Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Tapestry

Come learn about, meditate upon, and discuss the beautiful and venerable tapestry of many faiths that share and celebrate this winter season. Join us this Sunday, December 20 at 5:30 pm. Safe travels.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Darkness and Light

Sunday's Gathering will be a time of contemplative exploration and prayer as we focus on the gifts and challenges of Winter: The Season of Waiting. What can we learn from our dark and barren times? Where do we experience the Holy during seasons of waiting? What Light do we yearn for and seek? We will explore these and other themes during a time of contemplative meditation.

The Gathering is supplying spaghetti noodles for St. Paul Presbyterian's Christmas Food Mission. Please bring boxes of spaghetti noodles this Sunday.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our New Logo

The Gathering joyfully celebrates our new logo. Many thanks to the Logo Workgroup for their creativity and hard work!

December 6--the theme is Advent, Yearning for the Light. Spread your light with us at 5:30 pm at Promenade Square.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Practicing Gratitude

The Gathering will center around contemplative meditation this Sunday. The theme is practicing gratitude for this gift called life. The offering will go to the Concho Valley Food Bank.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day of the Dead Celebration

Bring photos of deceased loved ones, family, friends and pets. This Sunday the Gathering will celebrate the Day of the Dead. It's Mexican roots are anything but morbid:

The celebration of the Day of the Dead, which occurs on All Saints’ Eve at the beginning of November each year is a major commemorative ceremony throughout Mexico. Its purpose is to celebrate, remember and, as much as anything, to entertain the dead. Sometimes roads of flowers are put in place to guide the dead from the graveyard to the house where their relatives will have constructed an altar dedicated to the most recently deceased and made ready an array of sugary foods and drink.

The Mexican Day of the Dead is anything but sober and cheerless. It is an effervescent event, full of zest and colour, an annual opportunity to remember and re-engage with relatives and friends who have passed on.

Join us November 1st at 5:30 pm for worship.

The Path or Way

Theresa enlightened us on key aspects of Taoism. She read from the Tao Te Ching translated by William Martin. The path involves:

Embracing Opposites


Direct Experience

The Present Moment


The path is within you. During our discussion Karen Schmeltekopf noted The Psalms were written by Eastern peoples. They reflect many of the principles of Taoism.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oneness Blessing this Sunday

On October 18th at 5:30 pm The Gathering will host the Oneness Blessing. Karen McGinnis and Alicia Lown will offer the blessing to those in attendance.

The Oneness Experience is shared by the Oneness Facilitator through gently placing their hands onto the head of the participant for about one minute.

Commonly, those receiving the Experience feel a sense of deep calm and inner peace, and throughout the following days or weeks report a greater stillness and clarity in their daily activities. Others report a simple sense of peace and a deeper level of connection with both themselves and others.
The sessions are very peaceful and meditative. All are welcome here. Those who appreciate silence, emptying, meditation, peace and healing are in for a treat.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Movie Time!

The Gathering will explore the shadow side of religion and state by watching the movie Constantine's Sword. Amazon has this to say about the movie:

Constantine's Sword is an astonishing exploration of the dark side of Christianity, following acclaimed author and former priest James Carrol on a journey of remembrance and reckoning. Warning of what happens when military power and religious fervor are joined, this new film from Oscar-nominated director Oren Jacoby asks: Is the fanaticism that threatens the world today fueled by our own deeply held beliefs?

A spirited discussion will follow the projection, led by Harold and Beth Peterson (who have the best shadow books on our society/culture). The movie starts at 5:30 pm, or shortly thereafter. Snacks and munchies are available free of charge.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Living Spirit

Obsessed with the quick fix
The once and for all cure
The one fell swoop solution

Excess and extreme
all or nothing
black or white

But LIFE has other ideas

LIFE--ever changing, unending process
black and white swirling into
infinite shades of gray

LIFE--ebb and flow
constant transformation
no final destination

LIFE--pendulum swinging in wide arc
enfolding all extremes
good and bad
joy and sorrow
pleasure and pain
excluding none

Forget the obsession
intermingle with the myriad grays
ride the ebb and flow
embrace all in the pendulum's arc

Chase the obsession and forfeit LIFE
ever changing

T. Rylander 1988

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Comfort Food

The Gathering continues sharing nourishment with others. Today, we provide lunch for Angelo State University students at United Campus Ministries. This Saturday, we serve the wider community through the Wesley Daily Bread Soup Kitchen. Last week, the Gathering provided food for Jason Grier's family and friends. Jason died too soon. He was too young.

While all forms of suffering cannot be eliminated, the Gathering does its best to alleviate hunger pangs. Breaking bread with others is sacred, holy. In that light, we serve.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Serving of Peace

The Gathering's newsletter describes today's meeting on peace:

Neil will lead our time of discussion, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street. The conversation will invite us to intellectually, spiritually, and experientially explore the driving and restraining forces for peace - both individually and communally.

We will join the efforts of the
11 Days of Global Peace observance as our offering will be designated for the Pennies for Peace campaign ( And we'll cool down from the hot topic by sharing our "potluck" of ice cream and ice cream condiments (cookies, cake, toppings, etc).

Bring a peaceful mouth with at least one sweet tooth!

Howard's Bell Ringers

The Gathering worshipped and broke bread under the mantle of peace on September 5. Extra peace energy came from our four bell ringers, seen smiling above. Who knew peace could be so fun?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dance Hall Days: We've Moved to a New Home

The Gathering said goodbye to United Campus Ministries on Dena Drive on August 2. UCM served as our home since The Gathering's inception. We are most grateful to UCM for the use of their facility.

On August 16 we inaugurated our new home at 618 Locust Avenue, also known as Promenade Square. In addition it hosts San Angelo's square dancers. Should you "kick up your heels" to divine inspiration, please join us for worship in September, when we begin to meet weekly. Sundays at 5:30 pm and bring your appetite!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Who Deserves to Eat? Who Dares to Serve?

On June 27th members of The Gathering met at the Wesley United Methodist Church to provide and serve lunch at "The Daily Bread Soup and Lunch Program. Just over 100 adults signed in to receive lunch, but there were also a number of children served, and likely a number of adults who did not sign in.

Executive Director Mary Hankins indicates that the number of people showing up hungry has steadily increased over the last 18 months. A year ago the number of folks wanting lunch ranged from 70-100 people. Now there can be between 110 and 140 people who regularly come for service and fellowship. The economic disaster that now plagues the world’s economies is usually called a recession, but by others, an out and out depression. Whatever it is called, hard times have come to many.

Likely most of The Gathering volunteers Saturday have not gone hungry in a very long time--if ever. So, the experience of offering service to individuals who are less provisioned is not only an encounter with homeless persons and the working-poor, but perhaps more powerfully, an encounter with one’s own anxieties about entitlement and well being.

How many of us have ever spent face-to-face time with the question: who deserves to eat and who does not? Is it moral for any person or any government to determine (by omission or commission) who has food to eat and who doesn’t deserve it? There are many more hungry people in San Angelo than 110, and yet, there are no other daily meal programs in the city. Can we infer that this attitude of neglect or disinterest in San Angelo says tacitly that if one cannot provide for self and family than one is deficient and not entitled to be free of hunger? The Daily Bread program is wonderful and it’s important that we participate in its ministry, but I wonder if it’s also just a token framed in the larger picture of the community?

In America we are drowning in a sea of food. We not only consume food and throw it away at incredible rates, but likely we do so wrapped in the cocoon or illusion about our own security, entitlement and deservedness. And wrapped in that entitlement we become blind to the hunger and dysfunction around us.

For those of us who have never been truly hungry, can we know the impact upon mind and soul to have to seek out a meal at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter? Is it possible to have any idea what it feels like in the gut to wake up daily on the margins? What messages are given and taken about the worth and value of the one when so little is done by the many? Perhaps the lesson for reflection is to realize how removed from fear and suffering we are in our privileged lives.

So the Gathering’s commitment to the practices of integrity and service in this context require deep consideration of not just the issue of feeding the hungry, but how to address the specter of hunger for the marginalized. Take a breath, drop your energy into your center and look for a first step.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Movie Time!

While San Angelo bakes under 100+ degree heat, the Gathering will meet Sunday to view the documentary "The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry." Join us at 5:30 pm at United Campus Ministries at ASU.

"The Earth is a spiritual presence that must be honored, not mastered."--Native American belief

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Difficult Choice of J.W. Lown

San Angelo Mayor J.W. Lown resigned to help his male partner, a citizen of Mexico living in the U.S. without documentation, enter America legally. Lown is now on the outside looking in, as the picture symbolizes. J.W. wears the blue shirt. He works from Mexico on behalf of his partner.

This act prompted much reflection and many conversations about both marriage equality and US immigration laws. As an Open & Affirming congregation, The Gathering encourages such discussion. Friend and colleague Lou Kavar is living with the complexity of these issues, and I asked him his thoughts. They follow.

The Difficult Choice

The Rev. Louis F. Kavar, Ph.D.

I knew other couples who faced the difficult choice. While I had a great deal of empathy with them, I also wondered why they hadn’t thought about the problems they’d face from the beginning. I thought that I was smarter than getting myself into this kind of situation. Was I ever wrong!

It was early in 2003 when we began to correspond. We got to know each other, our interests and our dreams. I wasn’t sure where it would lead. While we seemed to get along, I was cautious because we were from different cultures. Yet it seemed as though we had known each other a long time. It wasn’t that wild, crazy kind of love portrayed in the movies. It was more like putting on a comfortable, familiar piece of clothing: it fit just the way it should and felt right.

He’s from Hong Kong and a British citizen. I’m from the United States. He came to the United States on a student visa. I wondered: what if this really worked out? Would we be like those other couples I knew in the past in which each member held different citizenship – in which the non-US person could no longer stay in this country because of our arcane immigration laws?

I have traveled to several countries in the past. While I wasn’t sure that I could adapt to life in Hong Kong, I thought I’d do just fine living in Canada, England, Australia or New Zealand. I think I’m just too old to learn to function well in a second language every day. But leave the United States? Well, I didn’t want to give up my citizenship, but all these other countries had some form of immigration program for gay and lesbian people. I could make it work.

Believing I had considered all the possible problems, I allowed myself to commit to my partner. We’ve lived together as a couple for six years. I can’t imagine my life without him. In many ways, he’s brought the best out of me.

Two years ago, our lives changed. My mother, who previously insisted that she would always remain in the home of my youth, suffered an unexpected stroke. She lost her eye sight and could not live alone. Her long term care insurance was inadequate to provide the care she needed .She feared the possibility of a nursing home. With no other option, my partner and I agreed that she could live with us.

My life has changed a great deal. I have given up pastoring and traditional ministry in order to work at home online as a university professor. I’m my mother’s primary care-giver. My partner has completed his graduate degree and is frantically searching for a job to support a visa to stay in the United States. With luck he will find one; perhaps he won’t.

My partner has been active in my mother’s care. They’ve grown to love and depend on each other. Mom enjoys when he makes certain Chinese specialties for her, like congi – a rice porridge – and home-made egg rolls or dumplings. (Because of her salt free diet, her food often needs to be made separately.)

My partner and I agree: she would not adapt to a nursing home. While many people do well with institutional life, Mom just wouldn’t be one of them.

While my partner and I would have no difficulty living in another country if he doesn’t find a job to support a work visa in the United States, the reality is that any country we could go to would not admit my mother because of her health. Given this situation, I am facing a very difficult choice: caring for my mother and possibly giving up my partner or institutionalizing (and abandoning) my mother to leave the country to be with my partner. It’s all because we, as a gay couple, are not recognized as a couple for immigration purposes. While in a heterosexual marriage, the U.S. member of the couple can sponsor a spouse for immigration purposes, I cannot – not even the one who not only is committed to me but also cares for my mother.

On June 3, the Senate judiciary committee convened hearings on a bill known as the United American Families Act. This bill would recognize couples like mine to utilize the existing immigration process used by heterosexually married couples. This bill has been introduced in both the Senate and House’s judiciary committee every year since 2001 and this is the first time hearings have occurred. It’s clearly progress. But no one expects the bill to get out of the committee this year. The best one couple hopes for is that next year it would be part of a larger immigration bill. But even then, such a provision would be in conflict with the Federal Defense of Marriage Act which proscribes that the Federal government and all of its agencies must define marriage as one man and one woman. It’s going to be a long road to change.

So what about me and my family? We’ve discussed the possibility that my partner could live in Canada, perhaps in Vancouver, and mom and I could move to Seattle. He could live in work in Canada and visit us on weekends.

Or he could pursue another degree – one that he doesn’t want. But we already have student loans for his graduate school. How much more in debt do we need to go just to maintain our family?

The problem isn’t a new one. It’s faced by gay and lesbian couples around the country. It’s not that we want special treatment, just equal treatment. Perhaps one day immigration laws will change and gay couples will also have the legal ability to marry. But it won’t happen soon enough in the United States to be of any real help to us.

The Rev. Louis F. Kavar, Ph.D. is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ living in St. Louis, MO. He is faculty in the school of psychology at Capella University.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Work Group-a-palooza!

We'll explore The Gathering's possibilities this Sunday. We meet to recap and celebrate the efforts of the Open & Affirming Workgroup, the Logo Design Workgroup, and the Community Connecting Workgroup.

Working together with the Spirit, these groups helped us traverse the "community-in-development" path. It's time to evaluate and again evolve, so in our collaborative style, we'll gather to explore possible next steps. All voices are valued. Come ready to participate!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Science & Spirituality

It's the theme for tomorrow's gathering. Bring your light and shine it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The word Baraka means blessing in several languages. Watching this film the viewer is blessed with a dazzling barrage of images that transcend language.

On May 17 The Gathering watched the first fifteen minutes of the movie Baraka. I found a ten minute clip of Baraka on YouTube. It's very meditative. Do you need a break from the noise of the world or the ceaseless chatter that can occupy the mind? If so, a trip to Baraka might help.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Father Keating & Ken Wilber to Appear

Via the magic of digital video, two spiritual giants will dialogue with The Gathering this Sunday, May 3rd. Trappist monk Father Keating and philosopher giant Ken Wilder will conduct round #2 on The Future of Christianity. Neil will lead the discussion and he offers the following comments:

Ken Wilber's Integral Theory is (among a number of things) a model for the development of spiritual intelligence. The model posits a step-by-step set of stages (magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic and integral) that reflect most of the world's population. All of us start at magic in childhood and some folks find magic to be their "home station" and interact with the world and develop their belief system from that stage, its values, perceptions and comprehensions.

Father Keating talks about the necessity of contemplation/meditation as the requisite practice(s) to develop beyond one's current stage. Not every person wants to, or sees the need to do so. That is normal and just the way of it, but for those so inclined some reflective practice of awareness and presence is required in order to develop beyond one's current stage.

Come wrestle with spirit in our world and its future possibilities. If you can't be there in person, feel free to comment below.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tomorrow: An Arctic Tale

This coming Sunday, April 26, we will observe a belated Earth Day focus by watching and discussing the delightful movie Arctic Tale. This 86 minute child-friendly National Geographic film follows the lives of a polar bear cub and a walrus pup. The story takes us along their journeys from birth to maturity, with all the struggles in-between, and we learn that their biggest threat is surviving the harsh, changing habitat climate of the north. Their future survival depends upon the ice, and it is literally melting away in front of them.

Filmed over 15 years with 800+ hours of footage, the scenes are impressive and our discussion will be, too, as Aretta will lead the conversation. In keeping with the "arctic" theme (and our own hot weather) - you're invited to bring "cold" food for our potluck: cold cuts, cold soup, ice cream, frozen treats, etc. Our offering will be designated for SAFE - San Angelo Friends of the Environment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mindful Service

Dorothy Day said: "Whatever I had read as a child about the saints had thrilled me. I could see the nobility of giving one's life for the sick, the maimed, the leper.... But there was another question in my mind. Why was so much done in remedying the evil instead of avoiding it in the first place? ... Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves, but to do away with slavery."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Welcome to Our Blog

It has to be a blog, as there are few bugs and no bogs in West Texas. Unless rains come and the creek's risen, join us April 19 at 5:30 pm. We meet at United Campus Ministries on the campus of Angelo State University. We'll ponder contemplative aspects of faith. How can silence and meditation reveal our ever present connection to the divine? When noise and worry fall away, what remains?

On April 26, we'll address environmental justice from a sacred context. Earth Day is April 22. How can spiritual people maintain our earthly home? The Gathering would love for you to join us.

Karen (yes, she's a reverend) will post spiritual messages and questions for readers to consider. They may be fast and furious or few and far between. It depends on how many plates she's spinning at a time! Peace.