Love Gathers web header(1)
A simple, intentional effort to gather as God's community this spring and summer

After 14 months of pandemic and social distancing, some of us may feel distant from God.  While feeling distant is a real feeling and important to pay attention to, the feeling of disconnection belongs to us, not to God. We may feel distant from God, but God never feels distant from us. That relentless compassion of God gathers us, now.

During this time of pandemic, we have been worshipping at home, or not worshipping at all, or worshipping with another church online – regardless, we have all been “in Christ” all along. Jesus never fails.

Now, that Love that we have been part of all along invites us to Gather as a worshipping congregation again. We need to gather - because for most people, part of how we feel God and the movement of the Holy Spirit is in the serendipitous interactions with other people — the way God “shows up” in conversation, in a gesture, or an act of empathy or understanding. We feel what is real about belonging to God when we are gathered with one another.

We are asking our congregation to actively participate in a Spring and Summer of “Love Gathers” at Christ Church — a deliberate, personal, decentralized effort to Gather.  Every group and ministry team is encouraged to invite members of your group to a “Gathering in Love” event.

Shirley's Sermon on

Group leaders: see below for helpful information. Group members: ask the leader of your group or ministry team how you can help pull people together. And always reach out to staff if you need any help.

Key Words as we seek to Gather in Love

Remember that everyone has wounds. We’ve been through a time that hits the nerve of those wounds for a lot of people. Jesus loved his disciples to the end, and they found a new beginning.

Group leaders, please know that you have pastoral authority to gather your group. If there are co-leaders, please work with them to decide how best to invite and set up the gathering.

Such a wide-spread effort needs to have lots of fingers outreaching everywhere.

It’s o.k. to be messy. Some people may get invitations from more than one group. That’s o.k. They can decide which ones to gather with for this purpose.

Look for the people who are not included. Make these known to Rev. Shirley so that we can plan how to reach out.

We’ve gained newcomers during COVID. In a way, we’re all newcomers now. This perspective will help us improve the way we befriend newcomers.

Inviting people to Gather

Try to call members of your ministry team or small group to invite them to the gatherings. Contact information is listed in our Realm database. Let staff know if you having difficulty finding someones contact information.

Seek Input
Find out what day of week and times they have available for a gathering. Find out if their health considerations mean that they need to have a “virtual” way of participating.

Make sure that all members of the team/group know what is the date/time you’ve decided. Be sure to notify the people you didn’t get calls back from about the scheduled gathering. People who didn’t know how to respond to your first call might welcome the opportunity to come to the gathering.

You are heartily welcome to gather at the church (inside or outside). Our facility is generously used, so be sure to contact David Ellis, our Facilities Manager before you set a date/time to make sure there’s a room / space reserved for you.


Prepare to be together — ask a staff person for current guidelines on masks and social distancing.

If you wish to offer beverages or food, please be sure to check with the members of your team / group in advance and make sure everyone’s comfortable with how you plan to do that.

A casual and easy pace is best. Rev. Shirley has offered a suggestion of what can be helpful for gathering and healing. But you know your people, so you should decide what’s best.

Please be sure not to do the business of your ministry at this meeting.

Before you end the gathering, be sure to discuss when the group would next like to meet, how, and what would be meaningful. You may find that the group wants more healing time before resuming pre-COVID activity, or you may find doing “normal stuff” is the balm people need.

Sample Format for the Gathering

Welcome everyone.

Thank everyone for Gathering in Love and explain that this time is a little different than normal — setting aside space to attend to one another as God’s beloved children.

Briefly describe the format of this time.

Give each person the chance to name one thing they’ve lost during the past 14 months. It might help to explain to the group that people sometimes find it most easy to share tender things when they know what they share will be received with appreciative silence instead of a response.

Give each person the chance to name one thing they’ve gained.

Offer a prayer for a new beginning. If you’d like ideas for prayer resources, please email Rev. Shirley.

Additional Resources to use for planning and during the gathering

On Loss

Luke 15:11-32

Walter Brueggeman’s “The Giver of Bread and Fish,” from the book Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief and Uncertainty, Grief

Miriam Greenspan’s "Healing Through The Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear and Despair"

James Cone's “James Cone on the Blues

On Gain

Luke 15:1-10

Whyte, David, “Vulnerability”

Thurman, Howard, “Life Goes On”

Oliver, Mary, “Snow Geese”

Berry, Wendell, “The Peace of Wild Things”

Charleston, Steve, “Walking Toward Hope”

For additional resources, please contact Rev. Shirley Smith Graham.



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