theGathering Cultivates Student Spirituality at Intimate New Location
By Rachelle Reeves
GCU News Bureau
Students shared “prayer popcorn” and greeted each other with energized high-fives as they walked into theGathering at Antelope Gym this past Tuesday.
The scene is similar every Tuesday night at the student-run weekly worship night, which begins at 8 p.m. TheGathering is designed as an informal, alternative worship service. The weekly event includes student testimonials and contemporary Christian music that make it more comfortable than a formal church setting.
This fall, Spiritual Life organizers shifted theGathering from GCU Arena to Antelope Gym to make it even more intimate for students. TheGathering typically begins with prayer as the lights dim and popular worship songs boom through the gym. Students raise their hands and bow their heads, while others pray together.
Liz Martin, outreach ministry coordinator for GCU’s Office of Spiritual Life, said the shift in venue from GCU Arena is expected to help students focus on fellowship — helping conversations naturally occur on the floor below the stands and outside the doors of the gym.
“We just see the value of students hearing from one another and being encouraged by each others’ stories,” Martin said.
Martin added that as GCU transitions into NCAA Division-I athletics and continues to grow nationally as a force in private Christian higher-education, it is important to encourage students’ foundational Christian values.
“As we’re moving D-I and … moving toward a more secular way, we’re still really sticking to our roots – pulling back and showing that, no, the spiritual climate of this campus really matters,” she said. “We really want to keep our Christian worldview roots in everything that we do and students are onto it.”
The historic influx of students on campus this fall is expected to contribute to the atmosphere and quality of testimonials at theGathering.
Last week, GCU student and local outreach leader David White spoke on the topic of justice as it relates to spirituality. The reformed drug addict briefly shared his personal story about narrowly avoiding a 10-year prison sentence for suspected drug-trafficking and unlawful possession of a firearm in his home area of Washington.
White, 26, explained during his brief testimonial during theGathering that justice is an “order that God seeks to reestablish in his creation where all people receive benefits of life with Him.” He told theGathering audience that his personal story was an example of that miracle. At the time of his arrest, White had not graduated high school and was a repeat criminal offender who faced probation. When faced with prison, he gave his life to God — and saw the charges melt away, he said, so God could use him to impact the lives of others.
Such stories about faith and perseverance resonate with students and help promote the sense of community that GCU strives to maintain on campus.
Kayla Waldridge, a junior from Yuma, said she was uncertain about how theGathering would feel in Antelope Gym though she believed having the separation from Chapel made the experience more relational and intimate.
“It’s refreshing and has a positive atmosphere,” Waldridge said.
Ashley Dietz, a sophomore from Corona, Calif. said the atmosphere of Antelope Gym felt cozy in spite of such a large crowd last week.
“We’re forced to be in a small place and interact,” Dietz said. “Since there’s more people, it helps join us together.”
Contact Rachelle Reeves at [email protected].