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New church wants to help community



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Pastor Bill Northend set up part of The Gathering Place just like a living room. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
June 13, 2012 - The Gathering Place joins the community with a mission to create church in people's living rooms.

"We want to meet with people not a big room for thousands, but 10 people at a time in living rooms – small groups of people who care about each other and serve the world, as Jesus commanded," said Pastor Bill Northend.

The Gathering Place, 9811 Dixie Highway at Davisburg Road, is an offshoot of Faith Lutheran Church in Grand Blanc.

"We considered Holly, but determined Clarkston and Grand Blanc have more in common – similar demographics, family issues," said Northend, 53. "I love Michigan, and I really want to connect with Clarkston."

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Northend grew up in California and moved to Grand Blanc with his wife after he graduated from seminary in St. Louis.

"It sounded like a really exciting opportunity to be creative and reach out to a neat part of the world," he said. "It's tough in Michigan. This is a nice place to bring some good news."

They have been working for the past two years to organize the church, which is aimed at those who don't go to church, who have been disconnected or never been, he said.

"We want to figure out where people worship and how they worship," he said. "We'll direct our time, resources, and money not into a big building, but to people, to build an authentic community and help each other."

The mission is in the spirit of church founder and reformer Martin Luther.

"It's time to be creative again," Northend said. "The early church was very different. In the early church, the first thing was to serve the community and care for people."

Programs starting now and in the fall include men's outreach, financial planning, grief, divorce care, MS, and other support groups, Caring for your Aging Parents, family and marriage, tutoring, career counseling, and Kindermusik, Tiny Tots, and other children's classes.

"We want to bring God's wisdom so people live less screwed up lives – that's our prime mission," he said. "If we don't offer wisdom, the world will. Those 35 years old have more on their shoulders than in the past. They're not served well by the culture."

Long -term goals include spreading the model, organizing 30-50 groups around the area, he said.

For more information, call 810-344-9931.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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