This Sunday morning, some patrons at Landmark Cinemas in Guildford will be buying tickets to see the new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, or maybe Frozen 2.
Others will be praying, during service at one of the three churches now operating there.
The multi-screen movie theatre has become a hub for those eager to hear the word of God.
Among the congregations is the new Veracity Church, which hopes to attract believers with “a relevant and honest form of Christianity.”
At 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 15, approximately 30 people sat in power-recliner seats in one of the theatres to hear pastor Steve Mohr speak, as Bible passages were shown on the big screen behind him.
Thirty minutes earlier, musicians played as Steve’s wife, Ashley, sang and welcomed the small group of worshippers.
In another auditorium across the hall, church-going kids played video games on the big screen.
Steve and Ashley, along with their children, are a blended family and, according to a news release announcing the church’s very first service on Dec. 1, “aren’t afraid to talk openly about sex, divorce, online dating, pornography and the things many couples are struggling with.”
They live in the Fraser Heights area.
“Financially this works for us right now, we’re self-funding as long as we can,” Steve said about renting space at the theatre.
“It’s what God wanted us to do, and we’ll do it as long as he allows us to do it.”
Elsewhere in the complex, Sunday services are held by Surrey Christian Life Assembly and, according to Steve, a Filipino church.
“It’s a great place for a church service, with so much room in here and also this huge screen that we can show messages or videos or whatever,” said Steve.
The Landmark-operated complex was renovated in 2017 to include a redesigned lobby and concession areas, as well as power-recliner seats in all auditoriums.
With larger seats came reduced capacity in each of the theatre auditoriums. Overall, the theatre lost 55 per cent of its seats, with the total number reduced from approximately 3,000 to 1,300.
“The theatre was underutilized from a capacity perspective,” Bill Walker, Landmark’s chief operating officer, told the Now-Leader in February of 2017.
Landmark’s website includes a “Faith in Cinema” page that says the company is about “more than just movies.
“Give your community a place where everyday life and the church experience come together,” the website says. “With theatre seating, amazing acoustics, and the captivating big screen, it’s the perfect space for your congregation to worship, learn and grow.”
The Cineplex company, which operates the Strawberry Hill Cinemas in Surrey, also promotes worship on its website.
At the Landmark site in Guildford, Steve says services have gone well, so far.
“We’ve had some technical issues every Sunday – lighting, for one,” he said with a laugh, “but we’re working through those. We have the spotlights in here, and with the house lights on today, it was the first time I could see people’s faces. The venue has been great, and the core people we have is great. It works for us.”
As a church “plant,” the Mohrs hope to bring “a new expression” to the tradition.
“People are searching for authenticity and place to belong,” Steve said. “There needs to be room in the church for people to be open about struggles, doubts, and engage in the hard work of becoming emotionally healthy.”
Ashley believes many people find it hard to relate to seemingly perfect people who have it all together.
“It’s our hope that people can relate to the brokenness we’ve experienced through divorce, self-identity issues, and the challenges many people face in regards to raising children,” she said. “We’re unashamed to say that the truth of Jesus has transformed our lives, and has been a comfort in some of the darkest moments we’ve faced.”
Entry for the Sunday service is off 101st Avenue, on the south side of the theatre.
Veracity Church aims to partner with various local organizations such as Surrey Urban Mission, Pregnancy Options Centre, Surrey Food Bank, and Surrey Schools Meal Programs. Online, they’re at veracity.church.