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Thousands of worshippers attended the Manchester Christian Church “Alive: Easter at the Verizon” service Sunday morning at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. Worship Pastor Dan King leads the congregation in song from the stage. (BRUCE TAYLOR / UNION LEADER)

Easter service rocks arena

An enthusiastic crowd estimated at 5,641 gathered Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Arena for Manchester Christian Church's Easter service.

&#';I just wanted to see what God is doing here. When you get a couple thousand people in a stadium in New Hampshire, something is going on,&#'; said Tim Albert, who was visiting from Boston.

The church began in a storefront in Manchester in 1961, and now has 2,400 attendees at four regular Sunday services at its Wellington Road campus.

&#';Living things grow. If it's alive, it grows,&#'; said Senior Pastor Bo Chancey. &#';If the church is alive, it will grow.&#';

Having the church's Easter service at the arena was the only way to gather the entire congregation in one place.

&#';It brings everyone together,&#'; said Barry Lewandowski, director of communications for the church, noting that seven services were needed at Christmas. &#';Easter is one of those messages that is that important that you want to create an area and a place where so many can hear the good news and be welcomed.&#';

Paul Sanford, who held the door for those entering the service at the arena, has attended the church for 13 years.

&#';You can feel the heart of every individual inside. It becomes a community once you are in there,&#'; said Sanford.

His wife Lynda, whom he met at Manchester Christian Church, seconded his enthusiasm for the connections among church members.

&#';People here have become our family,&#'; she said.

Church member Corey Cyr said that his daughter, Isabella, was especially looking forward to the service.

&#';She has been excited for weeks,&#'; he said. &#';She is 5 now. The imprint that this will leave could last almost a lifetime.&#';

Jordan Elliot, who grew up in Louisville, Ky., was attending the service while visiting a friend for the weekend. He said he was raised around large churches.

&#';I'm definitely excited to see what is going on here,&#'; said Elliot. &#';Obviously Easter is awesome. Especially for a follower of Christ ... being around a group of believers is encouraging and it is important.&#';

Holding the service at the Verizon Wireless Arena was a natural way to reach out to the public, Chancey said. Easter is one of those holidays, like Christmas, where those that do not regularly attend church will seek out a service, he said.

&#';It's an opportunity where people are open to go to church and hear the story of Jesus and think about it,&#'; he said. &#';It's another one of those benchmark moments. It's a great thing to celebrate. For many people, this will be a new day and a new start.&#';

Chancey said he was encouraged by the turnout and looking forward to even more people attending in years to come.

&#';We would like to be able to be here often,&#'; he said.