On April 1, 2017, there was a remarkable event that happened locally in the City of Oviedo Florida. It was called The Oviedo Gathering and had a focused objective summed up in the slogan used; “Unity in our Community for Christ”. It was a simple gathering of Christians from local churches that came together regardless of race or creed, to promote Jesus and bring together the body of Christ. In a world with so much division along racial, political and religious lines, the message of unity touched a nerve as Oviedo area churches looked beyond their walls and came together to focus only on Jesus, the head of the Church.
It was a community event that many of the churches in Oviedo and surrounding community were invited to attend. It started at 5:00 pm and ended at 7:00 pm. At around 4:00 pm, people started arriving.
The first hour started with a BBQ meal and fellowship. Rectangular tables were set up end to end in two rows so that people who knew each other could not easily congregate at individual separated tables. Everyone had to sit together. A number of printed 8.5×11 papers with 4 words in a very large font saying “Diversity is our goal” with scripture reference were dispersed on the tables.
The second hour was a worship service with intermittent messages offered by area pastors. The worship team came from 5 area churches and was very diverse. There were 15-20 people on the team from worship team members from their respective churches. Even though they only met once to rehearse, they nailed it during the service. It was amazing.
The service started with an opening song followed by two pastor, one white and one black, going on stage. One welcomed everyone and read an opening scripture, the other opened the service with prayer. It was a great picture of unity from the start. Following them there were 4 pastors who gave short messages with worship songs between each, ending with a final song. The songs were powerful and were chosen in advance, with the favorites from the churches where the worship team members attended.
It was a family event with many kids attending with their parents. Bounce houses were set up and well used. What was noticed with the older kids, is that they all played together as “one group” in a wide open field. Laughter was heard everywhere!
The concept of the Oviedo Gathering began and ended with prayer. In so many cases we give lip service to prayer, but for some reason people were willing to pray for the Gathering with unusual intensity. It goes back to something that is evidently on the hearts of many; the message of unity. Once the stated intent was communicated, people started praying. There was a small core group that committed to praying months before the event. During the event there were people praying who weren’t even participating.
A few minutes before the worship service, all of the pastors speaking, and all of the other pastors who attended, (15 or so) met on the side of the stage. As the worship team started to gather on stage, and people were starting to sit down under the tent, pastors gathered to pray. A Catholic priest, Methodist, Baptist and independent pastors were laying hands on each other and praying. No microphones, simple prayer. Black, white and Hispanic pastors from different creeds were praying in front of many people, a powerful scene before a service focused on Unity.
There is no doubt that the prayers of many were well received by the God to whom the prayers were offered. His grace was experienced by many, though deserved by none. He and He alone moved many to pray and fortunately many responded to His call.
On August 1, 2017, many of the pastors from Oviedo area churches met to discuss possible ways that the message of “Unity in our Community for Christ” could be more impactful in our community. Much of the discussion centered on serving the community together. A proposal was made to set aside the entire day of the event to do joint service projects during day, and come together in the evening for a meal and worship service. The thought was well received, and efforts were started to organize such a daylong event. As of this writing, details are being developed, so please periodically check this website, OviedoGathering.com, to get updates on the status of the Oviedo Gathering 2018. The idea is to jointly “Gather for Service” during the day and “Gather for Worship” in the evening. The added component for the Gathering for Service will be updated with new service projects and volunteer opportunities over time.
Since its very inception, the Church has been plagued with divisiveness; no better proof that the enemy knows that a divided Church is much less effective than one unified and focused on Jesus. We are very fortunate to have Pastors in Oviedo that are willing to work together for the community as a whole. Their desire to foster unity, in the common belief that Jesus is the head of the Church, is admirable. Many hunger for something different than what they see in a world full of divisiveness. That hunger fueled the success of the very first Oviedo Gathering, and the time may be right for a great movement toward a new era of unity in the Body of Christ as we gather to serve our community and worship our Savior.