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.