Tuesday 24 May 2011

Catherine Playoust on Gathering and Scattering

Catherine Playoust, ‘A Time to Scatter, a Time to Gather’, Pacifica 23, 1 (2010), 1-14.

One of the leitmotifs of London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, where I work, is the distinction between the church as ‘gathered’ (coming together as one body for worship, teaching, sacraments, etc.) and ‘scattered’ (in the various places we find ourselves during the week). While both aspects are crucial and interdependent, ecclesiology can tend to focus on the former to the neglect of the latter.

So, I was interested to see this article (available from here) by Catherine Playoust devoted to the theme of scattering and gathering. She does a nice job of summarising the main uses of this image in Scripture itself:

‘In deciding what to include, I didn’t go in search of particular Greek or Hebrew words, but looked for places in which these ideas came up. They emerged in three main contexts, often interlocking: the sowing of seed to produce a harvest that will be gathered in; the dispersal of a multitude and its subsequent restoration to its own land; and the assembly of a group for a particular occasion, after which the members of the assembly are sent out to various places with the group’s goals in mind’ (2).

A brief exploration of these gives way to a more extended look at the gospel of John, where she notes that ‘instead of the crucifixion being the time of scattering and sorrow, to be followed by gathering and joy at the resurrection, the gathering and joy happen already at the crucifixion’ (11).

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