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The need to gather with others is part of living in community. As a church we gather in worship, in meetings, in small groups, in fellowship. We also gather in assemblies, in boards, in mission, and in a host of other ways.

I have been reflecting on the importance of gathering since hearing about the celebration services that were held across Canada in connection with the Sea to Sea bicycle tour. Thousands of Christian Reformed people gathered in several cities to celebrate the centennial of the CRC in Canada, to worship, and to praise God for his faithfulness. People tell me the experience was wonderful, inspiring, encouraging, and amazing. It was heartwarming just to hear about it.

Gathering is a wholesome and important activity for the church. The holy Scriptures admonish us not to forsake gathering together. While this admonition makes specific reference to gathering for worship, it has other applications too.

The church is meant to live in a certain way, and gathering is a significant part of its life. Whether we use the language of “covenantal relationship” or “body life” as in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 13, or whether the language of community building dominates a discussion, the impact is the same.

But gathering is not limited to the idea or experience of sharing space. We can gather around an idea, around a vision, or in support of a cause. The application of gathering in this broader sense is almost limitless.

Gathering is important for our life together as a denomination. We all need the sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. We do meet as large groups occasionally, and it would be wonderful if we met more often at gatherings like the rallies across Canada.

But we can also gather around our identity as a Christian church in the Reformed tradition. That’s important too. Knowing who we are and what we stand for are essential ingredients of a healthy church.

We can also gather around a need like the southeastern Asia tsunami or Hurricane Katrina or the need for leaders in the church.

Gathering meaningfully around a need necessitates a proactive response to that need. For many years Home Missions used the “gathering” theme as part of its church planting and other ministry efforts with the words “Gathering God’s Growing Family.” It was more than a theme because it led to specific activity. So it must be.

The Church@Work stories in this issue of The Banner illustrate how each of the agencies and educational institutions of the CRC gather together to carry out the ministries of the church. These organizations are wonderful examples of how Christians gather as God’s people “to serve him always and everywhere.”

The gathered community is the backbone of every effort the denomination undertakes. The gathered community is the body to which we, by grace, belong. Thanks be to God!

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