The theme of authenticity runs through Gather Austin. In a few short months, the group has grown much closer than a typical bible study, in part through openly sharing troubles and questions. Andrew frequently calls the idea “doing life together,” and they’ve added social events beyond the devotional, like frisbee golf and game nights.
People of all ages want meaningful social connections through church. Even Jesus’ disciples were, in part, friends. The ELCA has churchwide ministries like Abide with online groups and retreats for young adults. Andrew and Cecie get mentorship and advice from the first Gather groups for young adults, in Colorado Springs, CO and Cincinnati, OH. “The basis is there are people who are faithful who want to have friends that are also explicitly people of faith,” Cecie said.
Gather is essentially a supplementary ministry, regional not congregational, since most of the members attend different churches. “My hope is this can be a wonderful picture of not what churches have to be but what churches can be in the future,” Andrew said. “Seeing that the Spirit is active in all those places like a cafe excites me.”
Clearly, the simple act of gathering with new friends who get your viewpoints is relaxing and connective. “So often the church is a place that squashes people. Squashes leaders, squashes People of Color, squashes Queer people. You have to fit in a box on some things. In the ideal church, that doesn’t happen. But Gather is a place I can fully be myself,” Cecie said. “I can share and be held as a child of God, not as Vicar Cecie.”
Their plans for the year include developing a more shared leadership model and fundraising for group needs like event venue rentals, food, and, of course, cool sweatshirts.
If you’d like to learn more or start your own Gather locally, check out their website at gatheraustin.org or follow on Instagram @gather_austin.