Arts and Living Editor
On Sunday morning nearing 10 a.m., the movie theater parking lot sits cluttered with cars where there should be complete vacancy.
The door swings open to reveal Pastor Stephen Nelson offering a smile, a donut and direction to theater 2.
With no movie sounds, a band ready for worship is snugged tight in the front, and the first rows of cool, black seats are crowded with people in their Sunday best. The sermon begins with a welcome home.
“We got to the point where we weren’t really growing, but we knew we needed to go to Sunday morning,” Nelson said.
Awakening Church originally met on Sunday nights at First United Method Church and hosted bible studies at a neighboring coffee shop. Nelson’s ambition for his vision of Awakening Church sought out an empty building to utilize Sunday morning sermons.
When reaching out to Parkway Cinema 6, where a previous church had recently moved out, Awakening Church was happily welcomed.
“We have a definite vision that we believe for this church, and it’s really for displaced people and dechurched people,” Nelson said. “College students that come here to Natchitoches are usually displaced.”
Many will simply take to the Baptist, Methodist and Catholic options that span across Natchitoches, but Nelson wished for a place for those who found there was nothing that quite fit them.
“That was really the vision we had,” Nelson said. “If you felt like you didn’t fit anywhere, we wanted you to know you belong here. I don’t want to say it’s an advantage, but it’s something different.”
The intimate setting of the movie theater allows Nelson to accomplish the goal of connection as he does not give the word from a stage but rather from the floor. He even sits in with the audience during moments of worship when the band is playing.
“We try to make it conversational where there’s at least a little bit of the time during the sermon where there’s interaction,” Nelson said. “You feel more connected, I think.”
This idea of closeness was noticed by Ayrianna Edwards, junior, and it was the most impactful part of her first time attending Awakening Church.
“When I found out it was in a movie theater, I thought wait, in the Natchitoches movie theater?” Edwards said, “I was like, I have to go now.”
Edwards noted the unique location served for a different feel than most churches with its openness but thought the change was a welcome one.
“I really like that about this church, and I think that a lot of NSU students would like it to,” Edwards said. “There wasn’t a disconnect with Pastor Steve. It was a good word that he delivered, and I feel like a lot of college students would appreciate that.”
Edwards thinks that Awakening has an outreach disadvantage compared to other churches with faith-based registered campus organizations. She only heard of the church from a friend who had already been involved with it.
“When people are looking for a church, they look for a church,” Edwards said, “I feel like it can be little harder to find it on your own if someone doesn’t recommend it to you.”
Alexia Rubin, junior, first discovered Awakening during an event at her own church where they gave a preview of what they wanted to accomplish through their church planting.
After going to many churches, she thought to give Awakening a try and fell in love with it.
When realizing the church was held in a movie theater, she was ecstatic.
“Oh my gosh, I was like comfy seats, yes!” Rubin said. “My one thing was I hoped I wouldn’t fall asleep.”
Having come from a large church which was originally a church plant and having helped to build it up, Rubin regarded that Awakening gave her a taste of home.
She thinks that the church is taking steps towards growing its attendance, particularly in working on becoming a registered organization on campus.
“I feel like the place we’re at, where God has us, we’re kind of moving into where we’re going to have more students,” Rubin said. “It’s a very intimate, very family-oriented and relationship-building church.”