Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gathering for Inspiration

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

It'll be an inspiring "firecracker" of an evening as we Gather for film watching and discussion on the last Sunday in 2012.  The movie, We Are Together, is a wonderful and uplifting documentary about the children and music of Agape Orphanage in South Africa, to which we were introduced during our AIDS Awareness service.  The film is a testament to resilience, hope, courage amidst adversity, the healing aspect of music, and the power of compassionate community.  Sounds like a pretty good way to end the year, doesn't it?

Our offering will be designated for the San Angelo AIDS Foundation.  We will not share a potluck meal, but as always, you are invited to bring snacks.    

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gathering to Receive the Gifts of the Season

Have you ever thought about the fact that during the holidays, there's much emphasis on gift giving, but not much on gift receiving?

After all, so much of the "meaning" of Christmas, Hanakkuh, and Kwanzaa has devolved to being generous, showing others how much you care, getting gifts for others, etc.  At the same time, the theme of Advent is waiting and preparing for the coming of Emmanuel - God with us; part of the theme of Hanakkuh is about G-D's presence with the Jewish people during a very difficult time; and one of the significant aspects of Kwanzaa is for people to intentionally reflect on the deep questions of life and faith.

Sunday's worship experience will combine these various notions and ask: how do we receive the gifts of these holy holidays?  How do we graciously receive things that are unexpected or that we don't particularly want - like Divine Presence. 

We will receive the gifts of Nancy and Valerie this week, as they are co-facilitating this worship experience. Our offering will be designated for the gift-giving and receiving efforts of our local Christmas en el Barrio. And we will share and receive the gifts of each other as we gather after worship for a potluck meal.

Sunday, December 16, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gathering for Service

If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother or sister in need, yet closes his heart against them, how does God's love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. ~ 1 John 3:17-18 

With Ashura, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and various other holy holidays, December is a month for thinking of others and sharing Love. We will engage in this spiritual practice of sharing Love Sunday night when we gather to concretely address 3 mission needs:  1) we will put together gift bags for people cared for by Big Spring State Hospital; 2) we will collect books for the library at Big Spring State Hospital; and 3) we will complete our chili can drive for the St. Paul Christmas box effort.  All the gift bag elements will be present, so come ready to put them together.  But don't come empty-handed!  Bring books to donate to Big Spring State Hospital and bring cans of chili for the food box drive.  Our goal for books - whatever we collect.  Our goal for cans of chili - at least 260. We will not share potluck, but holiday goodies are always welcome!

Sunday, 9 December 2012
5:30 pm, 618 Locust

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Peace Realized

Weapons of violence
are contrary to the common good
no matter how skillfully used
Where armies settle
Nature offers nothing but briars and thorns
After a great battle has been fought
the Earth lies stripped of its Motherhood
So we vow to do no harm

If faced with unavoidable violence
we remember this vow
act quickly
and return immediately to peace

Battles are not with enemies
They are with beings like ourselves
Knowing this, we do not rejoice in victory
and the downfall of others
Every victory is a funeral and an illusion

Once a battle is over
we lay down our weapons
and weep that we did not prevent it

Blend of 30 and 31 of Tao Te Ching from Teresa Rylander

Sharing Stories

I am drawn to the work of people like Parker Palmer and Christina Baldwin who bring people together in a circle to share not concepts, opinions, dogma, or judgments about what is right or wrong, but to share their own lived experience. To place it in the center of the circle where it is just received by the circle. Parker Palmer calls these “circles of trust.”

Last Sunday I think the Gathering provided four beautiful men such a circle where they could share their very different military experiences and just have them received. No need to “determine the right experience.” I believe when people are able to just share their actual lived experience it become much easier for us to see that we each have lived in different realties…each of them true even though they may seem to be conflicting views. Easier for us to value and accept a viewpoint different from our own, easier to realize life is both/and not either/or. The circle becomes a place where different perceptions can reside side by side and inform each other.

Christiana uses the term “storycatcher”, someone who receives the story of someone else, not to judge it or compare it to the “right” story, just to receive it with attentiveness, care, and compassion. This Sunday we talk about gratitude. I am grateful that the Gathering is a place where such a sharing can take place.

I have also become drawn to the word “Aloha” whose deeper meaning is to share breath, to share the essence of the mystery that is our source and sustenance by whatever name you call it. Aloha is another way of saying Nemaste. To the four men who shared with us, Aloha. Aloha to Ann who wanted to have such a sharing and who values the practice of storycatching. Aloha Gathering.

Teresa Rylander 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gathering for Advent & AIDS Awareness

Sunday, December 2, 5:30 pm
618 Locust

World AIDS Awareness

World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December each year, is an important opportunity when governments, national AIDS programs, faith organizations, community organizations, and individuals around the world bring attention to the global HIV/ AIDS epidemic and emphasize the critical need for a committed, meaningful and sustained response.

With the help of Ann and Valerie, we will observe AIDS Awareness Day this Sunday, which is also the first Sunday of Advent; this is appropriate because Advent is a season of hope and expectation set amidst the poverty, violence and injustice of the world. Since AIDS was identified in the early 1980s, the joy of Advent has contrasted sharply with the suffering of millions of people, families, and communities at the hands of this disease. Yet AIDS and Advent both emphasize hope and the transformative power of love.

We will focus on this hope and the transformative power of love when we gather for worship Sunday night, 2 December, 5:30 pm. Our offering will be designated for the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. We will also continue to collect cans of chili for the Christmas food box effort. So far we've collected 52 cans of chili and $150 towards the effort, so we still have a ways to go to reach our goal of 260.

In honor of our chili collection effort, our potluck dinner is a chili cook-off.

Chili Cook-Off
There's no reason to head to Terlingua when you can enjoy (and participate in) a world class chili cook-off right here in San Angelo!  Yep, that's right - The Gathering's Sunday night pot-luck is a chili cook-off.  The inspiration?  the fact that we're collecting at least 260 cans of chili for the St. Paul Christmas food box effort. 

You're welcome to bring and heat up cans of chili, or you can be so bold as to make your own.  All categories - with beans, without beans, vegetarian, chicken, one pepper, two pepper, three pepper, YIKES MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE! - are welcome.  Also welcome are chili accoutrements - cheese, onions, fritos, chips, spoons, fire extinguishers, and whatever else is necessary for good chili eating (like chocolate).

Good luck to all you chili aficionados (and eaters).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

"At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." ~ Albert Schweitzer 
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.  Karen

The Gathering meets next on Sunday, December 2nd at 5:30 pm at 618 Locust Street. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gathering in Gratitude

"The generosity of God in sharing the goodness of creation with us can elicit only one possible response - that of gratitude."- Esther de Waal

This Sunday night we will engage in the spiritual discipline of gratitude as we gather for worship at 5:30 pm.  Come prepared to be inspired, touched, transformed. As a way of living our gratitude for daily nourishment, our offering is multifacted: we will receive non-perishable foods for Project Dignidad, as well as cans of chili for the Christmas Box effort (see article below).  We will also share a potluck meal.  Please remember - we always have plenty of food, so you don't "need" to bring anything.  If you'd like to contribute but can't come up with a food dish, you're always welcome to contribute to the "kitty"

Sunday, Nov 17 at 5:30 pm
618 Locust

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gathering to Converse with Veterans

Sunday, 11 November 2012, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street
According to Wikipedia, Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.  Observed on November 11, it coincides with other international holidays such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, which also mark the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.  The significance of  November 11 is because major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.

In considering this Sunday, the Worship Planning Workgroup realized we are all somehow shaped by veterans.  After all, almost all Gatherers are either veterans or children, spouses, siblings, friends, or parents of veterans.  We wondered about the effects of serving in the military on one's soul and spiritual journey.  In addition, we wondered how being a veteran impacts one's religious beliefs and/or faith journey.  So, in the best Gathering style, we'll have a conversation with some of our veterans - Larry, Tim, Les, and Crockett have agreed to share some of their military experiences with us.  In addition to story sharing, we'll also examine the Just War theory and theology as well as the Just Peace church movement.

Our financial offering will be designated for Meals for the Elderly because as Ann points out, many veterans are currently served by Meals for the Elderly.  In addition, we will continue our special November offering effort to bring dry and canned goods for Project Dignidad.  Since this is the second Sunday of the month, we will not have pot luck.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Intersection of Citizenship and Spirituality

Debates rage today about the role of religion in public life, and it seems religious rhetoric is increasing (or maybe just getting louder). As the world becomes more interconnected, various religions are inhabiting the same space, and many in the United States and around the world want to shape the public realm according to the dictates of their own religious traditions and particular interpretations of their sacred texts. Others, frustrated with this intolerance, take a completely secular approach to citizenship and want absolutely no intersection between anything spiritual and anything political.

But for those of us who intentionally work to integrate our spiritual lives with the rest of our lives, the situation is more complicated. We live within the tension of working to allow our particular faith perspectives to inform our politics without dictating that others believe and govern from our perspectives. We agree with the perspective that, "At it's best, the church is a community of moral discernment in which the connection between discipleship and citizenship can be a matter for serious deliberation." Sunday's worship invites us to this serious deliberation.

Governmental policies may be determined theoretically, but they have real life consequences, one of which is climate change and its effects. Zack Beauchamp points out that income inequality is "the single most important predictor of vulnerability to storm damage." As such, our financial offering this Sunday will be directed to Hurricane Sandy relief. Another consequence of current political policies is that many people in San Angelo are hungry. So every Sunday in November we will collect food for Project Dignidad. Canned vegetables and meats, peanut butter, bags of beans and rice are always needed and appreciated. And speaking of sharing food - we will join together in our potluck Sunday night.

 4 November 2012, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gathering to Co-Create Our Future

The Gathering is a collaborative inclusive community where everyone's voice and perspective matter. As such, you are invited and encouraged to participate in the next Community Connecting Workgroup Meeting and the next Worship Planning Workgroup Meeting. Your scary, creative, meaningful, fun suggestions are needed and will be appreciated!

Both these workgroups will meet Sunday, October 28, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn's Teaching

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. 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.

Sunday, October 21
5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Faith & Film

The newest film from Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Linda Midgett is coming to The Gathering this Sunday.

The "line" that the film's title refers to is the poverty line, or the line between "the haves and have-nots," as one person in the film puts it. The current poverty line, set by the federal government for the purposes of determining eligibility for government benefits, is $11,170 for an individual or $23,050 for a family of four.

This means nearly half of all Americans live in poverty or barely above the poverty line. How many people in San Angelo are living on this line? How many people in The Gathering?

The documentary highlights the stories of four people who have found themselves on both sides of this line: a former bank vice president who lost his job, a Louisiana fisherman whose livelihood is threatened by environmental degradation and hurricanes, a former homeless man, and a woman who grew up in high crime neighborhood, lifted herself out of poverty, and found herself back in poverty after a horrible accident disrupted her life.

Discussion will follow the 45 minute film. Our offering recipient is still to be determined. We will not have a community potluck meal, but you are welcome to bring movie snacks.

Sunday, October 14
5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gathering for Indigenous Worship

Monday, October 8, is nationally recognized as Columbus Day, a day to honor the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. Recognizing the injustices and crimes perpetrated on indigenous peoples across the Americas following Columbus' and Europeans' arrival, however, many states have recently begun observing Indigenous People's Day instead. The purpose of the day is to promote Native American culture and commemorate the history of Native American peoples.

Sunday night we will join and expand this commemoration as we gather for worship with the theme "indigenous people's spirituality". Not only will worship include components of Native American spirituality, it will also include aspects of other indigenous spiritualities.

Noting the significance of animals and environment for many indigenous peoples and combining this with the Feast of St. Francis of Assissi (October 4, Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment), our offering will be designated for Concho Valley PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving). Our potluck theme is anything you consider indigenous.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gathering for a Community Conversation

Regarding The State of The Gathering
Sunday, September 30, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

The Gathering is a vibrant, collaborative community where each person and perspective is unique and important in making up the whole. As such, we gather as a whole for updates and conversations about the life of the community every fifth Sunday, which is this Sunday. Because of the complexity of this year (Neil's transplant, me being out with Neil, people moving), we've not Gathered for Sacred Business since January, and a lot has happened since January! This Sunday is an important Gathering in that we will assess the "state of The Gathering" and discuss and decide things that shape who we are and will be. You are highly encouraged to participate.

Our offering will affirm our relationship with the United Church of Christ as we give to the South Central Conference

Recognizing the time issue, we will not have a regular pot-luck. Feel free, however, to bring a snack supper and/or snacks to share.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gathering for Sacred Reading

Sunday night we will engage in the spiritual practice of sacred reading, aka lectio divina, which literally means "reading God". There are many variations of lectio divina, but all of them are a form of prayer, inviting a Divine loving look at some aspect of life. During this week's Gathering, we will engage that Divine loving look as we read and reflect on a passage from Richard Rohr's book Everything Belongs. Our offering will be designated for the Adult Literacy Council of the Concho Valley. This is the fourth Sunday of the month, which means we will not share a potluck meal.

Sunday, 23 September, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gathering for Peace

Sunday night we will participate in the fifth annual Season of Peace when we gather for worship and community. The Season of Peace celebration is the annual period marking the transformative global journey from fear to hope, starting with peace and understanding. As part of the worship service, Tim McTaggart will share about spirituality and the Burning Man experience, and Valerie Tedford Queen will provide our music. Our offering will be designated for the Peace Ambassadors of West Texas.

As we imagine and embody world peace, our potluck theme is whirled peas.  (Let me know if you don't understand, and I'll explain.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gathering for Those in Need

Gathering to Help Isaac Clean-Up Efforts
Sunday, September 9, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Back Bay Mission, a Biloxi, Mississippi non-profit community ministry of the South Central Conference United Church of Christ, "serves the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the wider church community by faithful witness for social justice and compassionate service to the poor and marginalized." Some of its ministries include: care for homeless men and women; providing affordable housing; food, health, utility, and education assistance; and mental health care. Back Bay and the people it serves were deeply impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and they have now experienced the impact of Hurricane Isaac. We will help them put some of the pieces of their lives back together this Sunday night as we gather to live our practices of compassion and service; we will assemble hygiene kits. All materials will be provided except for your hands - which are crucial for being able to complete the task! While we will not have a potluck, you are invited to bring snack food and drinks in addition to your willing hands and compassionate spirit.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pray the News

This weekend marks the space between the Republican and Democratic conventions, each offering a distinct vision for the future of the US. It is also Labor Day weekend, which is a time to acknowledge and honor workers and evaluate real working conditions. And many will spend these 3 days assessing and cleaning up the mess left by Hurricane Isaac. Where does one's faith fit in considering issues facing our country? We will respond in part by "praying the news" as we gather for worship this Sunday. Our offering will be designated for Week of Compassion, which is an ecumenical disaster relief effort. We will also share potluck following the service.  

Gathering for Worship
Sunday, 2 September, 5:30 pm, 618 Locus

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gathering for Conversation on Forgiveness


Listening to a portion of Michael Moore's story "The Blessing" will begin this Sunday's Gathering, and it will be followed by a conversation about forgiveness. You are invited to bring brief readings about forgiveness to share with the larger Gathering.  The offering is still to be determined, and there will not be a potluck meal.

In her e-mail Karen issued the following invitation (which has occurred)

Please remember and participate in the Martin Luther King Junior Celebration this Saturday, August 25:

WHAT?   March from MLK Park to City Hall to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963.

TIME?     Gather at 9:15 a.m. at the park to walk to City Hall. Shortly after 10:00 a.m. we will have a brief but powerful service of prayer, music and speakers.

PURPOSE? The work of Dr. King, and all those nameless people to create a nation that is just and equitable for all, needs to be celebrated and the challenges that lay ahead in that work need to be presented and accepted if the work of the Dream of Dr. King is to be carried on toward completion.

WHY NOW? Golden Anniversaries, 50th remembrances, are always a time for celebration. But time is only a tool for good if it is used. In this 49th year, we need to set specific goals, personal tasks, and  corporate commitments to continue bringing about change between now and next year’s 50th anniversary.

WHO?     We invite everyone who is committed to the goals of community marked by unity, compassion, justice and equality. We invite young people and church youth groups to come as groups representing their churches. We invite individuals to join in. We urge churches in the community to make members aware of these opportunities. We ask churches to provide opportunities for older or infirm members to come in cars and ride in the procession if they cannot walk. We will have ways for people who walk to get back to their cars after the program.

PROMISES? We promise that you will be reminded of very specific work that has been going on right here in San Angelo to realize our dreams. We promise you will be presented an opportunity to see where you can commit to making a difference. We promise that you will leave the event proud of who you are, and aware of what we can become together.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gathering for Contemplation and Action

Ever Evolving Community,

Theologian Paul Knitter speaks about a "Sacrament of Silence." He states:

"If the Divine is truly a Mystery that is beyond all human comprehension, beyond all human ideas and words, then any spiritual practice must make room - lots of room - for "the practice of silence." 

But of course, all faith traditions also teach that spirituality is about compassion – concretely caring for others. During tomorrow's Gathering, we will explore this interdependent relationship between Being and Doing, between contemplation and action.

For our pot luck, you're invited to "contemplate" your food offering.  What does it say about your life? Your interests and tastes your spirituality? Where and how are you spending your time and with what are you nourishing/filling your body? Our offering will be designated for West Texas Organizing Strategy.



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beauty from Difficulty

Thanks to Roger, Ann and Nancy for leading the Gathering this coming Sunday night. The theme, Thanksgiving in August, is a twist on the spiritual discipline of gratitude, or being thankful. The group is invited to share stories about times when something difficult turned out to lead to something wonderful. This comes from the reality that while The Gathering is in the midst of difficult change because many Gatherers are leaving San Angelo for new horizons, so many good things continue to happen. 

In Roger's words:

"For most of us our vision is very limited, so it's often impossible to know how what seems crappy or wonderful is going to turn out or what it might lead to. We live in mystery and from mystery, and maybe the best we can do is appreciate what seems a blessing and try to wait and see what might come or what might be made of what seems a curse. And try to be open to 'busted plays' (if I may football-analogize) as opportunities for improvisation and for the arrival of the prodigious, which is always waiting just out the door to the alley for a chance to sneak in and romp out onstage unbidden and unexpected and far more wondrous than anything we could have thought up."
As a part of this week's Gathering, we'll also share a community potluck meal. The offering is still to be determined.

Thankful for The Gathering community and looking forward to Sunday,


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gathering for Worship

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

This Sunday we will re-gather for worship at Promenade Square. We will share stories of vacations, reunions, cook-outs, community dinners, and other summer activities that have reminded us again that the world is indeed "charged with the grandeur of God" (Gerald Manley Hopkins).

 We'll also share a summer potluck following our worship time. Our financial offering will be designated for The Gathering (our regular operating account and our future facility fund), and we will continue to collect non-perishable foods for Project Dignidad.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gathering for Reflection and Conversation

This Sunday we will re-gather as community at Promenade Square, 618 Locust Street following our July Gathering Dinners break. Because of the prevalence of violence in our world (examples: the recent tragedy in Colorado, increasing suicides among U.S. military personnel, and increasingly hostile public rhetoric in political campaigns and religious discourse), we will explore various aspects of violence in society and also explore spiritual responses and alternatives. Our offering is designated for Project Dignidad, a local organization seeking to respond to the violence of hunger. Both monetary gifts and canned/boxed food will be received. We will not have potluck this Sunday.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gathering for Dinner

Sunday, July 22, 5:30 pm

A fabulous time was enjoyed at Megan and Liz's home last Sunday evening.  We shared great conversation, great food, and a great dust storm. 

Next Sunday, we will meet at the homes of Chris and Les (2605 Palo Duro Drive) and Aretta and Larry (1615 South Madison).  It isn't too late to sign up, so email Nancy for more information,
The Gathering does "food" very well.  We also do "caring about others" very well.  This Sunday, in addition to enjoying food together, we'll also care about others by bringing canned and boxed food for Project Dignidad.  Any and all non-perishable items are welcome. 

This will be our last July dinner as we will return on Sunday, July 29 to our regular Gathering on Locust St. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Join the Sacred Feast

Newsletter - Restaurant II Header Image

Gathering for Dinner and Conversation
Sunday, July 15, 2012, 5:30 pm

 Our first Summer 2012 Dinner Gathering got off to a rousing fun-filled evening at Nancy York's home last Sunday.  Diners had a great evening sharing food and stories.  We look forward to the next dinner this Sunday at Megan and Liz's house, 2798 Oxford Ave, corner of Oxford and A&M. The menu is Mexican - enchiladas and all the trimmings.  Menu items needed:  beans, rice, salad, guacamole, chips, salsa, cheese, desserts, drinks, ice, something else?  If you haven't signed up, it's not too late - there's plenty of room for all.  For more information, contact Nancy -

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Open for Dinner & Relationship

The Gathering has gone national.  Last Saturday's San-Angelo Standard Times article The Gathering:  Open Doors, Open Hearts  was picked up b  the national UCC office and has been included in the denomination's weekly email - KYeP. Pretty cool, huh?  It's not been archived, yet, and I've not figured out how to link to it on, but if you're interested in signing up for KYeP (Keeping You e-Posted), here's that link.  The article was also referenced in this week's South Central Conference (conference of which we are a part) e-newsletter. 
We've gotten a lot of positive response from local folks as well as UCC people near and far.  Many thanks to Sylvia for telling her reporter daughter Becca about The Gathering, and many thanks to Becca and Kimberly (the photographer) for a great article and pictures.

This coming Sunday, July 8, begins our July Gathering Dinners.  We'll gather at 5:30 at Nancy York's house to share dinner and conversation.  If you've not signed up but want to participate, come on!  There's always room at the table and in The Gathering.  If you'd like to contact Nancy about the menu, feel free to email her:


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Freedom to Love, Grow & Serve

We'll share worship, communion, and potluck this Sunday. Our offering will be designated for The Gathering. This will be our last Gathering-as-a-whole until the end of July. On Sundays, July 8, 15, 22, Gatherers will join together in small groups to share dinner and conversation. For more information go to our newsletter.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gathering for Meditation

This Sunday's Gathering will be a time of meditation led by Dick and Nancy.  Nancy said music and modeling clay will both be part of the evening.  There's no potluck, and the offering is still to be determined.

Unbelievably, it's already almost July.   A delightful aspect of The Gathering is the diversity of participants, and a frustration is that we go in so many different directions, it's hard to get to know each other. Last year, we discovered that a wonderful way of getting to know each other more intentionally was via the July Dinners for Eight (or 6 or 9 or 7 or 10) experiment.  So we're doing it again.  The first Sunday of July, July 1, we will gather for worship as usual at 5:30 pm, Promenade Square, 618 Locust Street.  The next three Sundays, July 8, 15, 22, Gatherers will join together in small groups to share dinner and conversation. You may participate in one, two, or all three Sundays. I have no doubt the evenings will be nourishing and satisfying in many ways: spiritually, intellectually, physically - and just plain fun! These are also great times to include people interested in The Gathering but afraid to come to "church." To be included or just to know what's going on, please contact Nancy  (  

Looking forward to gathering with you,

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Celebrating Fathers and Karen's Return

Sunday is Father's Day, and therefore, many of you have plans to be with various men in your lives. That's great!  And even better: bring those men with you to The Gathering because a photographer from The Standard-Times is going to be present to worship with us and take pictures for the story that's going to run in the paper sometime soon.  This is a great opportunity for The Gathering to be "seen" - literally and figuratively. 

Another reason this Sunday is special to me is because I'll be back co-leading worship.  I look forward to this opportunity to be with you all again in body and spirit.  Part of Sunday's service will be about "fatherhood", so if you'd like to bring pictures, readings, memories to share, please do so.  In addition, our potluck theme will be favorite father foods - your favorite food, if you're a father-being; food that reminds you of someone who filled a fatherly role in your life; your favorite food if you want to be a father; etc.

Our offering will be designated for the Healthy Families San Angelo program, whose mission is "to enhance the ability of families to provide a secure and nurturing environment that supports positive outcomes for children."

Good news to share - Cary Sargent's ear surgery this morning was successful, and she continues her recovery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Prayers are appreciated. 

Peace, Shalom, Salam,

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Holding Close and Letting Go


Someday soon I hope to get back to sending interesting, colorful, festive, informative, and inspiring weekly e-newsletters (I'm hoping the e-newsletters used to be all those things).  At the beginning of this transplant journey, Isobelle graciously offered to help with the e-newsletters, but I thought managing them was no big deal.  Hah!  In the past 2 months, I've definitely run up against the hubris of thinking I can do everything.  Perhaps I also keep hoping for some routine and predictability in this chaotic time, and managing the e-newsletters symbolizes that.   What's the quote - hope springs eternal?  Well, I may be hoping, but routine and predictability have not yet returned, so maybe one day soon I'll get out an interesting, colorful, etc, e-newsletter but not today.

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts during the past couple of weeks.  Neil's father, Thomas G. Snipes, Sr, died early Saturday morning, June 2.  The graveside service was Sunday afternoon, in a beautiful country cemetery outside Mt. Vernon, TX.  For most of the gathered family and friends, this was their first opportunity to see Neil post-transplant (after all, it's only been 8 weeks), and the first opportunity in many months to see him at all because of his travel restrictions while on the transplant list.  So as is often the case, but perhaps more obvious this Sunday, gathering for a death was also an opportunity to celebrate life.

We were in San Antonio by early Tuesday morning for post-transplant clinic and finally returned to San Angelo Wednesday night.  While it's been a full and tiring several days, we're very glad Neil and I were able to be present with his siblings and other family members for his father's burial.  We appreciate your continued care as we begin transitioning to life without Tom.

As to Sunday's Gathering, Dick Marine is planning the service.  He says it's going to be very unusual, surprising, and different, so don't miss it.  I've lost track of days, but I believe this is the second Sunday of the month; if so, there's no potluck this Sunday.  At this time, I don't know the designated offering recipient.

You are a wonderful community - holding each other in love and care, providing a witness of compassion and justice to the San Angelo area, seeking to be a vibrant inclusive progressive faith community in a conservative traditional community.  None of these is particularly easy; all together they are quite challenging.  Kudos to you for keeping after all of it. 

Grace and peace,

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gathering in Community

Update on Neil:

Neil and I are experiencing what so many lung transplant recipients have described to us - the transplant roller-coaster.  While Neil's lungs are doing very well, he ended up back in the hospital in the wee hours of Monday morning after 12 hours in the University Hospital ER because of a slight infection in the surgical wound.  Because his immune system is so compromised right now, any infection is worth paying attention to, and the transplant team was indeed paying attention. So good news/bad news - the transplant team didn't take any chances, and Neil ended up inpatient on the transplant floor at University Hospital, San Antonio, Sunday - Tuesday.  We're now home and learning to manage iv antibiotics and wound care.  

Complicating Neil's recovery is his father's decline.  We are very sad to report that Tom Snipes, Sr., is succumbing to small cell carcinoma in his lungs, is now in ICU in Mt. Pleasant, TX, and is declining rapidly.  While we are grateful Neil's siblings are present with Tom, are conveying Tom's shifting status, and are facilitating communication between Tom and Neil, we deeply regret we are not able to be with Tom and the Snipes family during this time.  We appreciate you continuing to hold us in the many ways you pray. 

I also appreciate the Worship Planning Workgroup for taking up leadership of The Gathering worship experiences in my absence and for all the ways you continue to support and participate in The Gathering.  Thank you.
Sunday's Gathering
Worship will be led by Nancy York. She states the theme is related to community. The offering will be designated for Church World Service, the organization with whom we are in community via the school kit and hygiene kit efforts. I recently received this request: 

We are all aware of the disasters that have already occurred this year around the world. In the U.S., hurricane season (officially begins June 1) has made an early start with Tropical Storm Alberto sitting off the Eastern Coast.

Since the beginning of January, CWS has shipped thousands of kits - baby kits, clean up buckets, school kits and hygiene kits to assist people impacted by disasters. Your help is urgently needed to increase supplies that are currently available in the CWS warehouses.  Most needed are baby kits, clean up buckets and school kits.

Our offering will go to further our contribution of 38 school kits. More opportunity to enjoy community will be available by sharing the potluck meal following worship.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

God of Many Languages: Celebration & Remembrance

Gathering for Sacred Readings to Celebrate Pentecost and Observe Memorial Day Sunday, May 27, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

"God meets us in the messiness of different languages and does not ask us to speak God’s language.  Instead, God chooses to speak our many languages." - Eric Barreto

Our "potluck" this coming Sunday night has nothing to do with food, but instead concerns how we individually and collectively experience Sacred Spirit.  Therefore, you are invited to bring and share readings, poetry, verses from sacred text, art, music, etc., that are meaningful to you.  In addition, because of the weekend's emphasis on Memorial Day, you are also invited to bring something by which you remember and/or honor a loved one who now lives in your memories.  We will co-create worship as we share these treasures together. 

Our offering will be designated for the North Concho Enrichment Foundation, which is establishing a free library in the Carlsbad and Water Valley areas.  You can read the recent Standard-Times article here:  Because it's the fourth Sunday of the month, we will not share a meal.  The following Sunday, June 3, we will share a worship service and community potluck.  


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Movie Night: Queen of the Sun

It's Show Time! 
Gathering for a Movie
Sunday, May 20, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust

From Roger Martens: "I've just watched Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?, the movie we'll see at this Sunday's Gathering. I am left with a sense of wonder not only for bees and the natural world, but also for the spiritual wisdom of the small-scale beekeepers who are trying to protect them."

This is an 83 minute beautiful gem of a movie, and the conversation led by Roger will be engaging and satisfying as well. Our offering is yet to be determined. Because of the film, we won't have potluck, but you are welcome to bring good movie snacks. And of course, anything made with honey is appropriate!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Progress Report re: Neil's Transplant Journey

I think it's been 3 weeks since the last update via this venue, and it's hard to believe that much time has passed. The days have been full with steps toward recovery - literally and figuratively. Yesterday, Neil and I enjoyed a 1 1/4 mile walk along the river; what a gift it is to get to walk together!

 As we get further from surgery (he's now 4 1/2 weeks post-transplant), the surgical side effects are beginning to wear off, which helps with just about everything. He's grateful for more restful sleep, more mental clarity, more energy and strength.

While the learning curve is still steep, the process is less overwhelming; for instance, because of the suppression of Neil's immune system, proper food preparation is critical in order to avoid any possible bacteria. I figure since I haven't accidentally killed him yet, we're on the right path.

As we're managing the practical pieces of living with a lung transplant, the emotional and spiritual aspects of the past month are beginning to bubble up. This gift of life is so precious and humbling. We are both acutely aware of how many people living with serious illness do not experience this kind of resurrection; we know Neil's new life is due to someone's untimely death and the incredible graciousness of that person's family. With each deep breath Neil experiences, we hold the donor's family in prayer as they grieve the death of their loved one.

We're also aware of being held in the breath of Spirit and the heart of God by so many people - many of whom we don't even know. It's been incredibly sacred and sustaining for us and has made a significant difference in this journey. Thank you.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gathering on Mother's Day

Tonia Marine will lead Sunday's Gathering in exploring feminine aspects of spirituality and the Divine. The offering is still to be determined.  While this is a second Sunday of the month, and therefore, not one of our usual potluck nights, we cannot gather on Mother's Day without food.  After all, the sharing of food is part of the gift of nurturing.  So bring "mom's best recipes" - whether they are your own mother's, someone else's mother's, or perhaps your best recipe, make it, bring it and we'll call them all "mom's best."  Join us.

May 13, 2012, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pluralistically Gathering for Worship

Sunday, May 6, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust

On the first Sunday of May, faith communities across the world dedicate their worship to a celebration of our interfaith world.  As The Center for Progressive Christianity, organizer of the event, explains, "We can grow closer to God and deeper in compassion - and we can understand our own traditions better - through a more intimate awareness of the world's religions."  The Gathering will participate in Pluralism Sunday this Sunday, May 6.  Nancy York is planning and leading the event and is glad for your help.  The offering recipient is still to be decided.  To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Mexican food is the potluck theme.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gathering for Sacred Business

Sunday, April 29, 2012, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Since I've been otherwise occupied the last couple of weeks, I don't know exactly what's planned for this coming Sunday's Gathering; I do, however, know it's the fifth Sunday of the month, which means lots of important things will be discussed, decided, and determined at the Gathering for Sacred Business evening.  Ann Light says it's going to be BIG, REALLY BIG, and you don't want to miss it. 
Please contact Ann with questions.

I also know the Worship Planning Workgroup, the Community Connecting Workgroup, and so many of the rest of you have willingly stepped in to leadership responsibilities, and The Gathering is humming along.  As we've said all along, The Gathering is a collaborative endeavor - only possible because of our combined voices and efforts.  Many thanks to the Worship Planning Workgroup, the Community Connecting Workgroup, and all the rest of you for living out this shared sense of community!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gathering Miracle

It seems fitting that within a week of Easter, The Gathering heard news of a life giving miracle involving one of our own.  Neil and Karen, our minister, received the call that donor lungs were available.  They rushed to San Antonio, where transplant surgeons and the transplant team gave Neil renewed breath of life.

Reports are available for April 12 and April 21  We are grateful to all who continue to hold Neil and Karen close.  While Neil's early recovery has been spectacular, bumps on the road are not unusual, even expected. 

On a personal note, I've watched Neil live fully within his diminished lung capacity.  I wondered if I might have the courage to soldier on were my lungs turning to concrete.  That last time our Community Connecting Workgroup gathered, we talked about Neil's transplant to be, albeit at an undetermined time.  I felt the hope, love and promise in the room.  It warms my heart to know the breath of life moves easier through Neil's body.  Who will be the first to say in Far Side fashion, "Look at the double lungs on that guy!"

My apologies for not getting the word out on our April 15th Gathering - Economically Speaking.   While this is a time of flux, I'll do my best to keep this blog updated.  I'm not sure what the theme is this evening, but I know we'll join together in loving presence, gratitude and fellowship. Neil and Karen will be there in spirit!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Come Celebrate Easter

Sunday, April 8, 2012, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

What a difference a year makes! Last April we were burning - literally and figuratively - because of drought and wildfires. Hundreds of thousands of acres across Texas were blackened, charred from the devastating fires. Now, the countryside is blooming with new growth, and the incredible wildflowers have painted the state multi-colored. What a beautiful testament to resurrection.

We will celebrate a fuller resurrection experience this Easter Sunday when we gather for worship. Our offering will be designated for Our Church's Wider Mission, the offering which provides for the basic work of the UCC.

Our potluck is anything Easter-y: e.g., ham and ham compliments (salad, vegetables, bread), any favorite Easter food, and anything eggy, e.g., deviled or egg salad. And of course, Easter eggs and bunnies are always welcome. Looking forward to Celebrating Resurrection Sunday together,


Saturday, March 31, 2012

As Full of Life, Beauty, and Possibilities as Spring

Next week, known worldwide as Holy Week, marks foundational events in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. We will delve into and reflect upon these holy days as we gather for worship Sunday night. Our offering is designated for One Great Hour of Sharing, an ecumenical effort supporting ministries in 70 countries. The motto, "Giving Help, Hope and Life," appropriately conveys the work of OGHS which includes funding development projects, feeding the victims of famine, providing services for displaced people, and responding to natural disasters. Our potluck is general.

Gathering for Worship
Sunday, 1 April, 5:30 pm
618 Locust Street

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gathering to Walk the Labyrinth

Sunday, March 25, 5:30 pm, Unity Church Labyrinth
5237 S. Bryant Boulevard

"Your life is a sacred journey," says Caroline Adams, and walking the labyrinth is a wonderful way to concretely explore that journey. As such, it is an appropriate experience for the season of Lent.

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools. Each person's walk is a personal experience - a healing and sometimes very profound experience, and sometimes just a pleasant walk

We will engage this centuries old spiritual practice Sunday night when we meet at 5:30 pm at the Unity Church outdoor labyrinth. You don't have to prepare to walk the labyrinth - just show up. We will begin the evening with a few words of introduction and some time of centering. We'll walk the labyrinth and then have some time to share about our experiences. There are some benches and seats around, but you're certainly invited to bring a lawn chair, too. Our offering designee is still to be determined.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gathering to Cultivate Greatness of Soul

Spiritual guide Edward Hays suggests experiencing the Christian season of Lent as a time of spiritual expansion and growth. Our efforts at things like worship, contemplation, reading sacred texts, prayer, service to others, practicing generosity and hospitality are to positively develop our relationship with God and enhance our connectedness with others. He states:

Lent as a holy season challenges one to aspire to be as Godlike as possible in forgiving and loving. We've all heard how the average person actualizes very little of his or her potential mental powers; the same is true of our spiritual potential. Lent as a holy season challenges one to reach for that potential, to aspire toward the greatness of soul that comes from cultivating virtues like justice, mercy, and love.

This Sunday, March 18, we will engage this Lenten effort at cultivating "greatness of soul" with a time of worship. Our offering will be designated for Valerie Tedford Queen, who has graciously helped with our worship music for several months now. Let's take this opportunity to concretely show her our appreciation. Part of this week's service will also include preparations for the following Sunday, March 25, when we will continue to cultivate greatness of soul by experiencing the spiritual practice of walking the labyrinth. Because of this, our potluck theme is anything circular.

Sunday, March 18, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Holy Days

Spring is full of holy holidays: Naw-Ruz, Magha Puja, Chaitra Navratri, Beltane, Easter, Nanakshahi, Purim, and many others. Interestingly, several holy observances are remarkably similar across faith traditions, or at least have common beginnings and purposes.

Sunday night we will explore these various similarities and differences as Ann Light, Karen McGinnis, Nancy York, and myself introduce us to a number of different religious festivals and observances. >Our offering will be designated for The Gathering.

Gathering for Education and Celebration Spring Holy Days
11 March, 5:30 pm
618 Locust Street

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Warmth Returns

An observation in last Sunday's conversation about the Amish was that they seek to live their religious beliefs; they strive to practice what they preach. Sunday's worship experience will invite us to do the same by centering on the connection between our lives and our spirituality. Teresa Rylander has co-planned worship, and we will have the pleasure of hearing her read some of her own reflections about what it means for her to live life spiritually congruent. Writings by Wayne Muller, Kent Nerburn, and others will also be included, as well as opportunities to share together some spiritual practices.

Our offering will be designated for Wayne Muller's organization Bread for the Journey. After Teresa introduced us a couple of years ago to their life-changing efforts, we have become strong co-participants in their work. Following worship, we will continue living our values for community, inclusivity, and fun by sharing our pot-luck meal.

Gathering for Worship
Sunday, March 4, 5:30 pm
618 Locust

Friday, February 24, 2012

Amish Film Re-Do

Sunday we'll try again to gather with some Amish friends as we watch and discuss a 49-minute documentary entitled The Amish: How They Survive

Given the on-going national conversations about the complex intersections between religion and government, learning how the Amish traverse the issue of religious freedom is timely. In addition, the film explores why the Amish are thriving and provides an unprecedented look into the varied beliefs and lifestyles of the Amish. Much of the film's narration is provided by Amish people themselves (speaking off camera).

Discussion will be led by Neil and Karen. Our offering will be designated for the People/Plant Connection, and you are invited to bring more soup and other canned/boxed food for Project Dignidad.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Orleans Style Gathering

Wednesday, February 22, is Ash Wednesday, which begins the religious season of Lent. But before Ash Wednesday is Fat Tuesday, or the culmination of Mardi Gras festival. The two seasons are integrally related (the ying and yang of the human condition) and are each more meaningful when understood together. Sunday night, we will engage both during worship. In honor of Mardi Gras' wonderful community feasting followed by the experience of fasting, our offering recipient is Wesley Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, since it offers a free hot lunch 6 days a week, enabling many to "feast" rather than go hungry. Our potluck theme is all things New Orleans; if you'd like suggestions and recipes from The Party itself, check out the "official" Mardi Gras site.

Many thanks to Ann and Crockett for helping co-plan and lead worship as well as Valerie and Roger for helping with the music. It's going to be a great night!

Gathering for Worship:
Sunday, 19 February
5:30 pm
618 Locust

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gathering with Amish Friends for Film Night

Sunday, 12 February 2012, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street

Now there's a curious mixture - films and Amish and The Gathering. What?

Have you ever considered the similarities between The Gathering and the Amish? Think about it: We are both communities based on deeply held faith perspectives; we appreciate and intentionally seek to develop community; we actively help our neighbors; we respect nature and want to live in harmony with our world; and we strive to be relevant and vital in 2012. Of course, we also have a few differences - beginning with the fact that the Amish, in their effort to be vital, live far outside the cultural mainstream, while The Gathering is absolutely in the middle of it. But here's the curiosity: the Amish's strict adherence to community conservative values is contributing to their doubling in size every year. During the last century, they grew from 5,000, inhabiting a handful of states, to 200,000, living in 25 states and one Canadian province.

Sunday night, we will more deeply engage with and get to know our Amish brothers and sisters as we watch and discuss a 49-minute documentary entitled The Amish: How They Survive.

Just as Christians, people in the United Church of Christ and people of "faith" cannot be categorized in one box, neither can the Amish; there is a great deal of variance among the group-as-a-whole. The film provides an unprecedented look into the varied beliefs and lifestyles of the Amish, and much of the film's narration is provided by Amish people themselves (speaking off camera).

Discussion will be led by Neil and Karen, and our offering will be designated for the People/Plant Connection. In addition, you are invited to bring more soup and other canned/boxed food for Project Dignidad.

Update: This event was postponed due to snow.