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Coming to a theater near you -- church services

By Matt Russell

mrussell@postbulletin.com

Crowds flocked to Chateau Theaters when Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" showed on multiple screens last spring. The movie isn't showing there anymore, but now the leader of a fledgling Baptist church hopes that holding worship services at the theater will help him attract crowds of his own.

Journey Church will start holding weekly services at Chateau on Sunday, according to church leader Rich Bontrager. "I'm getting more and more pumped about it daily," he said.

Created to attract Generation Xers, Journey first met at Rochester Community and Technical College last spring before moving its services to Kids Come First Day Care in October. Holding services at Chateau means Journey will no longer be able to meet on Saturday nights, a time Bontrager said he prefers. But he said Sunday morning is a more culturally ingrained time for people to go to church, which may attract more people, and he thinks the theater location may draw more worshippers as well.

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"It's a comfortable, safe environment," Bontrager said. "People will go and recline in those chairs and enjoy a movie, so they should be able to go there and feel safe and not threatened."

Bontrager, 39, said Journey will set up a stage in one of Chateau's smaller theaters and will use its own projection system to show Power Point presentations and movie clips during services. He added that Journey will use its own sound system in the beginning but may eventually use the theater's.

"We have a very strong projector that's going to pop off the screen," he said.

Bontrager said that doors will open at 9:30 a.m. before every Sunday service and that free coffee and snacks will be available. Services will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., a time movies aren't shown at Chateau. Mitch Stevenson, Chateau's general manager, said all signs that a church service had been held at the theater will be gone by the time movies start showing on Sundays.

The church will also continue to offer a nursery area and a kids area during services, Bontrager said.

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