Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Greetings

Due to the New Year's Holiday, The Gathering will not meet this Sunday, January 1, 2012. Please join us for worship Sunday, January 8, 2012, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas in Our Hearts

May the Angel of Annunciation awaken in you God's profound heartfelt love.
May Mary guide you in birthing the Holy One in your life and in birthing Love in others.
May Joseph engage you in deeper questioning and listening and give you courage to risk the next step.
May your life become a Luminous Presence leading others to the place in their hearts and in the world where Christ is always being born anew.

May you have
The Spirit of Christmas which is Peace.
The Joy of Christmas which is Hope.
The Heart of Christmas which is Love.

May these Blessings be yours this Christmas!

From Ministry of the Arts

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Season of Light

As the days grow shorter and darkness becomes more pronounced, we will prepare for the coming of the Light during worship Sunday, 18 December 2011, 5:30 p.m., 618 Locust Street. Wednesday is the Winter Solstice, and we will immerse ourselves in the particular gifts of darkness, as well as celebrate the in breaking of the Light into Darkness. What does this mean in terms of worship? We'll "see" on Sunday. If possible, please bring a candle to use during worship. You will take it home with you.

Our food theme will reflect and balance the day and season. First of all, the earth's season of growing darkness prompts creation into dormancy, quiet, inner reflection. And secondly, because of the holiday season, many of us have been feasting on all kinds of fun, special, rich foods. Combining that with our worship theme, let us share "light" potluck fare.

Our offering will be designated for The Gathering.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sharing Sacred Holiday Stories

Many of the traditions and meanings of the Christmas season are conveyed through stories. Stories about a baby born in a manger, angels singing about peace, light piercing the darkness. As my mentor Les Pugh reflected, these stories have a place in our lives. They encourage our ponderings and touch us to be reverent. Many Gatherers have grown up with additional stories of the season - for instance, stories about a grinch, a frosty snowman, and flying reindeer. Do these, too, encourage our ponderings and touch us to be reverent?

We will share and ponder our sacred holiday stories with each other this Sunday. You are invited to share with the group a story of some sort (a reading, a memory, a story from scripture, a family tradition, etc) that conveys to you the meaning of Sacred Presence during this holy season. Of course, in our sharing, we will be creating stories and traditions of our own.

Our offering will be designated for pancake supplies. Join us Sunday, December 11, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust.

Friday, November 25, 2011


This Thanksgiving, I am grateful
for each of you
and the spark you bring
to The Gathering.
May your Thanksgiving day and
season be filled with an abundance of
Gratitude, Joy, and Peace.

Sunday, November 27

We will join with others this Sunday for the San Angelo Living Together (SALT) community-wide Advent service and meal. Worship begins at 6:00 p.m. and will consist of gospel singing, scripture reading, and prayers. St. Paul Presbyterian Church, the host, will provide dinner following worship. As in previous years, the evening promises to be full of good singing, good conversation, and a chance to develop relationships with people across the city. Meet at St. Paul Presbyterian, 11 N. Park Street, for the 6:00 worship time.

Please Note: We will NOT meet at 618 Locust Street this Sunday, November 27, but we will gather again at 618 Locust, on Sunday, December 4.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Remembering and Giving Thanks

Sunday, November 20, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust

November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time set aside in memory of those who have died as a result of violence against transgender individuals and a time for communities to express solidarity and hope for a better future for gender diverse people everywhere. This Sunday, The Gathering will come together to participate in this world-wide observance with a time of prayer and reflection and a reading of the names of those who were lost over the last year.

The recipient for our offering will be TransYouth Family Allies, an organization devoted to empowering 'children and families by partnering with educators, service providers and communities, to develop supportive environments in which gender may be expressed and respected.'

We will also collect pancake mix and syrup for Christmas food boxes. Following worship, we will share our community potluck meal.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blessed Gathering

November's focus on gratitude is a great time to enjoy and engage with Lucinda Williams' song Blessed - which is what we will do during Sunday's Gathering. With the word so popular now, what does "blessed" actually mean? Or does it even still have any meaning? What's the power of being blessed and blessing others? Williams' song invites us to reclaim the power of "blessing" in surprising ways. Consider, for instance, these lyrics:

We were blessed by the battered woman who didn't seek revenge,
We were blessed by the soldier who didn't need to win.
Come join the conversation and be blessed! Our offering recipient is still to be determined.

Gathering for Blessings
Sunday, 13 November 2011
5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Harvest Time

Fall is a time of harvest; the emphasis on Halloween has become "harvesting" lots of candy; November 1 was the Feast of All Saints and November 2, the Feast of All Souls; Thanksgiving, observed with tables laden with food, is a few weeks away, followed by Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years - all with their particular feasts and parties. Not surprisingly, Halloween through New Years has been called "The Season of Feasting." As we begin this two month trek with so much emphasis on religious holy days and special food, our attention turns to the deeper behind the feasts: hunger. For what do you hunger? With what are you "filling" yourself? Sunday's worship will explore ... Appropriately, worship will include Communion, and we will share our communal potluck meal following the service.

Our offering will be designated for Mission 1. Mission 1 is a special effort by the United Church of Christ to feed the hungry and confront worldwide food-related injustice. The goals of Mission 1 include:
* collecting more than 1 million items of healthy food for local food banks,
* to collect more than $111,111 for hunger-related ministries in the United States and $111,111 for East Africa famine-related ministries,
* to send more than 11,111 letters to Congress asking to reform US foreign assistance programs to more effectively benefit hungry and poor people worldwide.
Our offering will include a monetary component, a canned and dry food collection for Project Dignidad, and a "letter component" - in that letters re: worldwide hunger issues will be available to sign and send to Congress.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pre-Halloween Surprise

Sunday, October 30, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

There's nothing scary about this week's Gathering - but it is a surprise, so I won't write about it here. Check your email for more information, and come join the community of skeletons, goblins, zombies, witches, bats, and other Halloween critters for a festive night of celebration.

Please let me know if you don't get a personal invitation!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gathering Inclusivity

The Gathering's Open and Affirming Statement proclaims:

The Gathering affirms the inherent dignity and sacredness of human beings and the value of all life in the universe. We welcome and celebrate persons of all racial and ethnic heritages, all gender identities and sexual orientations, and all faith perspectives into the full life and ministry of The Gathering.

So, what does this mean? Is it important that we say we're "open and affirming", and if so, why? Have you ever experienced marginalization, for whatever reason? How was it to know you were NOT welcome somewhere? And what did that convey about God and/or "sacred community"? What's the history behind our "ONA Statement"? What's the history behind the whole UCC ONA effort - and who cares? If we take our statement seriously, what are the implications - in our actions in The Gathering, our community involvement, our perspective on who God is? We'll discuss these questions and more this Sunday when we gather for a time of education and conversation about why The Gathering is intentionally inclusive. Come join the discussion!

Our offering will be designated for the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. The Coalition provides support and sanctuary to all our UCC lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers, their families and friends; advocates for their full inclusion in church and society; and brings God's affirming message of love and justice for all people.

Join us Sunday, October 23, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn Blessings

O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher, for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.--Edward Hays

Sunday night we will engage the season and lessons of Autumn - literally and spiritually. Valerie will co-lead worship as she shares her gift of music. Our offering will be designated for the Nature Conservancy, and "fall food" is our pot-luck theme, i.e., anything that tastes good in the fall, like soup, chili, S'mores, etc.

Gathering for Worship
Sunday, October 16
5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Thursday, September 29, 2011

World Communion

One piece of what makes The Gathering The Gathering is sharing our communal meals. We believe that "Communion" is made as we sit down at a table together to share food and share ourselves. Our meal is a sacred way of tying us together and tying us to God.

Is this why so many traditions consider sharing a meal together sacred? Is this the meaning of "World Communion Day"? How does Jesus' table fellowship fit in? Feminist theologian Janet Walton says a sacred meal is powerful because it embodies memory, imagination, power, encounter, freedom, relationships, presence, and blessing. We'll explore these notions Sunday night when we gather for worship. Our offering will be designated for Concho Valley Food Bank.

Our potluck theme is international - e.g., how might our neighbors in Bangladesh, Mexico, Sweden observe World Communion Day?

We ALWAYS have plenty of food during the potluck, and in fact, the abundance is one indicator of our delight in gathering around the table together. So please know that you DO NOT need to bring something in order to come to The Gathering, and also please know that whether you bring anything or not, there is ALWAYS enough for all who come to the table. You are welcome to come and receive; you are welcome to be nourished from the abundance; you are welcome to bring and share.

You are welcome at The Gathering - no matter how you are inclined to attend!

World Communion Sunday
October 2, 2011, 5:30 pm
618 Locust Street

Friday, September 23, 2011

UCC 101

Join The Gathering this Sunday for a fun and fact-filled evening of learning everything you ever wanted to know about the "rest of the family" - the United Church of Christ. Why did we, The Gathering, choose to be UCC? Who exactly are our cousins?

What do:
"God is Still Speaking,
"Never place a period where God has placed a comma"
"No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here"
- actually mean?

From where did these phrases come? And who cares about all this? The evening promises to be interesting and enlivening! I bet you can guess where our offering will be designated: sure enough, the United Church of Christ! Specifically, "Our Church's Wider Mission" offering, which you'll learn more about Sunday night. See you then.

Sunday, September 25,
5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Friday, September 16, 2011

Consider Compassion

This Sunday's worship will build on the Season of Peace theme "Consider Compassion." Our offering will be designated for Calvary Episcopal Church, Bastrop, to help with wildfire recovery efforts in the Bastrop area. A former colleague of mine is the current Rector, and Father John Loving, formerly of San Angelo, recently served as their Transitional Rector. In addition, we will continue to receive beans and rice for Project Dignidad.

This Sunday is a Communal Meal Sunday, in that we will share a potluck following the worship service.

Gathering for Worship
5:30 pm, 618 Locust St.
Sunday, September 18

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Engaging the Legacy of 9-11

This Sunday is the ten-year anniversary of September 11, 2001. I have mixed feelings about this: from a religious perspective, I have no interest in revisiting the traumatic images nor celebrating the subsequent on-going wars and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. But it is important to explore the deeper questions evoked by the anniversary - specifically, what have we, as a nation, become? And what is a faithful response to fear, terrorism, threat?

Beth and Harold Peterson have been concerned with these issues since September 11, 2001, and we are fortunate that they will lead our exploration and discussion Sunday night. About the evening Beth writes:

In the years following our shock, horror and grief about 9/11, we have come to realize that we, as Americans, have been involved in the use of torture, contrary to the United Nations Convention Against Torture. What do our faith traditions teach us regarding torture? Join us September 11 to view a video and discuss the moral issue of torture.

Our offering is two-fold: 1) we will again collect bags of beans and rice for Project Dignidad, and 2) our monetary offering will be designated for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). NRCAT is a membership organization of religious organizations committed to ending torture that is sponsored or enabled by the United States. Since its formation on January 16, 2006, more than 300 religious organizations have joined and over 57,000 individual people of faith have participated in our activities. Members include representatives from the Baha'i, Buddhist, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox Christian, mainline Protestant, Quaker, Sikh and Unitarian Universalist communities.

We will not have a potluck meal. Feel free to bring drinks and snacks.

Spirituality and Practice website has a beautiful collection of prayers, art work, spiritual practices, and contemplative writings concerning the anniversary of 9/11. Some of the contributors include Mark Nepo, Joyce Rupp, Sylvia Boorstein, Ram Dass, and Sharon Salzberg.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day: Forgotten Arc?

This year, jobs, workers' rights, and the power of corporations have very much been at the center of political conversations and conflicts across the United States. It seems Labor Day has both come at a great time to remind us of the importance and value of "the common worker" and also has lost much of its significance.

Labor Day was established to honor workers and commemorate their contributions and struggles, past and present, to bring justice and dignity to the workplace and to society. Since its founding 100+ years ago, the struggle for justice and dignity in the workplace clearly continues. Currently, more than two million full-time, year round US workers live below the poverty line, struggling to pay for necessities such as food, housing, healthcare, transportation, and childcare. Since 1996, thousands of faith communities have focused Labor Day weekend services on injustices facing low-wage workers and the religious community's efforts to support workers' struggles for living wages and family-sustaining benefits.

The Gathering will join this effort Sunday night as well as reflect on what makes "work" - whether it's sweeping, teaching, painting, preaching, banking, gardening, or whatever else - sacred. Our monetary offering will be designated for an organization whose "work" is to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth by helping others work: Heifer Project. They stress that "by giving families a hand- up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.

In addition, you are invited to bring the classic healthy hardy budget meal: one pound bags of beans and one pound bags of rice for a special offering for Project Dignidad. Our potluck will be dishes containing beans and rice and anything that accompanies this delicacy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gathering at the Well for Retreat

Like the deer that yearns for running streams,
so my soul is yearning for you, O God.
All who are thirsty, come to the water.
My soul is thirsting for God, the living God.
All who are thirsty, come to the water.
You are invited to "Go Back to the Well" - a day of communal and individual spiritual renewal and care.

* Sunday, 28 August 2011, 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
* San Saba River Ranch outside of Menard, TX (approximately 80 miles from San Angelo).

* The day will include times of community gathering, as well as individual and small group time. The planning team anticipates the day including fun, meal sharing, meditation, silence, soul exploring, walking, sitting, being by and in the river, worship, and possibly a drum circle.

* Those interested will carpool together: meet and park at 9:00 am at Mosaic Redwine Childcare Center, 5191 S. Bryant Blvd. (just off 87 South at Ben Ficklin Exit; in between Word of Life Assembly of God and Unity Church of Christianity).
* If you don't want to carpool, please GET DIRECTIONS FROM ME BEFORE SUNDAY AM.
* We will return to San Angelo refreshed and renewed by about 5:30.
* Morning snack, lunch, coffee, tea, and water provided by Side Oats Cafe and Bakery, Menard, TX.

* Suggested donation is $15/person for food, with scholarships available to cover the cost for anyone who's hesitant to attend because of cost. While there's no set fee to use the lodge and property, we'll also collect an offering to contribute to the upkeep of the retreat facilities.

*Things to bring: your Self; something on which to write (pad of paper, tablet, journal, etc); writing utensils; a vessel of some sort that has meaning to you that will hold water; drumming instrument if you're interested; lawn chair; light snacks for the afternoon; drinks if you'd like something other than coffee, tea, or water; money for meal and offering.

* Attire is casual - we have access to the lodge (called Selah, A Place to Pause and Reflect), which is air conditioned and comfortable, as well as the outside patios, walking paths, river, and acreage. Be comfortable for a day of retreat.

*Please let me know by Friday, August 26, if you plan on attending so I can give some kind of food guess-timate to our hosts and we can make some kind of arrangements for carpooling. If, for some reason you won't know until Sunday morning, August 28, that you can come, that's ok - COME.

For more information, to tell me you're attending, to share your anticipation about the retreat, call or email me:
No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome at The Gathering's Retreat!