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Worship center stays true to its roots

Real Life: After seven years in a movie theater and two in a gymnasium, local church makes new home

Posted: April 24, 2010 1:34 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.

A group of pastors and staff members from Real Life Church gather outside their newly finished "green" home. The congregation's search for a permanent home has been a 10-year odyssey, but its new building has been created as a sort of homage to the voyage, with cupholders and reclining seats from the parish's days spent sharing a movie theater....

Cupholders accompany each seat. Retractable, cushioned chairs align rows of stadium seating. A giant screen takes center view.

It would seem as if Real Life Church members are going back to their movie theater days — when Sunday morning services could have been interrupted at any moment with the sounds of explosions or laughter reverberating from the flick showing next door.

But the seats, the screen, the cupholders — it’s all part of Real Life’s new home on Newhall Ranch Road. Those elements will be a permanent reminder of the church’s humble beginnings.

“We started in a movie theater and we knew these were our roots,” said Brandon Beard, who is a life groups pastor at Real Life. “We wanted to have the same intimate feel.”

After seven years in rented space at Edwards Valencia theaters and the last two-and-a-half in West Ranch High School’s gymnasium, Real Life members are relieved to move into their new 42,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly worship facility. The three-tiered building features a 1,200-seat worship auditorium, an outdoor amphitheater, a coffee house, a state-of-the art children’s facility and administrative offices.

“From sticky floors to a real building — it’s pretty awesome,” said church member Wendy Mackenzie, of Saugus. “It’s always felt like a family, but now we all have a new home together.”

While church members and leaders rejoice in their new home, they are mindful to keep a faithful perspective.

“The same way lives were changed in the movie theater, the same way lives were changed in the gymnasium, in the same way, lives will be changed here,” Beard said. “There’s nothing magical about this place.”

Real Life’s grand opening Sunday service began with a video of Ugandan children they met during church mission trips, and church members repeating, “We are the church.”

“The church is not a building; the people are the church,” Beard said. “We’ll never forget that. We’ll always see this as just a tool.”

Church members are excited to see the building used as a positive resource for the greater community, Beard said. Real Life has a developed outreach perspective that keeps local, national and international causes in its view.

Family Promise of SCV is one local cause the church plans to use its new building for. Family Promise is an interfaith network calling upon different congregations to host local homeless families for four weeks spread throughout the year.

Real Life also plans to lend its space to groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Single Mothers Outreach or even other sprouting churches without a space of their own, Beard said.

“We really want this building to be used by the community,” Beard said. “We’ll let our actions speak louder than words when it comes to serving the community.”

Church leaders hope the coffee house, Undergrounds, can open full time to the community within the next few months. The coffee house will be staffed by all volunteers and the church will not charge for its coffee.

Instead, donations will be accepted, which will support the church’s global missions in Uganda and the Dominican Republic. The coffee house’s stage will be opened to musicians in the community, Beard said.

“It’s exciting to know that we have a permanent location that we can use to reach out to the community,” Mackenzie said, “and that people know where to find us.”




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