There’s a real mix of people siting round the tables, enjoying the ribs that Charlie our chef has prepared. Young Glaswegians sit beside people from Syria and Iran, women chat with older guys who have been with us for years, and everyone takes turns serving and clearing the tables. We have been running The Gathering since the start of the year.
Simon helps lead the Gathering. He explains, “It’s a way of being more relational and going deeper with people. We eat each week, either at the beginning or the end. It’s the whole thing, eating, prayer, worship. The eating together is just as important. It’s interactive, we discuss questions in groups, or talk about a photo or piece of art. I try and include all the senses.
One week I smashed a bottle of perfume on the floor when we were thinking about the woman breaking a jar over Jesus’ feet. It was dramatic and hopefully it will be something that will stick in people’s minds.
“One of our guests has been through a difficult time. Before The Gathering one week he said to Adam, one of our Project Workers, that he had a broken heart which he didn’t think could be fixed. The theme that afternoon was that God can give us a new heart. He and Adam just turned and looked at each other!
“I have been surprised by who is coming, staying and engaging. There’s a real mix of people. On the first day we lit candles. Tony who is street homeless and very chaotic stayed for the whole thing.
“People don’t know what to expect when they come in. One week we were looking at Jesus calming the storm and the chairs were set out like a boat, with a mast with a sheet on it for a sail.
“I want to involve the guests in leading – saying a prayer, reading from the Bible or singing at the front. There’s no teaching – it’s the guests who make the points through discussing the questions at their tables. I think God can speak to us all through the answers the guests give.
“Hopefully more of the guests will step into the leading of it. It would be lovely to see them leading the worship and the question times. I want it to be a safe and welcoming place and for everyone to feel God’s presence.”
Alan helps out at the Gathering. He says, “Before it starts I help Charlie prepare the food and do whatever needs done for the set up. I enjoy it because it is a space to be together. It uplifts my spirit and sets me up for the weekend – knowing that God is here and at work in this building.”
The theme for today is belonging. Towards the end there is an invite for everyone to tie a branch onto the cross, a symbol of our need to be grafted onto Jesus. As those who have shared their stories of difficult upbringings and of feeling like they didn’t belong anywhere in their childhoods tie their branch to the cross, it’s a powerful reminder of the power of the cross.
This article first appeared in our Connect magazine. Sign up here to receive our magazine and other updates.