To Gather Together Again

| October 27th, 2023

Dear Beloved Community,

Perhaps you know I have a certain fondness for reunions. 

I call it a function of being a preacher’s kid whose family put down deep roots wherever we lived, and when God called us elsewhere, rejoiced in any opportunity “to gather together again,” as the word “reunion” means, with our beloved friends in homes all over.

I call it a byproduct of a series of transformative, life-shaping short, educational seasons in my 20s – college at Furman, grad school for music at Northwestern, divinity school at Wake Forest – each uncovering layers of my essence, shaping me indelibly then and even still.

I call it a consequence of being fundamentally wired as one who gathers, finding not just energy for my days, but deep, abiding purpose and connection and belonging for my living.

And, of course, I call it a blessed coincidence – dare I say, providence! – that my 10-year high school reunion reconnected me with my beloved Josh!

This weekend, I slip down to Greenville, South Carolina “to gather together again” with a host of my classmates from the Furman University Class of 2003 for our 20-year reunion. Our group texts have been lighting up for weeks as we prepare to return. Decades-old inside jokes are peppering our conversations (some that weathered well, others …. not so much), and Josh is readying himself for a steady stream of stories about my 20-something life. (Bless him!) I’ve shown videos to my kids of Furman’s grand homecoming traditions to prepare them for the weekend, and bought the tickets for all the festivities. Gathering together again with friends I haven’t seen in years will be gift and grace, and I am grateful indeed.

Yet there’s nowhere in my life I practice the art of gathering together again with such steadfast commitment than with you, beloved church! This is our bread and butter! This is what we’re made for, isn’t it? In a day too saturated with loosened ties, disposable relationships, isolation and loneliness, and increasingly smaller circles to our living, what better practice for us to adopt than this? Indeed, gathering together again and again knits us to Christ, re-members us to one another, wraps us into oneness with God.

In a full Sanctuary for Linda Combs’ funeral service this week, I heard a few of her longtime colleagues from Raleigh say, “this is like a reunion!” The act of gathering together again is holy and true, gift and grace, encouragement and memory.  Hebrews 10:24-25 says it clearly: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Together in God’s work of Love,
Pastor Emily