Everett church’s move to mall puts it among people

EVERETT — Everyone needs a fresh start sometimes — even if you’re a church called New Beginnings.

The nondenominational church earlier this month moved away from its home of 20 years on Oakes Avenue, near Everett High School.

Its new digs, at Everett Mall, might strike some as an odd setting for a house of worship.

To pastor Frank Pina, it makes perfect sense.

“It’s kind of going back to the early days because the early church met in Roman amphitheaters, met in public squares,” said Pina, 52. “They would meet where the public was.”

That’s what led Pina and his congregation to an old movie theater in the shadow of a Macy’s store.

Shopping malls are temples to commercialism.

Everett Mall has started to change that of late, by taking on new roles as a temple of high culture, and even of worship.

Last year, the mall offered up storage space for the Everett Museum of History’s artifacts. It also has been donating space to the nonprofit Snohomish County Music Project, which manages programs for other musical and theatrical groups.

The performers meet at the same former cinema as New Beginnings. The space has been rechristened Everett Music Hall.

Roger Pawley, the Music Project’s executive director, said the church shares his group’s love of music and its mission of community-building.

“They came to us looking for a new home and we thought it was a perfect match,” Pawley said.

Plus, a rocking church band puts the theater’s acoustics to good use.

Pina started Oct. 7’s inaugural service with a blessing of the new sanctuary. His sermon spanned from St. Paul’s travails during the Roman Empire, to the 2011 movie “Soul Surfer,” about a hotshot teenage surfer who gets the courage to return to the sport after losing her arm in a shark attack.

The pastor drew hearty laughter at times from an audience of more than 100, thoughtful reflection at others. At one point, he remarked on the new location and how it might invite passersby by to join in.

“I feel that Jesus would say, even if you’re not a Christian, come sup with me, come dine with me,” he said.

Curlean Bryant, 56, of Everett, is the church’s head usher.

He’s been a member for about 20 years, and like many members of the church, upbeat about the change.

“Pastor Frank is trying to create a very contemporary message that helps you grow day to day,” Bryant said.

Another usher, Bill Crocker, 47, from the Snohomish area, said some members left with the move, but those who stayed are excited.

“Fun, but a lot of work,” he said.

Anthony Quintana, 33, of Everett, said the move would bring the church closer to the community. His wife, Virginia Quintana, 34, said, “We mainly want them to know that we’re friendly, we’re accepting.”

Pina said he’s fighting a battle to stay relevant, to win another generation.

It’s something he’s been thinking about for a while.

A 1991 front-page article in The Herald featured Pina and his church, when it was known as Living Word Christian Center and had recently moved from its original home on Colby Avenue. He called the mall and the National Football League his main competition.

Pina said then that if he had his way, his church would look like a mall, with a big, open exterior inviting people to come in for an exciting time.

“Jesus could be accused of consumer religion, because Jesus touched people where they’re at,” Pina said at the time. “He talked about eternal truth, but in a very practical, relevant way.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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