People come to church for many reasons, including when they feel lost, untethered and are looking for a supportive community that speaks to and listens to them. This is perhaps most acute within the community of LGBTQ individuals who want God in their lives but feel alienated by the church – whatever their religion.
Laura Checkett came out as gay at the age of 23. Raised as an Evangelical Christian, growing up her life centered on church. “Even as a kid, I felt God had to be bigger than all the discrimination I kept hearing. I learned it was impossible to be both gay and in God’s will – so I hid who I was for a very long time.”
In early adulthood, she began to search for a local church that would accept her completely but couldn’t find one. She even attended a church-led class for people who had felt hurt by church, hopeful she’d be welcomed but was told “we don’t accept that here.” After that she gave up looking but her need for a spiritual connection remained, “I was devastated. I vowed never again to step into a church, but I couldn’t seem to shake that need for connection—for God.”
When a childhood friend invited her to attend The Gathering four years ago, she was skeptical. “Before attending, I wrote an email to the pastor letting him know who I was, and at the end I asked if I would be accepted.” Shortly thereafter, Laura received a response stating that not only did The Gathering accept her, they advocated for her.
Upon walking into the service, it clicked instantly. “I saw people with their partners, I felt this truly authentic feeling of love and hope. At 33, after searching for what felt like forever, I finally felt at home.”
Shortly after, Laura had coffee with The Gathering’s pastor, Matt Miofsky, and told him she wanted to help other gay and transgender people in St. Louis find acceptance, hope, and healing in a faith community. Miofsky asked her to start an LGBTQ ministry at the church.
Together with friend and mentor Billy Terrell, Emerge was formed. Introduced at PrideFest last year, today more than 150 allies and LGBTQ individuals are part of Emerge. Small groups gather weekly to tackle issues of faith and support one another in their spiritual journey.
“The Gathering is a place for healing and growth,” says Pastor Miofsky. “We don’t want to change anyone. We accept and affirm our LGBTQ community.”
“I’m humbled to be a part of something so needed in our community,” said Checkett. “I can’t wait to see what we can all do together to break down barriers and correct misinformation.”
Emerge offers small groups, social events, service projects, and outreach opportunities for the LGBTQ community and allies and is a vital outgrowth of The Gathering’s dedication to inclusion, connection, and healing.
The Gathering exists to create a Christian community that is compelling for new generations of people in St. Louis. With four locations, its mission is to invite people to become deeply committed followers of Christ.