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Religion goes retail in the Port City

READ MORE: Religion goes retail in the Port City
Most people come to the mall to shop. But starting Sunday they'll come to Independence Mall to worship. With vacant store fronts scattered throughout Independence Mall, the property owners have turned to religion to help fill in the gap left by the recession. During a real thriving economy, they may not have even had the open spaces." Life Community Church Pastor Tim Blevins considered several options to accommodate his growing congregation, including building a new facility. But in the midst of a struggling economy they were forced to keep looking for the right opportunity. "Somebody said, let's go see if the mall will talk to us and we called the mall and they just opened the door wide open for us to come be here," Pastor Blevins said. Members say they were surprised and excited by the church's journey. Church member Greg Bradshaw said "When I heard about the mall, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that's where we were supposed to be." Lindsay Holmes, on the other hand, initially thought the idea was a bit weird. While opening a church in a mall is different, holding services outside of a traditional building is not a new idea. In fact, the concept has origins in the Cape Fear region. UNCW Professor of Philosophy and Religion Waltor Consor explains: "As far back as 1739 there was an an Anglican Evangelist by the name of George Whitfield," Consor said. "When he preached here, he preached in the courthouse. He was known for preaching in fields, and barns, where ever he could find an audience." With 14-hundred square feet for members to express themselves and their religion, finding an audience won't be the challenge it once was." Now, instead of being in a location where people have to go find us, we're going to where the people meet," said Pastor Blevins. "What we're going to do is bring hundreds and hundreds of people coming through these doors, flooding this mall with people, and what mall doesn't want a bunch of people to show up at their facility." In a show of mutual support, Life Community Church will start its service Sundays at 10:30am and end just before noon when the mall opens. Generations Church in Southport has a similar idea. Their services are held at Surf Cinemas, and let out just before the Sunday matinee.

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