I didn’t know what to expect at the Marantha Ministries, Miracle Family Worship Center event, The Gathering this weekend. Driving over to the assignment the only frame of reference in my mind was from the Highlander movie series. You know, sword play and “there can only be one.”
Think again! If ever an event disproved that adage, The Gathering did. A theory I’m working on (but have not received grant money for) is we are in the midst of strange times folks. Climate change, bee populations plummeting, fires, Buddhist terrorists, whales killing sharks, monsoons and jellyfish blooms. (Jellyfish just creep me out. Reminds me of the first movie of “The Blob” with young Steve McQueen.) The phrase which kept occurring was everyone telling me the groups were operating together “in one accord.” Biblically, this phrase packs some punch. Sadly it is often referenced with a really bad car joke about what car apostles travel in.
Often it is only the bizarre, the confrontational or divisions between Christians which make the headlines. The Gathering tangibly proved what can happen when even a mustard seed of faith is planted, just like God told you to do, it blossoms. This is a simple thing to say but think of how silly Noah must have felt starting on the keel of the ark. One thing about empiricism is it laid the ground work to ignore what cannot be reproduced. Basically, I think Christianity is brilliant at the surprise ending.
Think about it. Saul, who killed many Christians, became one of the greatest evangelists for the cause. Where Roman emperors fed Christians to beasts and made table candles out of them, the empire later united with Christianity as the state religion. Look out Goliath. It is a religion of comebackers.
There was balloons and laughter. Popcorn girls Izzi Hamilton, Aaliyah Ganzzer Miller and Abigail Williams were busy filling up brown bags with the popped kernels as yellow as the afternoon sunshine. Children were laughing while loading bags with school supplies. Rows of clothing, much of them new, were in mounds.
A box nearly as tall as me had come from Danville, Va., filled with pencils. There was food both canned and fresh, and free hair cuts and family pictures. The Marantha Ministries group had the grill fired up and was cooking lunch for families. It was like July 4 social. I would have never thought the fact we have families struggling just to hang on could be…well.. joyous. And it all happened because ministries worked together.
Later, I had a gap in my euphoria. Reports and studies of church attendance nationally are being likened to the collapse of the real estate bubble and banks collapse which preceded our government stepping to the side as we rolled over the fiscal cliff. Attendance is down and churches are threatened.
Sunday, Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris said it best at the Greater Mount Airy Habitat for Humanity dedication of the Clark family home when he said two of the county’s greatest assets are its people and its churches. My heart sinks at the thought of America without its churches. Don’t believe what you see in television or movies about churches. The story would stop if the characters met a Samaritan who picked them up, dressed their wounds and took care of them.
There’s a lot of Samaritans actively out there who get up from their pews, walk out the door of the church and help their communities. I heartily recommend trying how the other half lives if it’s been a while since you went to church. Give it a go. There is a gathering out there. Be a part of it.
David Broyles is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.