The Gathering offers Sandestin a place to worship
Sunday worship can be held anywhere — on a beach, in a theater, or in the Terrace Room of the Linkside Conference Center in the Sandestin Resort.
A non-denominational worship service that began Oct. 30, 2011, The Gathering meets every Sunday in the Terrace Room.
After singing for several years at the Seaside Chapel, David Seering and Jay Stone saw a need to provide a service for not only locals, but also visitors to the resort.
"We both knew that there was no church in Sandestin and owners and renters there usually searched the local community to find one," Stone told The Log. "We just felt that a resort this size should have church worship services."
After Stone discussed the idea with Sandestin management, The Gathering opened on a weekly basis in a small ballroom.
"We are paying tenants, but they have been most supportive in every way," Stone said. "We started with David's singing and playing and visiting ministers for the first few months. Eventually, we talked Billy Gray into being our regular Sunday minister."
A group of 70-100 gathers each week at the mainstream Christian worship service, where more than 400 attended Easter Sunday services this year.
Music is provided by The Gathering Singers, led by Seering, a well-known local musician. Others in the group are Seering's wife, Lori, keyboard player Don Kupski, and Suzie Munz and Stone who do background singing and assist in leading the congregation.
"At one point or another I have always been involved in worship in my career, but not until I moved to Destin did it become a large part of my life as well as my musical journey," Seering told The Log. "I can say that the hour I spend during worship is the most important hour of the week for me."
Songs are chosen based on the message from the preacher for that day or for special occasions, such as Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.
As music director, Seering's objectives are first to provide a musical atmosphere to give worshippers the feeling of reverence.
"Second, and most important, is that we, as a worship team, give those who are not already followers of Jesus Christ the opportunity to do so through our musical ministry," he said.
As news of a new chapel planned by Tom Becnel has surfaced, Stone and Seering see this as possibly a true blessing for The Gathering, and Becnel has indicated a willingness to have them.
"We have high hopes that The Gathering will be a major tenant and that he will be able to build the chapel soon," Stone said.
Although The Gathering may be small, and not a full-service church, it makes a significant contribution to the community. They support the mission ministry of Billy Gray as well as various local charities, and supply Thanksgiving dinners to the Muscogee Tribe in Bruce.
The members also purchase and distribute Christmas presents to local families in need and donate to Shelter House for abused families.
"This month we will send two weeks' offering collections to relief agencies in Moore, Okla.," Stone, chairman of the Board of Directors, said.
Although many people prefer a more formal, organized church, locals and tourists call The Gathering their home church.
"We have a large number of people who attend during the winter and then go back to their homes in the summer," Stone said. "As long as you are worshiping God, it (size of church) doesn't make any difference in our view."