Churches Seeking New Places To Hold Services

READING, Pa. - Bob Dylan said the times they are a changin'. That's become an unsung hymn at some local churches as budgets force tough decisions and new tactics.

"It seemed like it was a perfect place for our needs," said Pastor Vince Donnachie, Reading City Church, who will preach in front of the silver screen Sunday.

His start-up congregation of about 50 followers, known as the Reading City Church, has been meeting in different spots the past couple months.

They are now calling Reading Movies 11 & IMAX Theatres home.

"The building is not the point," said Donnachie. "The people are the point and the gospel is the point."

That back to basics approach to worship is also a lot more economical.

Churches renting theaters has become a national trend.

For the past few weeks, Calvary Bible Fellowship Church in Sinking Spring has offered services at the Fox Theater in Exeter Township.

They said it's a cheaper way to reach out to the other side of the county.

The progressive approach may help fill seats on Sunday, but the harsh reality for most is that saving money could save the congregation.

"Beautiful churches have become beautiful albatrosses in a lot of ways," said Pastor David Lawton, St. Thomas United Church of Christ. "They've just become a real burden on the congregation."

Just days after Lawton celebrates his 12th anniversary with St. Thomas United Church of Christ in Reading, he'll lose his job, the sacrificial lamb to a bleeding church budget.

"They voted to go to a part-time pastor in order to try and extend the life of the church," said Lawton.

St. Thomas' sister church in Reading, Zion United Church of Christ, held its final service late last month after efforts to sustain funding failed.

Lawton said a traditional church is not realistic with modern church funding.

"The church is evolving in ways that none of us can predict," said Lawton.

By renting space, Donnachie is trying to stay ahead of that curve and keep the budget from overshadowing the Bible.

"It's forcing a lot of churches to look at what it really means to be a church," said Donnachie.

The first service at the movie theater in Reading will be 10:00 Sunday morning.

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Allentown, PA 18102





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