BELPRE - Ten Belpre churches put aside differences Saturday for the first edition of The Gathering, a fun, family-friendly event at no cost to those attending.
The Rev. Rod Brower, pastor of Belpre Heights United Methodist Church, said The Gathering is in its first year and he and others hope to make it an annual event.
"Even though we represent many denominations and churches, for this whole event we have laid that aside," he said. "It's all about Christian unity and that's the key - it's for the glory of God and it is for letting folks in our community know Christ loves them and we love them."
Photos by Jeffrey Saulton
Singing praises during The Gathering on Saturday at Belpre’s Civitan Park were, from left, Doug Ledsome, Brandi Ledsome and Tracey Provence, members of the Porterfield Baptist Church Praise Band.
Brower said The Gathering organizers worked to stay away from denominational labels. He said all advertising and other publicity did not include the names of the churches involved or any mention of denominations.
"We just mention we are churches," he said. "It's about glory and honor to God, especially Jesus," he said.
Brower said 10 churches worked together to put the event together, including Decatur United Methodist Church, Rockland United Methodist Church, St. Marks United Methodist Church, Belpre Heights United Methodist Church, Mullen Memorial Baptist Church, Porterfield Baptist Church, Belpre Congregational Church, Belpre Church of the Nazarene, Whitman Chapel A.M.E. and Pioneer Presbyterian Church.
Brower said the event was planned to show the churches united.
"Essentially we came together to show the unity we have in Christ and that's part of the essence of The Gathering," he said. "This is a family-oriented, fun and free event."
Brower said while there was no charge for admission, food or games, and donations were accepted at Saturday's event.
"We realize there are some people who don't want to get something for nothing, so each church has a container for donations to B.A.M. (Belpre Area Ministries)," he said. "So all the money raised will go to support B.A.M."
Brower said the ministry is a clothing thrift store and food pantry that helps with other needs as well. He said the churches represented at The Gathering are involved in B.A.M.
On Saturday, the weather cooperated to get The Gathering off to a good start in its first year, Brower said.
"It's gone well, we had beautiful weather, perfect weather," he said.
Charlene Myers, who was the organizer of the musical part of The Gathering, said the music provided at the Civitan Park Gazebo featured bands associated with the churches participating in Saturday's event. None of the groups were paid for their appearances.
"Everybody is performing free today so we can raise money for B.A.M. so we can help more people here in the Belpre area, with clothing, food and help with utility bills," she said.
Myers said until this year area churches were doing things like The Gathering on their own.
"We decided if we go together as one group we would reach more people and be more effective," she said. "This is our first year and we are also calling this a church without borders, basically a church where there is no worry about denominations."
Myers said the booths set up under the tents had church names on them, but they were not large for a reason.
"We didn't want it to be about the churches but about God and the people rather than saying one church is doing this and another church is doing that," she said.