When you have a church the size of College Church, it can be easy for people to fall through the cracks. That’s just one of the reasons Women’s Ministries created Monthly Gatherings. The Gatherings are designed to provide a place for women of all ages and stages of life to meet together—especially if they haven’t found a community to call their own just yet.
“We wanted to find a format for those who have maybe struggled finding a place where we belong in this big church,” says Lisa Burlingame, who is part of the Monthly Gathering planning team. “It has so many ministries, but they may not always provide the opportunity to connect in a way that is meaningful.”
Monthly Gatherings are held on the second Saturday of each month at 9 a.m. The time was specifically chosen to allow for a larger number of women to attend, since it doesn’t conflict with traditional work schedules and allows for other family members to handle childcare duties (dads, we’re looking at you!). The sessions take place in Commons Hall with small groups of women seated around tables and, of course, enjoying snacks (or, in COVID times, over Zoom).
Kelsey Dewar, who is also part of the planning team, says that one of the joys of attending the group has been watching relationships form: women frequently exchange phone numbers or continue the conversations started around the Monthly Gathering tables over coffee or lunch.
“I think it’s a great way to meet women in the church you may not interact with in your normal church routine,” she says. “Most of the women I’ve met in Monthly Gathering, I’ve never seen at College Church. It’s been great to meet people I wouldn’t normally interact with.”
Carole O’Hare has been at nearly every Monthly Gathering since they first started in the fall of 2019. She says she’s especially appreciated the opportunity to see women from different backgrounds and life experiences come together to discuss God’s Word—and to provide their own unique perspectives.
“Just to have a gathering of women was interesting because there’s not too many places where that’s going on,” she said. “There are some kinds of conversations you can have more readily with all women.”
Pat Cirrincione has been another faithful Monthly Gathering attendee. She says what’s kept her coming back is that open sharing with other sisters in Christ.
“There are no barriers here,” Pat says. “You can just be a woman coming to a group of other women. I find it very special that we have this group that gets together and discusses the things we’ve discussed and are able to do it in such a Christian way.”
Of course, the substantial biblical discussion—Carole describes it as “not lightweight”—is the most essential part of each Monthly Gathering. Last year’s sessions included such timely, occasionally hot-button topics like culture, hospitality and singleness. This year is more focused on one, possibly more familiar, topic: spiritual disciplines. Upcoming meetings in the winter and spring will examine the disciplines of prayer, worship and silence and solitude. “When I hear ‘spiritual disciplines,’ I think, ‘Oh great, more things to add to my to-do list,’” Kelsey says. “But we can dive into these topics from a place of freedom. Because we’re in Christ, we’re free to explore all these disciplines without feeling that burden of guilt or legalism. For some of these lesserknown disciplines that I haven’t thought about or studied much, I would love to develop a theology behind them.”
Each Monthly Gathering will look at the spiritual discipline at hand, including what it is, what makes it formative in the life of a Christian, and how it has contributed to the growth of individual women of College Church.
“It’s an hour that’s well-spent, not spent with a bunch of frivolity,” Carole says.
And for any woman who is still looking for a place to fit at College Church, it’s been a proven launch pad into the greater community.
“This is something I think you’re going to really enjoy,” Pat Cirrincione says. “Come and meet others who want to meet you.”
About the Author | Elizabeth Diffin
Along with enjoying her role as aunt extraordinaire, College Church member Elizabeth Diffin enjoys serving on the Monthly Gathering team and being involved with her small group.