The Evangelical Alliance had noticed that there were unity groups in various towns and cities across the UK, many of which seems to have started spontaneously about the same time. The EA decided to try and pull together people from as many of them as possible the the Gather conference last week. So four of us from One Voice York went along.
It is remarkable that this movement defies the tradition and routine of at least the last 100 years. Though I now wonder if the present move to work together in collaboration is unique to our time in this country, as I don’t think it has ever happened before. This is something special and has the finger-prints of God on it.
It was inspiring to hear how other groups in other locations were formed and what they have been up to. There were common themes and features of all the groups, yet a great deal of diversity too. Most included churches from across the denominations, including those who would not claim to be evangelical. Someone had to pull them together though, and if the EA had not done so I don’t know who would have.
Some the groups were able to tell something of their story. These stories were great and full of accounts of miracles. As I was near the front I was able to take the photo above. It was when we listened to what has been happening in Southhampton.
I anticipate that these unity movements will become more and more the norm across the country. I think those that do not engage, perhaps out of a competitive spirit or their own sense of insecurity, will become the exception as this spreads to many towns and cities.
Gather aimed to have an emphasis on shared experience, the four core values of prayer, friendship, local mission and social transformation. It also tried to tackle the more thorny issues of working together such as how to put aside theological differences, how to move from doing joint mission initiatives to having a social transformation agenda and how to breathe life into a stagnated unity work.
We heard lots of good stories but there was not the time to look closely at some of the wrinkles or obstacle that were overcome and how that was done.
Before the conference Roger Sutton, the one heading up Gather, said: “Church leaders are pulling down walls of suspicion, mistrust and sometimes arrogance, they are coming together in ways unheard of before to work through the power of friendship and prayer to reach their areas for Christ. Just imagine if that growth of humility, love and heart for mission could now link all across the UK, I wonder what would happen? I wonder if we could imagine a day when every village, town and city across our land had a vibrant unity movement happening across the majority of churches. What could God then do among us?
“This is just the start of the journey; the unity movements themselves need to share their hopes and dreams for the future and shape what Gather should become. I’m very excited about the possibilities.”
Glad I went.
wegather.co.uk will be the place for sharing stories and getting resources.