On a recent Sunday morning, musician Matt Knox played on the stage of movie theatre. His bass playing wasn’t a paying gig; he was accompanist for a church service.
“(The Campus Church) is a welcoming atmosphere, kind of like a family,” Knox said. “Everyone gets familiar with each other (in a theatre).”
Members of the Campus, formerly Community Bible Church, have hosted a satellite church at the local Cineplex Odeon in Aurora, Ont., on Sunday mornings for the past year.
David Payne, senior pastor of the Campus’s founding establishment, was partly responsible for this different approach to attracting churchgoers in the area.
“People are confused by the word ‘church,’” Payne said. “They’ve heard bad things…so they’re actually afraid to go into a building that has a big cross on it … but when we said we’d be starting this church in a theatre, they were more than willing to come try it out.”
Though Payne still travels back and forth on Sundays to deliver sermons at both the Cineplex and his church facility on Bathurst Street, he’s turned over the reins of the satellite church to his son-in-law, Pastor Ian Ardill. From his perspective, the choice of their unique locale has proven more comfortable for newcomers.
“Prior to launching, I think there was a lot of scepticism of how this was going to function,” Ardill said. “But a lot of people have started to discover this place they’re calling ‘church,’ really is church … With a church functioning inside a movie theatre, it’s a place they might have been the night before and they’re invited here.”
Newcomers receive a warm welcome from members and escorted to free coffee near the entrance. Inside the dark, rented cinema, studio lights fill the theatre as musical lyrics and are projected on the big screen.
Pastor Payne then takes to a collapsible stage to deliver his sermon, putting slides and scripture verses on the screen above him.
According to Ardill, since the launch of the church services in the theatre, the congregation’s numbers have grown by 40 per cent.
Ultimately, for musician Matt Knox, it’s the congregation that makes a church, not where the congregation meets on Sundays.
“The church isn’t the building here,” he said. “It’s the people.”
The Campus is currently looking into plans of setting up a third church in the area of Keswick.