Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2009 at 1:31 am

want to party 300,000 new friends?

Hi All,

It’s the Final Countdown to Halloween and we want YOU to serve beside us this weekend!

Seriously, thanks to one and all who have supported The Gathering’s mission this Halloween. My friends and family have invested over $2,000 and innumerable hours of prayer and service in this initiative to bless the 500,000 people who visit Salem during Halloween. Both Kellie and I are blessed and overwhelmed by people’s generosity.

If you’re interested in joining us in the streets this weekend, here are some ways that you can serve!

1. Hot Chocolate

The following shifts are still available. Number of people needed are indicated in (parentheses).

Friday: 6 to 9 pm (1 – preferably someone strong enough to carry water)
Saturday: Noon to 3 pm (2); 3 to 6 (3); 6 to 9 (3)
Sunday: Noon to 3 pm (3); 3 to 6 (3)

Everyone has done a fantastic job with Hot Chocolate so far! As you prepare for this weekend, please note that the crowds are likely to double or triple and we’ll probably need to operate both burners at once. Translation: get ready to rock!

2. Death By Chocolate (DBC)

Death By Chocolate provides guests with a dramatic introduction to the reality of slavery and the impact our consumer choices have on slavery. This event is an excellent pairing with our hot cocoa mission and people really responded to it favorably last year (About 940 people attended Death by Chocolate in the 14 short hours that we ran it in 2008. Pretty Awesome, eh?).

In order for DBC to run smoothly we need a presenter, a host that runs the line and a barker or two. Anita Coco will be anchoring DBC, but we will need hosts, barkers and a second presenter to help. Opportunities are as follows:

Friday: 6 to 9 pm (Barker, Host and Presenter needed)
Saturday: Noon to 3 pm (Barker, Host and Presenter needed); 3 to 6 (Barker Host and Presenter needed)

3. 24 Hours of Prayer

Joe Riffe from 24/7 Prayer will be joining us to help facilitate a 24 hour (10 to 10 on Friday; 10 to 10 on Saturday) prayer vigil.

We would like to have at least one person present in the prayer room (location to be determined) at all times. At this moment all slots are available!

Friday: 10 to 10 pm (12 one hour slots are available – you can fill more than one slot if you wish!)
Saturday: 10 to 10 pm (second verse, same as the first)

4. Blessing, Confessing, Jesus Decking Monks

Monks will be deployed to bless, confess 2 x 2 and read from the Jesus deck whenever they are available. If you are interested in monking, let me know what you would like to do and when you would like to do it and I will add you to the schedule. Roving monks need to go out 2 x 2, so if you plan to do that, try to find a partner. After being trained by our head monk (Pastor Phil), Jesus decking can be done by a solitary monk.

5. Brimstone Chronicles

Various and sundry help is needed transporting people to hell and back again. Contact Pastor Phil if you are interested (

Thanks for all of your help and support! Everyone at The Gathering as well as our local and far away friends invest a lot of time, resources and passion in our Halloween mission. With God’s help, let’s bless the hell out of a couple of hundred thousand guests!

Much Love,



In Uncategorized on October 15, 2009 at 4:48 pm

my fundamental hypocrisy

compelling change in others while rejecting such compulsion from others.


In Uncategorized on October 15, 2009 at 1:32 am

shameless plug

Hi Friends,

Starting this weekend 100,000 people will be visiting Salem in hopes of having a spiritual experience and a little fun. This year The Gathering gang will be out there again to bless the city and embody the gospel and we hope you can join us.

How can you help? Glad you asked!

1. Serve Free Fair Trade Hot Chocolate

Our guests get gigged for parking, potable water at the Professor McGonagall hat they’ve always wanted. So we add a little levity to their day by offering a cup of hot, fair trade, completely swine-flu free hot chocolate.

On Friday, October 16, 23 and 30th, we will be running the hot chocolate booth from 6-9 pm. If you’d like to serve a shift, just let us know.

On Saturday and Sunday October 17-18, 24-25 and 31-11/1 we will be running the hot chocolate booth from noon-9pm. If you would like to serve a three hour shift, let us know and we will set your name right down on that there spreadsheet.

2. Pray

We are partnering with our friends at 24/7 prayer to pray for our city as well as our guests for 12 hours on Friday, October 30 and 12 hours on Saturday, October 31. One hour slots are available from 10 am to 10 pm on those days.

3. Speak Out for the Speechless

Not for Sale will be running the Death by Chocolate experience on Friday, October 30 from 6-9 pm and Saturday, October 31 from noon-6 pm. Want to help? Let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the ladies in charge.

4. Read the Jesus deck for spiritual seekers, wander the streets offering free blessings, interpret dreams and/or experiment with that one street preaching/ministry/holy provocation idea you’ve always had, but have never rolled out.

If you’re interested in these engaging forms of ministry, we invite you to attend a basic training on Saturday, October 24th at 2 pm. The teaching will be run by Pastor Phil Wyman, who has tons of experience listening to and loving practitioners of new religious movements. After the training you’ll be sent forth into the streets to embody Abraham’s blessing to the nation. The suggested donation for this 2 hour training session is $10, but don’t let cost hold you back if you simply don’t have it.

Thank you for supporting the mission of The Gathering and the ministry of my family. We hope to serve beside you this Halloween season!

Much Love,


In Uncategorized on October 14, 2009 at 2:48 am

returning to the ark

last weekend i had the privilege of returning to l’arche daybreak for a contemplative retreat at the cedars. after three days of silence, reading, prayer and rest i was reminded once again that prayer is the source of communion, collaboration and competence.

before the retreat began i wondered if it would serve a parenthetical purpose insofar as it would close the vocational wilderness that i have been wandering in since my first visit in 2000. although i did not receive the resolution i hoped for, i was reminded that the core members, leaders and mission of l’arche can serve as a constant reminders of Christ’s call to contemplative action and the path of descent.

now if only i can find the grace to listen.

many thanks to simkins for accompanying me on this journey and windham for having the wisdom not to.

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2009 at 10:18 am

boston’s emergent cohort is meeting tonight at 7 p.m.

the cohort is convening at uno’s in porter square (820 somerville ave, cambridge. adjacent to the porter square stop) to discuss the nature of evangelism in a postmodern context.

if you read books like mclaren’s more ready than you realize or a new kind of christian you’ll quickly realize that re-contextualizing evangelism* was one of the original impetuses of the conversation’s development. in the last few years evangelism has continued to be a vital issue as friends-cum-critics such as mark driscoll have accused emergent folk of failing to produce evangelistic fruit and others such as dan kimball and scot mcknight have started new conversations such as the origins project that are more focused on proclamation and evangelism.

so the form and function of evangelism in a pluralistic context has and continues to play and important role in the emergent conversation. i hope you can join us tonight to dig into these matters a bit.

as an added bonus, unos at porter square is so cool that occasionally jungle jim is there twisting balloons for family night. so, if you come out for the conversation, you might go home with a special surprise!

* along with, let’s face it, a shared loathing of the mega-church

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2009 at 12:57 am

celebrate halloween by serving beside the gathering

this october over 500,000 people will visit salem, massachusetts to party with friends, trample in and out of tourist traps and revel in the festival. for the past 10 years the gathering has crashed the party by blessing the city in any number of ways.

although the gathering is a small church with a big mission, we are fortunate to have a hundred or so volunteers who help us greet our guests and share the beauty, truth and goodness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a number of simple, and sometimes unexpected, ways. we would love to have you serve beside us this october.

since you asked, here’s how you can help!

1. if you love hot dogs, costumes, carnivals and kids* join us for children’s day on saturday, october 10th.

for the past seven years we have partnered with dominos pizza to run children’s day on salem common. since the day offers a variety of free entertainment, $1 hot dogs and a massive costume contest, 3-5,000 families will join us on the common between 9 and 5 p.m. since children’s day is one of the most affordable city-wide events many low-income families join us every year. since the costume contest is kickin‘ and the event corresponds with columbus day weekend** and the chamber of commerce’s huge bizarre bizaar*** extravaganza, this is an event you should not miss. we need volunteers to help from 8 am to 5 pm. (virtually) any amount of time you can give will help. indicate interest by emailing pastor phil at

2. got hot chocolate? we do and we’re going to serve up 10,000 fair-trade certified cups of it during the last three weekends of halloween.

we’ve been welcoming guests to our city with free hot chocolate for years,**** but this is the first year that our hot chocolate will be completely slave-free. if you want to volunteer to run the kerosene burner and serve up our completely h1 n1 free hot chocolate during the following weekend days 17-18, 24-25 or 30-31, please email jeff gentry at if you would like to help us off-set the cost of the fair trade cocoa and cut a year off your stay in purgatory you can donate on the paypal site at just be sure to mention that your $ are for hot chocolate.

3. harboring a secret monk fetish? monk up and bless people throughout the city of Salem!

we’ve been ripping off don miller for years by offering reverse confessions and walking through the city streets 2 x 2 offering free blessings to strangers. you would not believe how ready people are to let you lay hands upon them***** or listen to the failures of the church. times are flexible, robes****** are provided, times are flexible and training will be provided. contact for more info.

4. love music and have some skillz? please help run our soundboard!

we run the largest stage in salem during the 17-18, 25-25 and 30-31 weekends and we need able hands to assist with the board. email for more info.

5. hate slavery? help not for sale run their death by chocolate experience.

on friday the 30 and saturday the 31st not for sale are going to invite people into the gathering’s historic lower vault for a free fair trade chocolate tasting. after being locked in the vault the not for sale folks will introduce guests to the reality of the modern slave trade and challenge them to take a stand by buying fair trade and speaking on behalf of those who have no voice. email for more info.

6. like to pray? 24/7 prayer is helping us host 24 hours of prayer on oct. 30 and 31st.

if you would like to lay claim to an hour-long slot on either of those days, please email

7. want to interpret dreams, offer readings from the Jesus deck, give spiritual readings or participate in another form of subversive spiritual counseling? attend pastor phil’s haunted happening training on saturday october 24th from 12 – 2 p.m.

for $10******* you’ll get an introduction to alternative spiritualities, a detailed ministry in salem survival guide and the tools you’ll need to be a blessing (instead of a curse) to people who are earnestly searching for some good in the world. after you’re training you’ll be ready to dive in to the busiest two weekends of the halloween season and hopefully serve beside us for many years to come.

i’ve been serving beside the gathering for five halloweens now. during that time, serving on the streets has gone from an idea i could hardly fathom******** to an yearly experience i cannot miss. i hope that a few of you choose to join us this year. if you have questions, comments or a couple of c-notes you would like to donate to the gathering, please let me know.

* though not necessarily in that order.
** every year i suggest that we should introduce a moment of silence to remember the introduction of syphilis to the new world. every year the church council votes my idea down.
*** no longer called that for copyright reasons i could care less about.
**** though this practice sometimes p.o.s the vendors, the guests love it.
***** not like that, single seminarians!
****** except for my robe, which was consecrated commando.
******* which i’ve heard is short money in the education world.
******** since, although i’m from the street, i’ve never been the street ministry kind of guy.

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm


when i was growing up, i didn’t want to be a preacher, i wanted to be a politician. for that reason, i took latin, paged in the state senate, read the contract with america, refrained from excessive use of psychotropic drugs, set my sites on law school and tried to seduce women.

even after a challenging day – like yesterday was on many levels – in ministry, i cannot comprehend the ambitions of my youth. last time i checked, i am one of the most impolitic people on the planet, abhor party lines and do not own a stars and stripes lapel pin.

for these reasons among many others i would have made a horrible politician. cheers to the Lord who determines the steps.

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm

being mindful of reverse mission

thanks to the wisdom of my wife,* i have started dedicating my mandatory furlough days to sermon preparation instead of betting on the ponies at suffolk downs.

since i was studying in the bowels of s.h.i.t. yesterday i decided to attend a free forum on re-seeding the mainline denominations in new england town centers by strategically placing evangelical pastors in u.c.c., a.b.c. and other alphabet soup pulpits.

i think that this approach is shrewd in that it aims to revitalize local churches that already have deep connections to the community and an established footprint in the public square. in addition, since several of these churches – such as the disciples of christ and the u.c.c. – have congregational government systems a candidate could conceivably pursue this strategy without getting too entangled in denominational politics.

however, while i think the strategy has merit and i respect the missional intentions of the gentlement who started overseed in order to support evangelical pastors who pursue this path, i was a little put off by the oversimplifications and apparent judgments of our mainline brothers and sisters that were sprinkled throughout the presentation, such as:

* these churches have not grown because the pastors have not preached Jesus
* the mainline parishoners are committed to loving the people in their community, but their love has no redemptive intention
* many mainline pastors are lazy and undedicated to their ministry. for this reason they have set the expectations quite low for evangelicals who are interested in their pulpits

in his book gracias henri nouwen talks about the idea of reverse mission. in it’s simplest form, reverse mission suggests that a christian who pours herself/himself out in service to others will usually end up being more of a beneficiary than she/he will be a benefactor. because of that idea, i wanted to ask the overseed leaders – “what do evangelicals have to learn from the mainline pastors and churches?” – but for once i chose to set my contrarian hat aside.

i think that the reality of reverse mission raises some interesting questions about the missiology of evangelicals who have entered mainline denominations such as the episcopal church, u.s.a., but that’s another post for another day.

* which i could write books about.

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2009 at 6:33 pm

trying real hard

yesterday i felt like i had my shit together. late in the afternoon i met with a senior research fellow at a major university and we talked about how we can help transform the lives of others through workforce development and considered how we can successfully navigate the system so that those whose primary accomplishment is “completing their sentences” won’t wreck havoc on our industry and ideas. i felt like hot shit as we grabbed for our emblazoned wallets at a sidewalk cafe and kept our cold guns fixed on the ringos of the world.

near the end of the conversation the research fellow/leadership expert asked me what my five year plan was and i stumbled a bit as my mouth spewed ideas about mission-driven non-profit leadership and i desperately sought to to re-orient the compass i cannot shake.

today, as my legally blind ass is readjusting to the light i’ve been given, i realize that much like jules, my ambitions and plans are the tyranny of evil men, yet my reluctant heart is calling me to be a shepherd.

and yet, as i sit at an adolescent desk in the basement of s.h.i.t., i cannot think of a role i am less prepared to play. today i have prayed, searched the introduction of mark’s gospel and sandbagged tears every step of the way as i wrestle the vulnerability, surrendered agency and servility that mark the path of pastoral ministry.

today i am shit served cold as i return to the task wherein my strength is insufficient and altogether not the point. i can’t fathom why God has called me to lead when i can barely walk the earth and i can only find comfort in the stories of forerunners who were unfit to remove sandals and stump preachers who were scarcely literate.

i am terrified and clearly out-of-season. but for God’s grace, i can’t continue.

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