Saturday, September 17, 2011

Seven Sacred Seasons: Gathering Season

When the Gathering started up, we didn't have sacred seasons at all. They were the byproduct of switching from one paid speaking pastor to utilizing a pool of speaking/teaching/worship leading volunteers in our third year. Initially, we just had a pool of people who rotated through the various roles. The problem was, we never achieved any unity to the speaking or themes of our worship. So in response, I designed a liturgical year which was honed and developed by our worship teams and leadership over the next seven years. The Gathering Season underwent the greatest change, initially acting as a bookend to Creation Season, our equivalent to Ordinary Time in other liturgical circles.

The first Gathering Season was held in June, right before what was Creation Season at the time, to commemorate the start of the Gathering in early June of 1998. Three years in, I began producing annual videos, short film montages to celebrate what had happened in the year prior. They became a favorite tradition of the Gathering. Sadly, they were produced in the years before massive hard drives, so they were always dumped to hard copy high-end tapes. I haven't digitally captured them again, but when I do, they'll get uploaded to the Net.

In the last four or five years of the Gathering, we stopped having two Gathering seasons. It seemed better to just celebrate Gathering Season in the fall, since the word had two meanings: our own fellowship, but also the Gathering of harvest. So Gathering Season came to be a sort of "harvest" season for us in an evangelistic sense. It was the only time of the year we gave a really hard push to see new people come, since September always felt like a new beginning anyhow. Further, we could commemorate our first public service in September 1998.

Unlike the other Sacred Seasons, Gathering Season never had a strong thematic core. It was up to the volunteer worship team, decor team, media crew, and speaker to decide on an appropriate theme. Some years, we had a number of speakers and musicians, to help new people get a fuller flavor for the Gathering.

I loved Gathering Season for its newness in those years. We become trained to the rhythm of the school year, and never really forget that sense of reboot that fall and a new school year brings. There was always a sense of excitement as we literally gathered together again after having been separated during the Sabbatical of Creation Season.

This last wallpaper was from the final Gathering Season, which had a double meaning. It was not only the reset of the church year for us, but also a last ditch effort to reset the Gathering. We had gone through some tough decisions in 2007, the worst being the decision to abandon our strip mall location due to rising real estate prices in Edmonton. We ended up renting from a Mennonite church that year, which caused an effective split in the church. After ten years of striving together, the Gathering became fragmented by the question of where we would gather. A handful of us pushed on for one last year. Every time I look at that wallpaper, I feel a bittersweetness. It was good that we took that last year. I don't think I could have let go the following fall if I hadn't tried my hardest, and gave my last energy to those final ten months. We hit reset in the hope that things would continue, but they didn't.

And yet, every year when the seasons change and school begins again, I feel the newness of Gathering season. May you also, wherever you gather today.


  1. Thank you for posting about The Gathering. I don't know if I've ever told you this but every time you talk about it there's a tiny bit of hope that is created for the future of church. I know it didn't end the way that it should have but for years - you guys had it right. And that's more than most people will ever experience through church. And there's hope in knowing that it can happen and will happen again. What can I say - I'm an optimist.

  2. You're the eternal optimist, Courtney! And I don't know that we had it "right," but it certainly worked for me. That's why I post these - in the hope that they can inspire others to learn from the vision we had and realized for ten years.