Keep Finding Ways to Gather

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I’ve always been a gatherer. In middle and high school, I was the one who threw the parties and coordinated going to lunch together. In college, I got a little more intentional, nurturing life in my sorority in new ways and creating small pockets to stay better connected to each other. Early marriage my husband, Jose, and I always opened our homes for weekly Bible studies and community groups. When I started my own healing journey 24 years ago,, I just kept going with nurturing creative ways for people to gather, heal, grow, encourage, support, love, survive, and thrive. Honestly, I created gatherings because I needed them myself (and have been relieved to find so many others do as well.)

After all these years and all the ways I have bombed out of traditional church, the thing I am still most passionate about is creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in some way, shape, or form.

Remember those words—Gathering in some way, shape, or form that transforms us.

For me, traditional church stopped being transformational because it was steeped in patriarchy and rigid theology. It was mostly about coming, hearing someone talk, and leaving. This isn’t the kind of gathering I’m talking about.

I’m talking about little pockets of love (one of my favorite terms!) where people are somehow transformed by being together. It can be one time, weekly, for a short while, or over many years, but it’s the space and place where people somehow gather. Gathering over meals, honesty, shared experiences, dreams, beauty, and connection. Somewhere hearts are knit together, challenged, and inspired in ways we desperately need.

Jesus was so creative, gathering people in so many different ways, and I feel clear that our options today are limitless.

I wrote about it here at SheLoves three years ago and I feel it even more strongly now. We have got to keep finding ways to gather.

Whether it is in living rooms, pubs, coffee shops, church basement recovery meetings, outside in nature, inside churches or community spaces, dining room tables, social justice marches, or online (this is a new one that has saved many a life these changing times), find a way to gather.

Find a way to be part of or cultivate spaces where we feel less alone. Share experiences with other human beings. Grow, move, and heal.

Walk there.
Crawl there.
Run there.
Click there.
Get there.

Find a way to gather.

I recently was part of facilitating a three-day women’s retreat for female pastors and ministry leaders in the Colorado mountains. We were 15 women from five different states, all finding our way and in need of some encouragement and love to sustain. It was magical and holy, and I was reminded how hungry we are for a space to gather, where our guards could come down, where we could share honestly and where we could see and hear ourselves in each other’s stories.

My soul needed that gathering. It made me even more dedicated to doing whatever I can do to help people gather.

I know some of you already have this in your life and are tending to these gatherings with great care.

Others of you gave yourself to gatherings for many years and are now outside of the places that hosted them and aren’t sure where you fit anymore or if you even want to try gathering in some way again.

Others are desperately searching, wondering “who, how, when, and where.”

I know how hard it is to find.

I know how hard it is to keep them going.

I know how hard it is to risk our hearts and guts and time.

But I also know that we’ve got to keep finding ways to gather.

Life is too freaking hard alone.

Our minds are too dangerous of a neighborhood (Anne Lamott) without a friend next to us in the dark.

Our stories are too tender.

Our hearts are too weary.

Our knees are too battered.

We’ve got to find a way to gather.

Walk there.
Crawl there.
Run there.
Click there.
Get there.

Every single week that I put my butt in the chair for the gatherings I am part of, I remember what I need to remember: I am human. Others are human. We’re in the thick of it all together, learning to love and be loved and stumbling and bumbling on the way.

It’s never convenient.

I don’t always want to go.

I don’t always want to share.

I don’t always want to gather.

But I always do, because if I don’t, I just don’t do as well.

Also, right now, in the brokenness and division that is pervading our world, gathering feels even more crucial.

If you are already gathering with people, remind them how much it means to you.

If you are thinking of trying to find a way to gather, remember to be gentle with yourself; it’s hard to find and requires patience and creativity.

If you’re considering cultivating a gathering for others, thank you! We need more people willing to gather and do the work of tilling the ground so others can find a way to plant.

If you need a break from real life gatherings, take one in freedom. Sometimes we have to in order to survive (but please, consider finding some way to gather with at least one other person online or on the phone or in some way that ensures you’re not totally alone).

Somehow, some way, may we all keep finding a way to gather.

PS: Learn more about SheLoves Circles and email shelovesmagazine@gmail.com if you’re interested in becoming a Circle Leader. I am not personally able to be a part of the SheLoves Circles as I have a lot of ways to gather in my life, but I love that this is an option and that so much beauty and hope is being created through them.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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