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.