On September 18, about 550 members of the Soma family gathered for our second ever All-Congregational Gathering.
We met, as we did before, in the Madame Walker Theatre in downtown Indianapolis. Not only is the Walker a beautiful space to gather; its history recalls both the cultural liveliness that we hope continues to fill our city, and the challenge of uniting our people across racial divides.
We opened the service with the closest thing Soma has yet had to a choir - which was a celebration for us, that we're seeing God bring people with all kinds of gifts to our church body. After that, Christa Manahan and Sarah Brown shared about finding a place in our community in the aftermath of personal crises.
"We immediately were taken in and given help and support and all kinds of hope," Christa said of her own experience.
Pastor Phil Edwards led our liturgy, including confessing our need for God to transform us to love others more, and the assurance from 1 Peter 2 that we become God's people through God's mercy.
In our prayer time, we saw a video from Aaron Lentz, a former church planting resident we sent out this year to plant Athens Church in Columbus, Indiana. They're celebrating a healthy start to their congregation, the founding of community groups in the church, and the ability to serve local schools as a church.
After hearing from Aaron, we introduced Bobby and Jody Barbour, our new planting residents, and prayed for them. The Barbours have a vision to see a new congregation planted in the northwest part of our city, and we were excited to introduce them formally to Soma and pray for the beginnings of their work.
For a sermon text, Pastor Brandon Shields used Acts 4:23-37, where the early Church prays that God's Spirit will move powerfully in the city. Brandon reminded the congregation that diverse groups of people - ancient or modern - can only be united through shared desires and shared experiences. Specifically in this text, instead of asking for deliverance or protection, the believers asked that God would "wake them up" by showing Himself to them in a powerful way, giving them an experience of God that would unite them and inspire them.
From there, Brandon emphasized that any "successful" movement runs the risk of becoming self-satisfied and self-serving. He challenged us to always remember that we need the Holy Spirit to wake us, provoke us, and energize us - that we need to depend on God, as individuals and as a church.
After taking Communion and holding an offering, we closed with a spoken-word testimony from David McKissic about the power of God to overcome all things in grace.