100% of Easter Service Offering at Peabody Opera House Will Go to The Gathering's Literacy Project.
What do spiritual skeptics, lapsed believers and devout church-goers have in common? They are all welcome and invited to The Gathering’s Easter Service at the Peabody Opera House on April 1. The entire offering received during the service will support The Literacy Project, one of The Gathering’s community service programs which matches reading mentors with students at Peabody Elementary in the St. Louis Public School District, and Washington Elementary, in the Normandy Schools Collaborative.
“We hold our Easter service at the Peabody to specifically signal to the community that we want everyone to join us,” said The Gathering’s lead pastor and founder, Matt Miofsky. Last year, more than 3000 attended the Easter service; the venue can accommodate 3100 and Miofsky hopes to see this year’s audience spilling out of the venue.
He and The Gathering’s other pastors and leaders recognize that just following national or local news can leave people feeling overwhelmed and anxious. “The Gathering wants to be St. Louis’s place to wrestle with life’s realities in a way that is helpful and hopeful. We want people of every age, demographic, socio-economic level and gender. People who’ve never gone to church or need spiritual relief but aren’t sure how to get it, or simply want to feel a part of something bigger than them…we invite you to come as you are,” he added.
In 2006, Miofsky started The Gathering with a belief that church could be different and that faith could make a difference in our individual lives as well as in our city. In the last decade, this vision has come to life, bringing new generations of people together to serve and worship. Approximately 1300 people worship in a week at four sites. As testament to its affirming, progressive nature, The Gathering needs more room to accommodate congregants. Later this year, it will unveil a new church building on McCausland, which is likely the first new church in St. Louis in 50 years. In addition, new services and ministries will be launched at its Webster and Clayton locations and the Clayton space is being renovated.
The Literacy Project, established in 2013, is one way The Gathering is serving St. Louis and making an impact on the larger community. Through a group of 97 volunteer mentors who receive cultural competency and trauma-informed training, the Literacy Project offers kindergarten and first graders a reading curriculum rooted in mindfulness and true connection. The Project’s director, Melissa Baum, says the paradigm shift is effective. “Instead of addressing a child’s disruptive behavior as “what’s wrong with you?” we act from the perspective of “what’s happening to you?” she said. Last year, Baum and the mentors started each kindergarten session with a 10-minute mindfulness exercise and said almost immediately, self-regulated behavior by the children increased. Because of the success, she is excited to extend this practice into the first-grade curriculum in the next school year.
A total of 53 children (32 at Peabody; 21 at Washington) each meet with one or two mentors, twice a week, to read and talk. In addition, through donations, The Gathering has launched My Own Library, which offers all students, even those not in the Literacy Project program, pre-K through first grade, a new book every month.
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