By Kalli Damschen
Thousands of worshipers are expected to fill McLane Stadium for the Gathering, a historic Palm Sunday worship service, at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Gathering, named from the hymn “Shall We Gather at the River?” which will be sung at the event. Kevin Harrison, pastor of Victorious Life Church and lead administrator of the Gathering, said he hopes the event will provide a sense of unity.
“This is not just about having a service,” Harrison said. “It’s the genesis of a movement of unity. We see the division in our world. How in the world can our world come together and be united if the church isn’t?”
The official website describes the Gathering’s goal as building a bridge between the church and the community by bringing people together for an evening of worship.
“The theme is the body of Christ coming together to remind ourselves that we have much more in common than we have differences,” said John Durham, pastor at Highland Baptist Church and head of security and marketing for the Gathering. “We desire to lift up the name of Jesus across Central Texas.”
Harrison also said the goal of the Gathering is to bring Christians together, regardless of their differences.
“We want to see unity in the body of Christ,” Harrison said. “We want to bring down the walls of denominationalism, of races, of ages. We just want to come together in spite of whatever our differences are.”
One of the special guests at the event is Dr. Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. He is also the founder and president of the Urban Alternative, a Christian broadcast ministry that aims to help people find God’s purpose for their lives.
Harrison said Evans is the perfect speaker for the purpose of this event.
“For years he’s been a voice of unity,” Harrison said. “He’s talented, he’s gifted and he’s spoken to audiences as large as a million people before. He really captures the heart of what we’re about, and it’s the heart of unity.”
Other special guests include Israel Houghton, worship pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston and Grammy Award-winning Christian music artist; Jeff Deyo, Christian music solo artist and former lead singer of the band SONICFLOOd; Bryce Petty, former Baylor quarterback; and Chip and Joanna Gaines, Baylor alumni and stars of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper.”
Gates open at 3 p.m., with pre-service music and interviews beginning at 4:30. The main event starts at 5 p.m., and the altars will remain open one hour past the 7 p.m. official dismissal.
The Gathering is free to the public, but the event’s coordinators ask attendees to bring at least two canned goods, which will be donated to local food pantries. Seating is limited to the first 45,000 attendees.
For those unable to attend in person, the Gathering will be broadcast live by KXXV-ABC, both on television (channel 25) and online at http://www.KWTX.com. Additionally, the Gathering will be broadcast live on the radio by KBBW on 1010 AM and 105.7 FM, and by shortwave radio around the world.
“This is going to be broadcast literally across the world, via streaming and via this broadcast,” Harrison said.
For more information, including details about Spanish and sign language translation for the event, visit http://www.thegatheringwaco.com or download the Gathering Waco app.