The emphasis is on families worshipping together. Which is why it makes no difference to this congregation if some of the younger children play quietly, or even run around and dance. Should one of the babies cry, the prayers and the readings continue.
There are no scolding looks toward the nursery; these folks believe deep in their hearts that Jesus of Nazareth bids them to worship together, and to them that means everybody, including the squalling infant.
This collection of worshippers has been meeting on Sundays in Amissville since September of last year. They call themselves the Gathering Christian Church, and their founding elder and leader is Wesley Mills of Amissville, a systems engineer and former chair of the county school board. Wes’ wife Charlotte is also a devout and committed member of the Gathering.
On a recent Sunday some 30 adults and, at rough count, 10 of their youngsters, at least one of them only 4 months old, were in the fold-out metal chairs of the chosen place of worship, formerly Payne’s Auction house in Amissville. There isn’t a church building, and there will not be. In the words of Wes Mills, “we are not a people who need to be identified with a building.” Indeed, Mills looks to the earliest Christian church, where families gathered in this same fashion, in each other’s homes, as they spoke — and sang — of the lessons of their savior.
Mills refers to the teachings in the New Testament’s book of Acts, chapter two: “Breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” Indeed, the food and drink, especially Charlotte’s casserole, were an integral part of the morning.
Members of the gathering include a retired policeman, retired member of the Coast Guard, a project manager for Appleton-Campbell, nurses, school teachers, a man who operates his own welding business, a paralegal or two, and at least one real estate agent.
For Mills, the Gathering is most definitely not restricted to two hours on a Sunday, but “a seven-day service to the Maker.” The Gathering also emphasizes informality. Dress is come-as-you-are. Mills is clad in shirt and sweater as he makes an equally informal, but thoughtful and energetic, sermon. At times he is funny, animated and full of gestures, as he exhorts that “nothing is impossible with God.”
The Bible also commands that one must “love thy neighbor,” and there is a great deal of emphasis on that at the Gathering. Over the holidays, this nascent congregation made up and delivered 30 Thanksgiving food trays to a half-dozen Amissville families; adopted a needy family for Christmas, taking them presents and a hot meal; and delivered 20 boxes of gifts to local kids as part of an international Christian relief effort, Operation Christmas Child.
In describing the Gathering, and noting that most of the folks at the service have moved over from Amissville Baptist, Mills asked rhetorically, “Is it a split?” but did not answer his own question. Asked about the people at the Gathering, the pastor at Amissville Baptist, Ed Taylor, said, “I harbor no ill feelings. . . . If this is the way they choose to worship God, I am very happy for them.”
The Gathering Christian Church meets on Sundays at 10 a.m. at the former auction house, next to the ball field, on U.S. 211 in Amissville, just west of Mayhugh’s.