New Creation to add weekly service at Cinemark Theater
By Chante Dionne Warren
Special To The Advocate
November 30, 2012
Members of a north Baton Rouge church on Scenic Highway are preparing to settle into a different sort of worship hall where all of the perks of movie theater stadium seating, the smell of popcorn and a morning praise team will help tantalize their spirits on Sunday mornings.
The Rev. Cross Richard Sr., 65, a retired Dow Chemical worker and his wife, Lois, 62, a minister and school system retiree, are expanding the worship services of New Creation Christian Center into the southeastern portion of the parish.
Beginning Sept. 16, the church will begin holding an early Sunday service at the Cinemark Theater at Perkins Rowe, he said.
Member Virginia Sam, church greeter, said the new site has created a buzz. “We knew pastor was thinking about something else, but we never thought it would be Perkins Rowe,” she said. “It’s going to be exciting. I plan to go to both services.”
Member Ernest Adams agreed. “For them to get this from the good Lord, we’ll do our best to back it 100 percent.”
Cross’ son, Cross Richard Jr., youth director, talked about the development during a recent Sunday morning service where he encouraged members to participate in a neighborhood outreach initiative supporting the unusual location. “There’s nothing like praising God with the smell of popcorn,” he said “When we turned the air vents on, the popcorn smell comes through.”
To be sure, Cross Richard Sr. said his plan raised a lot of eyebrows initially from people who wondered how he would find an economical building in the Perkins Rowe/Bluebonnet Boulevard area.
Richard Sr., said he kept praying and even worked up a plan to save and move into a church building within another year or two. That plan was laid to rest after he learned about other church groups in neighboring states holding services inside movie theaters.
He called Cinemark Theater on Perkins Rowe and negotiated a plan to hold 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Sunday services in a Cinemark arena seating about 170 people based on a lease agreement that allows the church group to use it before movies begin.
“This opportunity is very cost efficient and economical,” he said, explaining how the lease arrangement means no upkeep or maintenance costs for the congregation. “We’ll offer a comfortable, luxury environment that we otherwise could not offer and we believe we have a mandate from God to reach out to the public with his Word,” the pastor said.
The venue will also bring people together in a more relaxed, casual atmosphere. “People can come in and bring pastries and coffee” during church services, he said.
Cross Richard Jr. agreed. “I can see them coming, then going home, getting casual and maybe even coming back to watch a movie that afternoon.” While waiting for their movies, audiences will also see commercials run for New Creation Christian Center.
Other church members said they want to support it.
“I was one of the first to see the place and I thought it was way out the box and it’s going to be dynamic. We are going to have a multicultural following,” said Regina Hall, evangelist and church youth minister.
Hall said the church has helped her grow spiritually.
“When I first joined New Creation, I came here broken. But I felt the spirit of love. I knew I was at peace and I knew I could receive the word,” she said.
Times were much different 12 years ago when Lois and Cross Richard Sr. began preaching at New Creation Christian Center. They renovated and gutted the old, worn building and started anew.
They also learned more about the area’s problems with prostitution, crime and poverty, Cross Richard Sr. said.
“We knew there was a call on our life and at first we were afraid to go to north Baton Rouge, but the Lord sent us here,” Lois Richard said. “I would rather obey God than do what I want to do.”
The couple’s new church venue won’t alter their preaching plans, he said.
“There is still a great work here and we’re adamant about staying here (on Scenic Highway) and doing what the Lord wants us to do,” he said.
Member Dorothy Bridges, 82, said the couple’s faith and generosity helped change her life.
“I came to Baton Rouge after evacuating New Orleans in 2005. During this last three years with New Creation, they’ve been more a part of my life in Christ than any other church I’ve ever belonged to,” she said.
Lois Richard said her church reaches out to people of all economic backgrounds, but their heart lies with those in the inner city. “We’ve seen people come here full of hopelessness, and we’ve seen the joy come back,” she said.
Cross Richard Sr. estimated his church membership at about 300. His church also has a website that invites visitors to visit the church on Facebook and Twitter. The church also holds various ministries in the areas of drama, dance, educational and evangelistic and youth ministries.
The couple also have churches established in Rwanda and Russia where they visit about every other year. Cross Richard Sr. said he is optimistic that the new service at the movie theater will grow.
“We’re not looking for an instant 300; we just want to go in and serve God,” he said.
Growing up on a sharecropper’s farm in Pointe Coupee Parish, Cross Richard Sr. said he understands the importance of patience and hard work. He picked cotton and used mules to plow fields with his family. His unusual name was taken after his grandfather, also a Cross, he said.
During a recent sermon, Cross Richard Sr. explained the importance of trust and faith in God. He based his sermon on a scripture in Hebrews, Chapter 11.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” he said. “Faith is hoping for what you don’t see with the natural eye … In order to walk by faith you’ve got to do what God called you to do.”
Members of his church said they try to apply those lessons.
“Souls are being saved here. People are coming off of the streets. The inner city is his heart. He has compassion, commitment and he is changing this community,” Hall said.