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Gathering Groups: Together

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At Woodland our heart is to learn to love—but not as individuals! We are learning to love together. Over the past two years, we’ve been figuring out how to do this as a church that is both congregation and “podgregation.” Our Gathering Groups have become a place for this togetherness, and we wanted to share what that’s been like for one group in particular.

“Gathering Group 8” (y’all need to think of a cooler name!) began meeting earlier this year in March and includes Peter and Naomi Watts, podrishioners from Washington. Coming into it Peter says, “We had simple expectations. Just connect with people and share our thoughts on the sermon. Maybe a friendship will develop.” And that’s exactly what happened.

This group moved beyond just sharing thoughts on the sermon to also sharing of themselves; enjoying and appreciating each other, and helping one another grow. Peter says, “The group members have  been an encouragement to both of us, even listening and encouraging us in some of the challenges we had in our marriage.”

Hannah and Adrian Chan joined the Gathering Group as a way to both dig deep into the messages and to connect with others. As Hannah explains, “We knew going into it that we’d go through the sermon and reflect on what stood out, but we didn’t foresee being able to connect with others so easily—especially through our laptop screens!”

Once they connected on Sundays, it wasn’t long before they began connecting during the rest of the week, too. Hannah says, “Our group chat has allowed us to share prayer requests and the highs, lows and everything in between during the week.”

This year in October the group finally had a chance to meet up in-person at a St. Paul wedding reception for Hannah and Adrian.

Peter says, “It was a joy to finally meet everyone in person. In addition to being part of Adrian and Hannah’s wedding reception, we got to eat some meals together and visited Kim’s new house. We even touched the dirty Mississippi River because … I don’t know, we never had before.”

Hannah says, “We just sat around and just talked which we don’t get to do on a normal basis with the pandemic and the fact that our Gathering Group spans multiple time zones and locations!”

We’re encouraged by the story of Gathering Group 8 (although we really do suggest a cooler name), and the way they are living into our biggest hope for Gathering Groups, which Hannah expresses so well: “Brothers and sisters in Christ who can walk alongside us, encourage us, and lift us up when we’re down.”

If you’re interested in joining a Gathering Group contact Shawna at sboren@whchurch.org.

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"I've been a WH podrishioner for several years now and I can't tell you how much it has changed my life. I came across these podcasts at a time when I was in an extremely unhealthy/abusive situation, and these teachings were immensely influential to me maintaining my faith and sanity. THANK YOU for showing me what a Jesus-looking God is like and what it means to follow Him. Many, many blessings to all of you!"

– Christina, from Oregon