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Silver screen worship


The Orillia Community Church is thinking outside the box office.

After years of operating in temporary quarters, such as school gymnasiums, the congregation is converting a downtown movie theatre into a permanent place of worship.

"It's a good use of an existing building," Michael Bells, pastor of Orillia Community Church, said this week.

Founded 10 years ago, the church had intended to build a contemporary facility on a 15- acre property in Severn Township.

"But when the opportunity came along downtown, everybody got excited," said Bells, who recently moved to Orillia from the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

The former Orillia Cinema 4 at 64 Colborne St. E. has been vacant since 2006.

After years of meeting in the gymnasium at Orillia Christian School, it will be wonderful for the congregation of more than 100 to have a dedicated space, Bells said.

Although the theatre seats have been removed, the four spaces originally used as theatres lend themselves nicely to the church's intentions.

The largest of the four theatres, when renovated, will eventually become the main place of worship.

Live music and video projections are a part of the Sunday worship service, so the big screen will come to life with images once again.

The other theatre spaces will be converted into a multi-purpose room, seminar room, lounge, nursery, kitchen and office space.

And the refreshment stand will be turned into a cafe. No popcorn, but lots of coffee.

The downtown location will allow the church to get involved in outreach programs for the less fortunate, Bells said.

"We'll probably work with groups that are already ministering to the poor. The best way to be effective is partner together."

Some parishioners have been giving support to downtown ministries, such as the Christian Lighthouse Mission men's shelter and soup kitchen, Bells noted.

An "Out of the Cold" program, providing a warm place to sleep for people on the streets on cold winter nights is another possibility, Bells said.

The church could also get involved in downtown events, such as the Beatles Festival, by screening a Beatles movie.

The evangelical church hopes to hold its first service in the former cinema by midsummer and complete the first phase of renovation by early September.

Bells is looking forward to putting the last chair away in the Orillia Christian School gymnasium for the last time.

Buying the church is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the congregation, Bells said.

"Everybody pulled together."

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