By Jessica Lovell
It’s quite possibly the last place that anyone would ever think of going to worship God, but that’s a big part of the reason that Jack Ninaber plans to hold “Church at the Manor” this Sunday.
“The thing that really interests us is we want to do church for people who would never normally step inside a church,” said Ninaber, former pastor at Grace Community Church in Marden.
The idea started as a desire to do something for the people living at Sue’s Inn, the hotel attached to the iconic Guelph strip club. In recent years, the hotel has begun to take referrals from local shelters, providing low-income housing for people who are homeless and struggling with addictions.
Ninaber is hoping to be able to reach these people, who might not feel comfortable attending church, by bringing church to them.
“It really all began when my wife and I made a point of wanting to drop off some grocery gift certificates to the people at Sue’s Inn,” Ninaber said.
From there, the idea led to a conversation with the Manor’s manager about the possibility of using the bar area to host church, he said. “It really kind of evolved over the next couple of months,” he said.
“We honestly couldn’t think of a reason that they couldn’t have it here,” said Manor manager Paul Morgan.
To Morgan, the idea seems crazy, but the Manor has been spreading the word of the event to the people at Sue’s Inn, letting them know that they are welcome to come for lunch even if they don’t stay for prayer.
“It’s not going to be a traditional church service,” said Ninaber.
At the same time, don’t expect anything like the Manor’s usual slate of nudity and booze.
“The services will be right in the bar, but the bar’s not open,” Ninaber assured. “It’s not like we’re serving alcohol or anything like that.”
The event will begin with lunch at 12:30 p.m. Then there will be music, testimonies from people sharing real life stories, and a chance for people to share their own stories and connections with God, he said.
“We want to keep it interactive,” said Ninaber.
But he emphasized that it is not just a support group.
“It is about God. We want people to be free to talk about their relationship with God,” he said.
He’s not really sure what kind of turnout to expect, but he knows the idea is definitely attracting attention.
A blog post Ninaber wrote on the subject has had about 12,000 hits, he said.
“We’ve had people who are certainly curious about what’s happening,” he said.
People have volunteered to do everything from helping provide music and sound equipment to baking cookies and making sandwiches, Ninaber said.
If all goes well, the hope is to continue to hold Church at the Manor every Sunday, offering “a friendly place where everyone is accepted,” he said.
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By Jessica Lovell