Gathering, Serving & Coming Together


1st May – Sam

If you’ve been part of Activate for a while, you may have noticed that we refer to our Sunday morning ‘service’ as our ‘gathering’. This is a very deliberate thing.  Activate doesn’t just happen on Sundays, it’s just the time we set aside to get together as a community. But we continue to be a church and a community every day.
So why is a gathering of people in a place of worship known so commonly as a service?
I can’t say that I know for sure, but what I have learned is that ‘service’, as you would expect is an old word, coming from Latin via Old French and eventually to English, with its original Latin meaning relating to servitude and slavery. Nothing surprising about that I suppose, but what does it have to do with “going to church”? Well, apparently the word came to denote “religious devotion” or a “form of liturgy”, at some point in the 1100’s, in Old English, possibly due to these things being an act of servitude and humility to God.
I’ve been thinking about this a bit in light of the restrictions placed on gathering over the past weeks. We’re doing things differently by necessity, and that’s been an opportunity and a challenge, and has made us all think about what role our gatherings play in the life of our community. Obviously, we can’t physically get together, and won’t be able to for the foreseeable future. In that sense, it’s not really a gathering anymore. It’s still a coming together though, and that’s still really important.
But more importantly, it’s still one of our “services”. I don’t mean that it is a service provided to you or to me, but I’m using the word in that original sense of being an act of religious devotion, a deliberate time of servitude and humility. And when I say it’s one of our services, I mean that it’s one of the many things we do as a community and as individuals to honour and serve God, and to bless and serve other people.
I admit that I’ve been finding it hard to get used to the dramatic changes we’ve had to make. Not able to be physically in the same place with the people I love, to share, to listen, to eat and drink together, these are things I really love about our gatherings. But I think I may have lost sight of the other aspects of our Sunday mornings that are also important, things that are still available to us. We can still enjoy the beautiful music provided by our talented musicians, as they play and sing songs that praise, lament, wonder, and celebrate. We can still listen to God’s word being explained to us, and through it be encouraged, challenged, and enlightened. We can still share in communion, knowing that around the world thousands and thousands of others are doing so with us. We can still discover opportunities to bless others, to give, to serve.
And perhaps most importantly, we can still be in the presence of God. We don’t need to be in a gathering of “two or three”. God communes with us when we’re alone, or when we’re watching and listening on YouTube or Zoom, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Sunday mornings are just a time that we set aside to spend time together to focus on God and the mission he gives us. We’re still doing that, just not in the same place.
Though our gatherings might look and feel very different, the heart remains the same. I guess I just want to encourage you to hang on, even though things are different. There’s a lot of stuff that’s still the same, and that stuff is important too. And, of course, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

– Sam J

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