Renew Gathering Reflection

The Center for Faith and Leadership’s Monthly Newsletter – October 2021

“Your presence is the promised land.”
I have been holding these words by one of our speakers, Faith Romasco, near to my heart these past few weeks following Renew. Listening and walking in obedience with God has become a desire rooted so deeply and firmly in me because I long for that promised land where the presence of God is all I need.
On Thursday afternoon, October 7,  a crew of volunteers left Fredericksburg and headed to the small community of Ararat, Virginia to prepare the space for those coming to experience The Renew Gathering. When we arrived, we spent time in prayer and listened to the story of Noah’s Ark– we were in Ararat, after all! As we read the story, we were reminded of the obedience to God that Noah had. We learned that the words “listen” and “obey” come from the same root and couldn’t exist without one another. Even through the rain and the flood, Noah listened and obeyed  awaiting the promise that God made: a restored land and a promise of renewal. 
The next morning was rainy and dreary, but our spirits were high. Tents were staked and meals were prepared for those who would arrive later that day. As people arrived, nothing could stop the excitement and expectation of what the weekend would bring. Our speakers spoke listening, healing, and perseverance over us and our hearts were opened to new ways of receiving. Something else Romasco shared, really captured my imagination.

God is spacious enough to hear the depths of us. He calls us to the best of our humanity. The one who is attuned to us will attend to us in all that we are. But we can only meet others as deeply as we’ve met ourselves.

We were challenged to go beyond the surface level of our knowing and into a deeper place. And this desire is taking root in the hearts of those who were listening.
As it rained through the first night and again on Saturday morning, we were cold, a little tired and our metaphorical flood was still in full effect, but even in the midst of the rain, God’s presence was and still is the promised land.

Then, about 4:00 Saturday afternoon, the promise came quite literally as we witnessed a gigantic rainbow stretch across the clearing sky at Ararat. When we listen and obey, we witness God’s presence and God’s promise.
Lonni Howard, a first-year student at Penn State online and a Young Life leader in Virginia Beach, was so impacted by what she experienced at Renew that she brought the culture back to her small group gathering for high school girls. “I’m shifting my small group to feel more like a dinner church” she says.

Renew was a much needed a reset on my view of community and the purposes of a small group. I saw the Lord working through people and relationships in ways that I had not seen before, and I began to understand why God values community so much. After leaving Renew, I quickly changed the way my small group for high school students was run. I shifted it from a place where they came to listen and be taught to a place where they come to share and be in relationship. It’s become a beautiful place of friendship, joy, and laughter. The Lord is working through my dinner small group in ways I didn’t think possible.
God’s presence is the promised land, and we are praying that you may experience his presence and his promise even now! 
Carson Berrier, UMW ’22,
Social Media & Marketing Intern