news-category: Christian Life and Service

Gardner-Webb Holds Weekly Student-Led Worship Service

Students lead worship in Dover Chapel

The Gathering is a Place Where All are Welcomed

By Sierra Talbert, ’24, Intern for University Communications

As guests and Gardner-Webb University students fill Dover Chapel every week for The Gathering, they are met by a group of students, who invite them inside and strive to make sure all who enter feel welcomed. The Gathering, a student-led worship night, is held every Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The Gathering’s coordinator, Natalie Coffing, and its worship coordinator, Alethia Wagner, work together to bring in speakers who are willing to be a light and impact the lives of students. They also prepare topics for upcoming series, oversee the production team, choose the worship songs for the week, etc.

Neal Payne, associate minister of Student Ministries at Gardner-Webb, said The Gathering is unique, because at most Christian universities, worship services are coordinated and led by paid staff. Payne and the staff in the Office of Christian Life and Services are proud of the students, and they look forward to watching The Gathering continue to grow and seeing the impact it has on students’ lives.

He noted that students have come together to worship with one another for over three decades. Although the name has changed over the years, the constant has been the message of Christ through song, fellowship and scripture.

Everyone who is a part of this special night each week works to create a safe and open atmosphere. The Gathering is a great space on campus for students to gather, worship, create relationships and grow spiritually.

“I come to The Gathering because I feel like this is a way to hold myself accountable to listen to the word of God and open scripture,” shared student-athlete Jennifer Escalera. “This is a place where you really do feel comfortable and can be yourself.”

The night begins with prayer and a series of worship songs, followed by a devotional or a brief message from the guest speaker. Once the speaker is finished with the message, there is another time for worship and prayer before any closing remarks.

While the speakers are asked to provide an encouraging message for students, on several occasions they leave feeling inspired by the students. This happened recently to guest speaker, Jeremy Peeler, a Gardner-Webb alumnus, who now serves as the youth pastor at Hope Community Church in Shelby, N.C.

This semester, he was asked to speak at The Gathering for the first time since graduating. The experience impacted him, and he hopes the students display their faith across campus and in the community. “This was really special for me … being in this room [the Chapel] brings back a lot of memories,” Peeler shared. “It was awesome being here with all these young kids and seeing their enthusiasm for Jesus.”

Writer Sierra Talbert is a communications major with a concentration in public relations.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at


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