The church has expanded in recent years from one church to nine churches, with plans in the works for three more. Including one in the heart of Sunnyside, one of the state's most liberal congressional districts (90 percent of neighborhood residents voted for Obama in 2008).
The Mars Hill blog reports that the church has purchased this castle on SE 32nd and Taylor.
The church does a lot of work to reach out to young people, including making videos about "Biblical Oral Sex" and hosting sermons in old rock venues (the Portland branch even has a Twitter feed). Portland Pastor Tim
Hill Smith, who grew up in Beaverton, is featured in this video about the church's new Portland digs and relates Portland's sexual immorality with his own tale of coming to Jesus.
"It is a city that is intensely independent and values freedom above almost everything else," says Smith, in the video. "It values sexual freedom as an end in itself, with a thriving sex industry that goes back more than a century." Unlike... every other city in America.
The SE Portland church has a capacity of 700. Built in 1905, the August 26th sale price for the old church is not yet public, but the building is worth $1.5 million. Services for Mars Hill will start Saturday, September 10 at 10am.
UPDATE 4:26PM— I just spoke with building owner David Rinella, who purchased the historic church with his wife back in 2007 for $750,000, and confirms that the sales price to Mars Hill was $1.25 million. Rinella's family has been living in the basement of the building and broadcast videos of sermons from Dr. Gene Scott every Sunday, cooking up 60 eggs and seven and a half pounds of bacon for the eclectic group of attendees. Surprisingly, Rinella has been paying property tax on the building since buying it. "God doesn't need a write off," he says.
Thoughts on Mars Hill's move to Portland from the Q Center and local progressive Reverend Chuck Currie below the cut.
Both Reverend Currie and Q Center Executive Director Barbara McCullough-Jones say the best response to a conservative church setting up in Sunnyside is to engage the group in open minded conversation.
"Mark Driscoll is the founder of the church and I've heard him say some good things in his ministry, and some bad things, like that yoga is demonic," says Rev. Currie. "I think there are a lot of conservative Evanglicals who would love to come to Portland and reform the heathen liberals. But I think many heathen liberals actually have a lot to teach Christians. My hope is that as the ministry spends time in Portland, their hearts might be opened to new ways to understanding God. Maybe this will be a place for Mars Hill Church to learn." Reverend Currie says he would be happy to invite the local pastor out to coffee for a discussion about religion and Portland.
McCullough-Jones meanwhile, points out that queer communities have often been in the reverse situation—where conservative neighborhoods don't want LGBT-friendly businesses or centers setting up. "For us to want to generically throw a blanket over their ability for free speech, we would not want that done to us," says McCullough-Jones. "I think they have miscalculated the support they're going to have by going into that neighborhood. One of the most productive ways that people can address this is to go and talk with the pastor. Go as a family, go as a group, meet the neighbors." McCullough-Jones says she would also be happy to meet with the pastor and, on the flip side, attend a service herself.
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