forgot your name. You’re from the North Shore Bridge and you look a little like Brian McClaren) tried to engage the man in conversation. He never stopped talking in his nervous laughter kind of speech, and never stopped moving either. He sat, then he stood, then he was leaving, then he was walking back, talking nervously and waving his arms the whole time. It sounds like I’m describing someone on drugs, but I was certain he wasn’t. Eventually, he told us he had been shooting heroin prior to going through rehab. He told us how long he’d been clean, but I don’t remember what he said. Around ninety days, if I remember right. He also said he had spent much time in jail. All the while, he kept saying he had to go, he couldn’t stay.

April came back and sat down, and the monologue continued, with April interjecting as often as she could for the man to stay and sit. Eventually, he did sit, and we were able to get him quiet long enough to go before the Father for him. I immediately got a picture of him as a child and an adult was severely beating him. I didn’t feel the most prudent thing to do would be to just blurt that information out, so I asked Father what I should say to the man. He said, “Tell him you see him as a child and someone is beating him”. I decided that couldn’t be God, so I asked again and didn’t get anything. Experience has taught me that that means I need to do the last thing God told me to do. But I was wrestling with it.
April noticed I was agitated, and suggested I speak. So I said to the man, “I see you as a child, and someone is beating the crap out of you”. The man’s jaw dropped, and his eyes widened. He stared at me, and said, very slowly, “Woooooow!” He repeated it several times. He even said it backwards. He told us it was his grandmother who had beaten him, and that there had been a lot of blood, and he had been injured badly. April and the other man on the team got very comforting, loving words for the man. We all had tears in our eyes. We were able to demonstrate to the man how to release his grandmother by forgiving her, and to ask the Lord to forgive her also, which he did, in his own words.
As we continued to minister to him, he, in his own words, repented of a vow he had made as a child. He had earlier expressed faith In Jesus, whom he had met as a result of the twelve step programs he was using to get clean and sober. The man was transformed before us. His whole demeanor changed. The agitation was gone, the fa├žade was gone. There was peace on his face—all over him, in fact. He talked about Jesus, about recovery, about plans for his future, about bettering himself. April told him about churches he could attend, including The Gathering. Before he left, he hugged us all—big, tight, bear hugs that lasted a long time. Only a few minutes before, he had not been a man you could hug—well, maybe April could have! He left, not with April’s phone number, but mine. He called me yesterday, which was Tuesday, November 2. He was still amazed at all that had happened, particularly that he had forgiven his grandmother. He had told friends about all that had happened, and his friends had not believed it. But he said, “I was there! I know what happened”. He said that the next day would be the anniversary of his grandmother’s death, and that he planned to go to his mother’s to see if he could e a comfort to her, and to tell her he had forgiven her.
Father, you are awesome! Thanks!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice, Advent and New Year all offer hope

As the end of the year nears, once again I look back at and consider the things which have happened here at The Gathering.

This year has been most trying, and without a question the single most difficult year of my life, which is saying a lot for those who have walked with us through the last 5 years.  Yet on the other hand, it has proved itself to be a fruitful, and faithful year as well.  How these elements of opposite value can trend together I am not sure, but this is not the first year I have seen struggle and blessing go hand in hand.

The fact that the Winter Solstice, the Advent and the coming of a New Year are positioned so close to one another is the perfect alignment for rethinking life.  The Winter Solstice marks the ending of shortening days and lengthening darkness.  This night points us toward Spring, new life, and dawning of longer periods of light.  It is a birth of hope.  The Advent calls us to consider the place of God in our hearts, and reveals the deepest place of God's interaction with humanity.  It is a second birth of hope.  The New Year completes the passage of a season of life, and enlivens our hearts with the potential for new things.  It is a third birth of hope in this short period of only a handful of days.

How will you re-position your life in order to take full advantage of the grace afforded us in changing seasons?  This is a question I ask myself for this coming year.  May the Lord bless us both with the proper response to this season of transition.

To learn more about The Gathering you may visit us on our website.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Mead Making Event

So, this last Sunday Ian Bennett from Isaak's of Salem joined us at 2pm to teach us how to make our own mead at home.  Here are some photos of the event, and, of course, since we meet in a old bank building there is only one place to keep our three gallon container of mead - which will be ready right around Easter time.  Photo of the secret and secure mead location follows as well.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Halloween Cleanup: Stories to Come

This morning the last Essex Street evidences of Halloween were loaded onto a flatbed truck.  A man named "Wind" and myself loaded scaffolding from the Fountain Stage onto the Lynn Ladder and Scaffolding truck.  This is the hard mark of the end of Haunted Happenings events for me each year.  It's not really over until the stage rolls away down the street - not to return for another 11 months.

This is also the time I look back and reconsider the events over the last month, tells the stories, and publish the adventures.

From the first weekend on Saturday, October 2nd the crowds were heavier than usual for the beginning of the month.  The final weekend Saturday crowds were estimated at 40,000 by the police and 60,000-70,000 on Halloween Night.

For four weekends we ran live music on the streets of Salem, we sponsored the 15th annual Salem Halloween Children's Day, we had teams of people doing dream interpretation and "spiritual readings" for four weekends, we gave away free hot cocoa, and hosted the international photography project WDYDWYD? by asking people "Why do you do what you do?" and taking pictures of them with their answers.

People who have served alongside us this year came from as far away as Cheltenham, England and Caernarfon, North Wales to as close as Beverly, Massachusetts.  Many of these people are writing their stories and sending them to us so we can share them with you in the upcoming days.

For now you can see a few favorite moments from our barefoot monk in residence - Jeff Gentry on his blog.

If you would like to see pictures from the Salem news and read about the Halloween season from the perspective of the city newspaper go here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

3 weeks of Outreach and one last week to go

October is the busiest month of the year in Salem, Massachusetts.

This is also true for our little church, which is situated on the red lined Heritage Trail in downtown Salem.  In the last three weeks we have set up a stage, hosted live music from local entertainers on it, organized and ran a Children's Day event on the Salem Common, given away free hot cocoa, offered free dream interpretation and "spiritual readings," and have hosted the international photography project "Why Do You Do What You Do?"

Visitors have come from near and far to participate with us in outreach.  Included in these participants are John Harding and the gang from the North Shore Bridge Fellowship; Mark and Anthea Searle from the Cheltenham Bridge Fellowship in Cheltenham, England; The Streams Ministries internship from New London, New Hampshire; Danette Strandell (a fellow Burner)  from St Joseph's, MO: our longtime friend Dennis Huxley from Rome, New York; another fellow Burning Man outreach team member Alan Drake from Dallas, Texas; and of course the wonderful people from The Gathering.

On Saturday, October 16th we held the 15th annual Salem Halloween Children's Day.  For the last 9 years we have been in charge of it, and sponsor the day with the help of Domino's Pizza.  We organize it, promote it, and run it on the day of the event.  The event is one of the few large events in the city of Salem in October targeted to reach the children of Salem.  This year we were almost rained out.  Instead we were winded out - which meant the wind was too strong for some of our large rides to make an appearance, but we still held the costume parade, and thanks to Brian O'Maerlaigh we just had some plain old fun with the kids on the common.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of people were touched by the personal ministry of the spiritual counseling we offer for free from The Gathering, and from our location near the music stage near the Peabody Essex Museum.

Hot cocoa began its service this last weekend, and at least 1,500 free cups of hot cocoa were passed out on Saturday and Sunday thanks to the teams from The Gathering of Jeff and Kellie Gentry, Carrie Erwin, Rachel and Jonathan Meharry, Paul Drake, Elizabeth Steadman, Joyce Greer, Chris Dugan, and Linda Quadros.  (Hopefully I got everyone!)

Local musicians performed on the stage,and they included:  Paul Duffy's group from the Front Street Coffee House Open Mic Night, Via Perkins, Sarah Van Wyk, Yvan Pierre Marlier, Lily Press and her husband Simon, Black Dog Brother, The Dejas, Clay Ventre, Julian Baptista, Deb Crosby's Talent Show, and Honour Havoc.

The stories of people who were deeply touched by the personal ministry of our spiritual counseling teams came from the interns at Streams Internship, our own members at The Gathering, and our visitors like Dennis Huxley.  Dennis commented that this might have been the most significant weekend of the last 4 years of visiting he has been a part of.

Along with the Spiritual counseling we have been taking photos of people who are answering the question, "Why do you do what you do?"  This project was started by Tony Deifell at Burning Man about 7 years ago.  I met him at Burning Man this year, and asked if we could do the project in Salem during the Halloween festivities.  Thanks to photographers Deborah Twombly, and Ben Corey, we got to the artistry of WDYDWYD? this last weekend.

People who do not have a Christian background have been touched by the gentle guidance of God's Spirit.  We work hard to bring blessing to everyone whether they are Christians, or of other spiritual persuasions, or even perhaps no spiritual persuasion at all.  With the belief that God loves all people regardless of their beliefs we are attempting to show the love of Jesus without bias, and it has been having a positive effect on all who come our way.

Special thanks goes out to The Gathering members who have provided a place for people to stay, and food for the spiritual counselors.  Thank you Rennie Treantos, Joanne Joyce, Carl and Melissa Nystedt, Joyce Greer, and Jeff and Diane Menasco.

This is a short report on the activities of outreach during the last three weeks here in Salem, MA.  Your prayers, and of course, your support in even a small way help make all this possible.  If you would like know more go to The Gathering Website.  There you can make a tax-deductible donation, or find our email address and sign up for our ministry mailing list.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First Weekend of Outreach in Salem, MA

October 9-10 marked the first weekend of outreach and community service by The Gathering during this 2010 October season.

The Fountain Stage held 4 hours of music in the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday.  Via Perkins from Salem State College was the first performer.  I met Via some months ago while she performed at Gulu-Gulu cafe, and decided we needed to get her great voice and engaging personality up on the stage.  I didn't realize that she was part of the Christian club at Salem State, and her songs were about relationship with God.  So, I was surprised by the wonderful spiritual motif of her music, and impressed by the crowd's interest.  Sarah Van Wyk is a gothic/classical/industrial music with themes on prayer and seeking God - Sarah will be back, including Halloween Night.  These are just two of the artists who played this weekend.

On Saturday afternoon John and Sabrina Harding brought a encounter team from the Bridge Church in Beverly, and they interpreted Dreams and held spiritual encounters Saturday afternoon and evening.

Mark and Anthea Searle have joined us from the Cheltenham Bridge Church in Cheltenham, England.  They shared "More Light" ministry with us, and have been holding spiritual counseling sessions with people from our church.  They have also joined us for Dream Interpretation and "Spiritual Readings." 

We have had people share dreams with snakes, or the death of loved one's, and those who shared their dreams felt encouraged, relieved, and helped toward a deeper relationship with God.

Danette Strandell joined us from Missouri Saturday Night.  Danette and her husband Tom are starting a church in St. Joseph, MO.  She led us through communion on Sunday morning, and joined us in outreach on Sunday afternoon.

Jeff MacDonald, a reporter for a Christian publication has been talking with us over the last few days, and learning about our outreach.  He has been talking with myself, Danette, Mark and Anthea, and the people we minister to.

This is the first of four weeks of outreach.  Next week we will run a Children's Halloween Festival on Saturday the 16th - Hopefully we won't be rained out.  Stay tuned for more information through the week.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What we do, and why we do it each October - a podcast

People want to know what we do each busy October here in the city of Salem, and why we do it.  The month is now upon us, and so here is a description of the events we are involved in, and a few reasons for doing them.

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October in Salem (a podcast)

This is a short description of what it is like visiting Salem in the month of October.  Some people think of it as "the world's largest Witchcraft festival."  That's not an accurate description.  So, you might want to get a feel for what it really is like.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Not a Cult. Really!

No.  We are not a cult, but it does look like it when the ladies all arrive dressed identically on Sunday mornings.

They went shopping together the day before and then arrived on Sunday wearing their Macy's sale purchases.  At least that is what they told me. 

You can see that Heather Leigh in the background did not get the memo, and none of the guys were wearing this outfit - so for now, we are safe.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pastor Phil on Doug Paggit Radio talking about Witches and Salem

I (Pastor Phil) did a 8 minute spot with Doug Pagitt on his radio show while in Washington DC at Wesley Methodist Seminary at the Transform East Conference.  Here's the embedded YouTube video of the show.  We don't actually look like we are facing each other in this interview, but that's the angle of the cameras.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pub Theology and Easter Eats

Here's what happens this week with The Gathering:

Tuesday we are meeting for our last Tuesday of the month Pub Theology gathering.  The subject will be: Where does faith end and stupidity begin?  It is bound to be a controversial topic - like always.  Join us at The Old Spot - 121 Essex Street in Salem, MA 7pm Tuesday, March 30th.

Sunday is Easter Sunday, and we are meeting 30 minutes earlier than usual for service.  Well actually we are meeting at 9:30am instead of 10am to eat.  It will be a potluck Easter breakfast - bring something to share, and share in what others bring.  The service will actually be starting late due to the fact that we will be feeding our faces.  Look for the actual service to begin around 10:30am.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Our buddy Ben preaching this Sunday

Ben Corey is the speaker this coming Sunday morning.  He joined for outreach this last October, and was a perfect match with the wold encounters, which occur every Haunted Happenings season.  You may remember Ben from his connection with us in October, are if you have been a part of the Emergent Cohort, you may also met Ben.  Then again you might also remember Ben from the short clip below which was part of a series I created at my Square No More site asking for definitions of the Emergent Church.  Here's Ben again - don't miss him on Sunday morning. 

I'll be with our friends at CotC in Carsbad, CA and Tom Conlon is there doing a concert as well - hmmmmmmm...traveled 3,000 miles to see Tom who lives in the town next door - funny.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's in the narrative? Help define our Church! Please!

During the counsel meeting on Monday evening there was a discussion on the narrative we weave around who we are as a church.  Otherwise, what is the best way to describe The Gathering.  This was not an easy thing to do.

It was not easy, because we do so many things outside the box of traditional church life.  Yes, we have Sunday morning services, and Sunday evening services.  Yes, we have people who donate their money to help support The Gathering.  It keeps us in a church building on the main thoroughfare of public foot traffic in downtown Salem - well, at least our hearty little band is trying to do that.

BUT (yes I used the taboo big yelling letters, because it is a big but):
  • We also get involved helping with community events (still good so far). 
  • We organize a large missional outreach to the 500,000 visitors and the locals who spend their time in downtown Salem every October (still easy enough to fathom).  
  • We have taught hundreds of people to do this work in a post-modern, post-christian setting (now we are stretching and looking like something which would be defined as "parachurch" - otherwise not church but helping it).  
  • We have become a place for missionally minded people to travel and work on a volunteer vacation - a type of pilgrimage of their faith, and we put them up in our homes! (okay, now we are stretching the boundaries of description!).  
  • We have become a location for a number of city events, and want to see this increase as well. (and I know some churches do that, but it has not been my experience that a lot do it.)
  • We have been growing in the number of social justice educational activities we perform (now that adds a new twist).  
  • And we have befriended people not normally attached to typical evangelical or pentecostal churches - like witches, GLBT, atheists, and whoever typically doesn't like doctrinally conservative Christians (and I don't know what to do with that myself - except appreciate it a whole lot).
So Jeff Gentry described who we are as Open Source Christianity.  Well, that went over great with people who understand social networks and other computer jargon.  Joanne doesn't have a computer at home, and some others only just use their email.  It was a great way to say that everyone involved has something to share and contribute to the life and definition of who we are, and it describes well the fact that we are a place for others to come learn and also share.  Yet the terminology only works for the social networking and computer elites among us, and those who are growing up with this stuff (except even Melissa was lost in the Open Source narrative.)

So I suggested the abbey narrative.  Perhaps we are like the old abbeys, which became the center of community life for a region, places for the poor to be received, centers of worship, places of pilgrimage, training grounds for new ministers of the Gospel, and sending centers for missionaries.  This narrative works well for those with a knowledge of church history or a background from orthodoxy, but for evangelicals and those not brought up in church an abbey seems like a big old church building, which at one time had monks in it.  Today you visit, and throw a couple bucks in the kitty to keep the pretty old building from falling apart.

So, the question is:  What narrative works best to describe this crazy community of faith?  Is there a good and accurate one - one making sense to young and old, educated and uneducated, those with a background in church and those new to Christianity alike?  Or must we use multiple narratives to describe who we are:  the Open Source and abbey Christianity, and a few other descriptive story lines as well?

Do you have a narrative to describe us?  Is there an illustration from church history, everyday life, car repair, garbage retrieval, or knitting to define us?  If you have ideas send please comment below.  We-a needs-a the help-a! (Pentecostal accent applied to the last line.)