Friday, December 11, 2015

Pastor Phil Wyman looks back at 2015 at The Gathering

2015 joins the previous couple years as part of our crazy years of transition. We have taken an epic wilderness journey into becoming a gathering of house (and pub) churches. This year (perhaps) has been even more of a wandering than any previous year of our existence. Then again, having mapped territory no one before us had ever mapped in our work in the city of Salem, maybe it was just another crazy year, but we keep following the Shepherd who leads us on.

2015 started off with a surprise. At the end of January, I (Pastor Phil) ended up with a sudden attack of back pains, which could have been measured on the Richter Scale. By February, this turned into an extended hospital stay and the discovery that the pains had nothing to do with pulled muscles or slipped discs. Rather, a strep infection was found in my blood stream, and pockets of that infection had settled inside my spinal column, and scarier yet, inside my heart. I was effectively down and out from late January until May, and although I was home for much of that time, I was connected to antibiotic drip systems six hours a day, which looked like a medical version of the “Holy Hand-Grenade of Antioch.” And, fortunately, like the Holy Hand-Grenade of Antioch it worked and wiped out the infection.

The church, and our local friends were wonderful during this time. They brought me food, lots of probiotics, and reminders of love. Boxes of nerds arrived from our geek friends, balloons from bartenders, and meals that made a hospital visit seem less of a drudgery. One of our home-groups even held a service in the hospital room one Saturday morning. I did not feel as badly, as my critical condition, and so I became a bit squirrely, and wandered the hallways playing my guitar and singing to people. This turned out to be enough of a hit, that some of the night crew cheered when I returned for a second visit, and then apologized for being excited to see me back in the hospital again.

Somewhere in this time, our now weekly home and pub groups gathered together for a grand meeting of eating and sharing and I was hooked to my Holy Hand Grenade, and they made it all happen, while I sat like a happy papa and looked on.

The Holy Hand Grenade worked just in the nick of time, and while the church had been meeting and doing its weekly activities without me, there had also been a UK Festival Outreach, which had been in the planning for 6 months. Two days before I was to fly to the UK, and meet Dennis there, I received the doctor’s clearance. So, off I flew to Wales with oral antibiotics in hand. There we built an art project at BurningNest; we worked the doors and debates at a philosophy festival; and we ministered to the 23,000 hippies, hipsters and all around seekers at Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice.

Of course, as October rolled around, we were back on the streets of Salem during our one million visitor month with live music every weekend, and hundreds of friends from around the country joining us for ministry. We bought pizza for some of the homeless youth and elders who like to hang around our stage, we interpreted dreams, we shared the love of our Lord Jesus with locals and visitors alike, and we simply created a presence of acceptance and love during a weird and wild holiday season in our unique city.

Between the time in the hospital and the frenetic pace of Festival outreach from Summer through Fall, this year has seemed like a blur, and does even now as I look back in the rearview mirror.

The hospital stay and prolonged downtime was perhaps a forced sabbatical of sorts. I was able to complete a book I had been working on for a few years, and Burning Religion is now self-published and online at

Despite all this, we bought ice cream for the kids at the park on the Point in Salem during the summer, and we joined the World’s Largest Eye Contact Experiment in October.

Please keep us in your prayers. Getting back into a regular pattern of spiritual life as a body of people has not been easy, but we continue our ride into Bethlehem and appreciate every person who remembers our labors.

If you would like to help support the mission of the The Gathering, which has moved from a local expression of innovative mission, to something beyond the boundaries of our own country, you can do so at our website --> May your Christmas, your Solstiee, your Hannukah, and your New Year be blessed.