Hymn #335: Come, Gather in This Special Place

            Philip A. Porter (b. 1953) began this text with the idea of a table large enough for everyone who wished to commune.  He wrote the hymn to fill a need for more communion texts, and it was first sung at Peace United Church of Christ in Oakland, California, where Porter worshiped for seven years.

            Phil Porter was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on March 16, 1953, and attended the Methodist Church there.  For over twenty years he has been interpreting theology through the arts.  In 1977 he joined First Congregational Church (UCC) in Berkeley, California, where he is artist-in-residence.

            Elaine Kirkland (b. 1946) composed the tune GATHER in 1991 for this text by Phil Porter.  The hymn was introduced to the wider church at a Northern California conference women’s retreat, where Kirkland was serving as music director.  She met Porter at a United Church of Christ Fellowship and the Arts event in 1977.

           Elaine Kirkland was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of a Methodist minister.  In addition to music degrees, she earned a master of divinity degree at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.  She is a teacher, conductor, composer, and organist, and leads music workshops.