Here is our part of an article "Thinking Outside the Cathedral" in yesterday's Arkansas Democrat Gazette. More positive press for Vintage!
IN A THEATER Creating sacred space in a movie theater is a challenge for the ministry team of Vintage Fellowship in Fayetteville. The new, nondenominational church meets at the Malco Mall Twin Cinema at Northwest Arkansas Mall. Pastor Robb Ryerse says the church creates a sense of the sacred with lighting and visual media. “We’ve utilized the lobby area a bit with candles and pictures,” he says. “It’s not the kind of thing where we’ll have stained glass, but the images we want to use to evoke certain emotions we do through media.” One of the biggest challenges for the church, however, is overcoming the ingrained “theater behavior” of the congregation.
“The way people act in a movie theater is the way they act during worship,” Ryerse says. “They file in quietly, sit quietly. Getting people to engage [in conversation ] with each other before and after and to participate in worship has been a big hurdle.”
The congregation uses the screen to show movie clips relevant to worship, and for other multimedia purposes. Worship is done in the “emerging church” style, which combines media and ancient Christian symbols and rituals with more modern expressions of faith.
“What we are trying to do is to connect the truth and grace of Jesus with where people are living today. That’s our heartbeat,” Ryerse says. “We want to tap into the ancient faith in a way that connects with where people are. We want to be relevant in how we teach. We want to see their lives changed.”
Ryerse says the ministry team selected the movie theater, in part because it was a central location between Fayetteville and Springdale. He says the nontraditional location does attract worshippers not drawn to a more traditional church.
“We want to take down as many unnecessary barriers as we can to people connecting with God,” he says. “People know the theater. It’s a place they are comfortable, and we are excited to redeem that space and make it a place where someone can connect with God.”
As for the future, Ryerse says the congregation has no plans to buy property anytime soon.
“When churches build buildings a lot of focus and energy and money goes into maintaining the building, and we can focus entirely on the people we are trying to reach and not worry about whether the roof is leaking,” he says. “Our hope is to be portable, to be a church that isn’t tied down to a building for a long time.”