Lights, cam­era, Je­sus

City Im­pact’s West branch is now hold­ing its ser­vices in a movie the­atre

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - Vaimoana Ta­paleao

Go­ing to church has be­come a cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence for a con­gre­ga­tion that has found a new home of wor­ship — at the movie the­atre.

Mem­bers of the City Im­pact Church West branch now reg­u­larly at­tend Sun­day morn­ing and af­ter­noon ser­vices at the lo­cal West­gate Event Cin­e­mas, in Massey, West Auck­land.

Un­like tra­di­tional churches, you are al­lowed to take food in­side — with fam­i­lies treat­ing them­selves to pop­corn and ice creams while lis­ten­ing to the pas­tor’s ser­mon.

Although un­con­ven­tional, Pas­tor Joe Manase said the idea to hold church ser­vices at the movies came off the back of years of try­ing to find a suit­able build­ing for their new church branch.

“We’d heard that there are churches around the world that started to use cin­e­mas and we thought: ‘You know what? They’ll have the com­fi­est seats, the best air con­di­tion­ing, the great­est screen and the best sur­round-sound sys­tem.

“We do church right there in the mid­dle of the cin­ema.

“There are peo­ple lin­ing up to come to church and peo­ple lin­ing up to buy tick­ets to Avengers at the same time.”

Each week, mem­bers ar­rive early to set up; bring­ing in band in­stru­ments for praise and wor­ship, plants for the stage and a por­ta­ble pul­pit for the preacher.

Bible scrip­tures and lyrics for songs and hymns show up on the cin­ema’s big screen dur­ing the ser­vice.

The church uses two cin­ema rooms — one specif­i­cally for chil­dren’s wor­ship — and there are moves to hire out a third the­atre by next year to cater to youth.

City Im­pact, launched by found­ing pas­tors Peter and Bev Mort­lock al­most 40 years ago, of­fi­cially launched its West branch at the movies in April.

Since then, the con­gre­ga­tion has grown to about 300 peo­ple; many of them young fam­i­lies.

They had also at­tracted peo­ple who had come to the the­atre to see a movie and found out a church ser­vice was on next door.

Manase ac­knowl­edged church at a movie the­atre was not the norm, but said it did not take away from the Chris­tian mes­sage they were shar­ing. “What we are re­li­gious about is the meth­ods of hope in Je­sus Christ. We’re mar­ried to our meth­ods, but we’re very flex­i­ble with the way it is de­liv­ered, know­ing that ev­ery gen­er­a­tion will have dif­fer­ent ways of en­gag­ing.

“More of the world is hap­pen­ing on­line and [via] tech­nol­ogy. We’re con­scious about the way the world is chang­ing.

“It’s a so­ci­ety we’re a part of ... and so we will al­ways be chang­ing things up to make sure that we’re en­gag­ing the most peo­ple as pos­si­ble.” Church at the movies is open to all — and no tick­ets are re­quired to at­tend.

Pho­tos / Michael Craig; AP

In the fight to spread the good word, Pas­tor Joe Manase is com­pet­ing with the Avengers (be­low).

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