SEATTLE – Mars Hill Church – one of America's most influential "emerging" churches – celebrated the opening of its first downtown Seattle campus Sunday at the site of a former night club.
As the usual Mars Hill crowd of blue jeans-wearing hipsters gathered to listen to a sermon at the former Tabella Restaurant and Lounge, Pastor Tom Gaydos spoke glowingly of Jesus and God's plan for the beginning transformation of downtown Seattle.
"We're all about Jesus," Gaydos told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as nearly 400 people gathered for the new location's first Sunday service.
Weeks of preparation and nearly $370,000 in renovations went into the complete transformation of the former night club – located in an area that had long been notorious for drugs and gang violence. Go-go dancer cages were converted to coat hangers and what had been a condom dispenser is a now a diaper-changing station.
Residents and churchgoers alike welcomed the new location and were amazed how a previously notorious night club could be transformed into a house of worship.
"It's amazing how God can change things," said Sarah Rosenberger, who attended the opening service with her infant son, according to the Post-Intelligencer.
Sam Alramahi, manager of the nearby Elbasha Café, spoke of how police used to come to the area often to break up fights.
"We're very glad we have a church there," he was quoted as saying.
Mars Hill first bought the former night club in October for $3.95 million after Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels had the club shutdown after a brawl incident broke out and an 18-year-old woman was shot.
The new two-story, 15,000- square-foot building is the sixth and newest campus addition to the Mars Hill Church network.