In February the first ever Gather conference was held at the Swanwick Christian Centre in Derbyshire. It was an opportunity for those involved in church unity collaborations in their cities to meet with others to share stories, enjoy worship and teaching and pray for our nation.
Co-ordinated by the Evangelical Alliance's England ambassador Roger Sutton, Gather was set up to network and equip the growing number of unity movements that have been springing up in towns and cities across the UK in the last few years.
Roger has spent a year travelling around the country and says that he found "dynamic unity movements built on deep trusting friendships. Churches praying together on a regular basis and creative missional initiatives coming from that wonderful foundation.
So far I have found 50 of these unity movements, from Newcastle to Plymouth, from Chester to Brighton, this is a major move of God among us – we need to recognise it, support it, pray for it and respond to it."
Roger explains this his heart was to simply gather the people leading these unity movements for support and the sharing of ideas, which was how Gather was born.
The conference also tackled such thorny issues as to how to put aside theological differences and how to breath life into a stagnated unity work.
Roger was really encouraged by the conference: "We heard story after story of creative, inspiring and effective unity building that is resulting in changed lives and changed places. There is a growing belief in many places that they see themselves as one Church with many congregations."
Delegates attending said: "It felt like an exciting watershed moment", "I came not knowing what to expect, I return inspired and enthused", "It was great the learning was in the room and not just from the front".
Roger says that they are now reflecting on the feedback from the conference and asking the unity movements themselves how they can all give each other support in the task of building unity for the sake of mission.
"Some groups are very strong with many years experience and can offer support and advice to others who are just starting and some towns and cities need encouraging to get something off the ground. However whatever stage these movements may be at there are some key principles that are relevant to all.
Gather must never develop an institutional approach. It must remain organic and relational, serving the greater vision of seeing churches in every city, town and village in the UK expressing prayer- and friendship-based unity resulting in effective mission."
To find out more about Gather click here.
March 7th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Claire Musters