With multiple churches of several different denominations, there’s no shortage of places to worship in Bluff Park, and each has their unique qualities centered around the same focus of faith. But is there something missing In Bluff Park? For one church, the answer to that question was yes. With more young families settling in the area, and a growing number of people whose lives do not fit a traditional Sunday morning schedule, the concept for The Gathering At Bluff Park began to take shape.
Bluff Park Methodist saw a need in the community for a more contemporary service that still had a traditional structure, and Pastor John Hastings got the call to lead the new outreach.
The Gathering At Bluff Park
“The Gathering is a new worship service in Bluff Park – some people might call it ‘contemporary’ or ‘modern,’ but we do our best to incorporate lots of different elements from modern/current music to rich, ancient traditions.”
-Rev. John Hastings, Associate Pastor BPUMC
“We like to talk about The Gathering in terms of a ‘relaxed vibe, real people, and rich experiences’ – in other words, we want people to find their place around God’s table where they don’t have to become someone they’re not, can find relationships with other people, and can hopefully experience the love and grace of God in fresh and exciting ways.
Not a New “Church”
The Gathering is not a new church plant in Bluff Park. The Gathering is a new worship and small group experience at BPUMC. “We’re a group from BPUMC that’s seeking to extend the ministries of the church to those that aren’t here yet. Many of our core group that have started The Gathering are Bluff Park natives, grew up in the church, and have moved back. They say their decision to come back to BPUMC is rooted in the intergenerational relationships they’ve formed over the years,” Pastor Hastings says. The same group also expressed a desire to have a different kind of worship experience in the church.
“In the service, we have everyone from small children to people in their late-middle ages. Because we put modern skin on ancient liturgical practices, we like to think there is something for everyone,” Pastor Hastings says.
Impact The Community
When John Hastings arrived in Bluff Park, he says he had conversations with community members and usually started with the question, “Where do people gather?” “Almost universally, the answer was in their homes and the homes of friends,” Pastor Hastings says.
Since Bluff Park-proper doesn’t have tons of coffee shops, bars, breweries, or other business establishments to hang out on a weekly basis (well not yet anyway), Hastings found that most people experienced community by gathering around tables with friends. This was the origin of the name “The Gathering.”
“Theologically, there is such a rich connection between this Bluff Park-centric community feel with the way in which Jesus interacted with those that He met. He didn’t invite them to come with him to a synagogue or ‘to church,’ but he usually sat down and had a meal with them.”
“We hope that by offering a space to worship in a relaxed way and extending that same community feel of ‘table gatherings’, we can be a place where new folks become enmeshed in the wider Bluff Park community.”
The Gathering Small Groups
Along with their worship service, The Gathering also has small groups which they call “Common Tables.” “We center the Common Tables on the same ideas. The groups of 8 to 10 people meet in homes, share a meal, and have meaningful conversations together. In this way we hope to infuse the existing culture and DNA of the community with the rhythms and language of community and fellowship that we find embodied in the life of Jesus. God first invites us to be a part of His table and through worship, fellowship, and service to others, we can begin to make our tables that place of hospitality for those around us as well,” Pastor Hastings says.
When Does The Gathering Meet?
The Gathering worship service meets at 11:00am in the Chapel at BPUMC. Learn more about what to expect at the worship service here.
More about John
Rev. John Carl Hastings is the main pastor for The Gathering at Bluff Park. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, John Carl is passionate about folks finding communion with God, with one another, and with the world. Read more about Pastor Hastings and other staff at The Gathering here.
All The Social: Find The Gathering At Bluff Park on Facebook and Instagram. If you would like more information, visit their website thegatheringatbluffpark.org.