Summer 2013
Ekklesia Project News


In This Issue
  • Gathering 2013 Podcasts Available
  • Hospitality at Gathering 2013
  • New Endorsers
  • New on BLOGOS 
  • Meet the EP: James Beyer
  • Images from Gathering 2013


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Ekklesia Project Website   


the Ekklesia Project  


 Gathering 2013






Stan 2013
Podcasts from Gathering 2013 Now Available

 Podcasts of plenary sessions and worship services are now available on the EP website.  You can find them HERE.


By Jenny Williams


"I was a stranger and you welcomed me."   Christ's words compel us to practice hospitality, which is often a challenge for congregations.  Building up the body and learning to enjoy one another can make welcoming new folks into our circles of friendships difficult. 


A comment on one of the evaluations of last year's Gathering alerted the Board that the Ekklesia Project was falling into this trap.  The long-timers' friendships had apparently become contained within semi-permeable boundaries, and newcomers didn't feel welcome.  (See!  We really do read the evaluations.)



This year we tried very hard to be intentional about practices of hospitality.  We sent emails to first- and second-timers who registered in advance, welcoming them and offering to be a resource for any questions about the Gathering.  We asked long-time attendees to hang around the registration area and welcome first-time attendees.  We invited new folks and anyone they came with to join together for the opening lunch to meet one another and hear the story of how the EP came to be.  We placed stickers on the name tags of first-timers and encouraged repeat attendees to welcome them and engage them in conversation.  We asked board members and long-timers to spread themselves out during the pizza dinner and the lectio divina groups to help generate conversation and to be welcoming.  


We invited new folks to sit in the side section of the cafeteria to alleviate the first-day-of-middle-school-and-I-don't-know-where-to-sit anxiety.  We had long-timers lined up to sit in that section to host new folks.  Thankfully, none of our newer folks sat there for any of the meals!  We hope that means that newer attendees were welcomed to the tables of people who'd been part of the Gathering for several years. 


We hope to continue to avoid the trap of Christian clique-ishness, and we want to know if we were able to be a more hospitable group of people this year.  We welcome your honest feedback, seek suggestions for improvement, and are looking for volunteers to help with practices of welcome next year.  Email Jenny Williams at with any thoughts.   





James Owsley (Washington, DC)

Craig Morton (Meridian, ID)

Keith Adams (Matthews, NC)







Heschel explains, "Instead of showing us the way through the elegant mansions of the mind, the prophets take us to the slums. The world is a proud place

cloudfull of beauty, but the prophets are scandalized, and rave as if the whole world were a slum" (The Prophets). From that angle of vision, any religious ceremony used to avoid the places the prophets take us, any act of spiritual entertainment that keeps us distracted from injustice, is sickening to God.

Read the Full Essay


Meet The EP: James Beyer! 

Having grown up in the south it was not easy to escape Vacation Bible Schools at a Southern Baptist church. So as a child I gave my life to Jesus at least 3 times, each time feeling like I hadn't really ever given it. So when, as a 13 year old, I played baseball for a different Southern Baptist church and they turned our end-of-season banquet into an altar call I gave it once more. But this time was different. When they asked us to close our eyes and raise our hands my coach pulled me aside into an empty room. I cried a lot as we talked together about what it meant to be a Christian but all I remember was him saying, "Being a Christian means when your friends tell a dirty joke, you walk away." Now I got it. I would have to die, to give up everything I wanted for Christ. That time stuck.


I started reading all the Max Lucado books my dad happened to have on the shelf and then expanded my hungry hands into the shelves of the local family Christian book store. I became a Christian with a serious distrust of anyone who called themselves a Christian but seemed to live a normal socially acceptable life. But I still found my way into a very large Methodist youth group in Charlotte, NC and found some friends and mentors there. In campus ministry in college was the first time I was forced to deal with the diversity of experience within the church without simply dismissing those who thought "wrongly". And my relationship with God grew silent.


I couldn't give up on it though so the next best thing was theology and biblical criticism. Though I was majoring in Construction Management, I spent all the free time I could afford and some I couldn't in this rational and painful search for and wrestling with God. This lead to the wholesale deconstruction of everything God and religion-related in my life. And in that darkness I decided that without faith I was only riding out the wave of morality that my Christianity had splashed in my life. And so the long slow spiral upwards began.


Ever since then, I have been engaging in the mystery of God made known to us in Christ and it has never been the same since. Usually back and forth, usually with pain and joy, I am trying to rest in God through trial and error but things keep getting better as my heart is smoothed out and expanded with greater capacities to love and serve.


These days my life revolves around campus ministry, friendships with some middle and high school boys, the latest way I have discovered I can live in greater harmony with the earth, how to practice peace through nonviolent direct action and through simple daily gestures, how to understand a Christian construct of masculinity that is benevolent and constructive, learning what kind of authority scripture has for me and us, and releasing my control over my thoughts and feelings so there is more room for God. How's that for a run-on sentence.


I found out about EP through my pastor, Jason Byassee, who is a longtime EPer. Some of my heroes are Thomas Merton, N.T. Wright, Walter Breuggeman, John Perkins, Wendell Berry, Mother Teresa, and all those who served so quietly and faithfully that they lives were only noticed and remembered by God.


Images: A Gathering of Friends!