“We just started throwing parties because I saw that Jesus went to a lot of parties. He was known to be there. They called him a drunkard and a glutton, and thought if that’s the rep I get, cool.”
One year ago Sunday, Jason Normore launched Local Church with the hope of attracting people who wouldn’t ordinarily attend church. It now sees an average of 30 attendees per week.
Last Sunday afternoon, a group of between 30-40 people gathered to celebrate the first anniversary of Local Church or simply “Local” as the regulars call it. Rather than the regular event held each Sunday at 6:30 p.m., this week’s commemoration was a party.
The group has grown since Normore, along with his wife Caitlin, launched the church by hosting a brunch last year on Jan. 27.
“We just started throwing parties because I saw that Jesus went to a lot of parties,” said Normore. “He was known to be there. They called him a drunkard and a glutton, and thought if that’s the rep I get, cool.”
The church group held a few of these events and eventually had enough interest to begin hosting a house church at their home. At times there were more than 30 people in their downtown St. John’s row house. During these events, it was apparent it was time to move to a larger space.
While the congregation met in an Anglican church for a while, Local’s current home is not somewhere a church would typically meet. In fact, there are few churches where aerial silks for acrobatics hang from the ceiling. Local began meeting at the SPACE (Studio for Physical Arts & Circus Entertainment) on Harbour Drive in mid-October.
Philosophy helps Local Church grow
At each service as well as at the party on Sunday, Normore begins by saying that Local Church wants everyone to feel comfortable there. He addresses the LGBTQ community, the indigenous community and those who have otherwise felt harmed or shamed by the church, including those who may have been abused, and others whose parents dragged them to church against their will. Normore says these kinds of behaviours do not represent who God is to him.
“As a church, we want to rewrite that narrative and right those wrongs,” he said.
“We wanted to create a space for people with all different stories different beliefs, different ideas – atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, whatever it took, whatever it was, create a space to have those bigger conversations about life and God.”
Through these discussions and dialogue, members of the Local community have become followers of Jesus.
Patricia Porter was at the first brunch Local held a year ago. Porter grew up with no religious background but was interested in faith. She heard about Local Church through an interview with Normore on CBC and attended the first brunch. Since then, she has continued attending and has now become a Christian.
“At Local, it felt like people were always put first even before their beliefs, and I felt like I belonged there,” Porter said.
As people become Christians, it is tradition to be baptized as a profession of faith. Porter was baptized in June, and another member of the Local community, Shanolla Ings, was baptized on Sunday.
Ings was at a low point in life when a friend invited her to Local Church. She says her life changed the moment she walked into what was then a house church.
“I felt a love in the room that I had never felt before,” she said.