What do we want it to be?
This was the question we posed to one another at the very first meeting of The Gathering’s core leadership team. We had been tasked with re-launching Glenn’s Sunday afternoon alternative worship service and now we needed to figure out what it would become. What were the core values that would drive the vision and mission of this particular worship experience? As we talked and dreamed together, a few things kept coming up that would drive our planning: The Gathering would be a worship service that would focus on excellence with authenticity, relevance with timelessness, and community with vulnerability.
If our worship is an offering to God, to each other, and to the larger community, then it needs to be done with excellence. The band should practice and be prepared, the worship space should be warm and inviting (if you haven’t seen what our environment team has done with the Fellowship Hall, make sure to come check it out!), and the hospitality team should work to make sure everyone feels welcomed when they arrive, loved while they are here, and cared for after they leave. We also began working on upgrades to the sound system that would make the service sound as good as possible.
But we want to be careful. In seeking for excellence we are not seeking to be “slick” and certainly not “perfect.” That’s why we desire to be authentic. The Gathering should represent Glenn and the people who worship together. So our band will rehearse but be made up of volunteers who give of their time and talents to serve. Those who are a part of our community will write the liturgy and prayers in-house. We’ll try things that seem really right but go very wrong, and then we’ll laugh about it and try something else the next time. We’ll always offer our best, and that might not be “the best,” but it will be real and it will be fun and it will be us.
Worship should also be relevant to a person’s life. It should speak to them, through all aspects of the service, in a way that is understandable and relate-able. The message at each service should be “good news” for each person exactly where they are and apply to their daily lives. But sometimes a focus on relevance can lose sight of the fact that we are not the first people to worship together. The Gathering will stay connected to the traditions of those who have gone before. The liturgy will be tied to the church universal and presented in ways that are not threatening or confusing. The music will be progressive, eclectic, and modern while also representing the hymns and songs of our tradition (view the video clip below for a worship preview). The timeless message of Christ is one of radical grace, love, and acceptance that speaks to everyone. We’ll seek to bring that timeless message in the most understandable way.
We also believe that church should be a place of true community. We want people to come to church not just because the music is great or the preaching speaks to them, but because church is where their people are, where their life is. The church community should feel like family…like home. Your church family should be a place where you are cared for, and they should be the first people you call when you experience tragedy as well as when you have cause to celebrate. Walking into worship should feel like walking into the house of a close friend, comfortable and safe. And community happens only in spaces where we’re willing to work towards being open and honest about who we are and where we’ve come from. Where we’re willing to talk about our struggles, pains, joys, and concerns.
The Gathering will not be a perfect community. And that’s for the best. It’s only when we realize that we’re not perfect, that we are, in fact, powerless over most things in our lives and we’re all in the same boat, that we fully understand Paul’s statement that “it is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9). And that’s why we’ll come to the communion table each week. Because we all know that what we really need is to be loved, to fall into the arms of a God who is only beauty, mercy, and total embrace. We’ll come exactly as we are, knowing that God will meet us, no matter where we are on the journey. When we are vulnerable and open and honest about life, then we let go of all pretenses and are truly in community together.
This Sunday, October 16, at 5:00 p.m., we’ll gather in the Ward Fellowship Hall to worship together. We’ll begin this journey and see what happens. We’ll have a lot of fun as we seek to find what kind of community The Gathering will become. I hope you’ll join us and become a part of what God is doing through The Gathering. All are welcome.
The Gathering will worship monthly for the rest of 2016 (October 16, November 6, December 11) at 5:00 p.m. in the Ward Fellowship Hall. Weekly worship will begin in January 2017.