Church meets in unusual place

Published 10:06 pm Friday, October 7, 2011

Pastor Matt Stewart preaches during a Three in One Church service recently at Harbour View Grande 16 Theatre.

It might seem an unlikely meeting place, but members of Three in One Church are right at home in the Harbour View Grande 16 Theatre.

The church started about two years ago when pastor Matt Stewart and his wife, Lori, felt called to plant a church during a trip to Israel. They got right to work when they returned home.

“I think at our first meeting we had close to 90 people that were interested in seeing a church planted,” Stewart said. “Looking at the numbers, we knew we had something.”

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The church began meeting in September 2009 in a women’s club building in Portsmouth, but they knew immediately that situation couldn’t last very long.

“We pretty much started to outgrow it right away,” Stewart said. “After five months, we didn’t have enough parking and we were already having two services.”

In March 2010, the church teamed up with the theater to have their services there.

Every Sunday morning, the adults, youth and children each get their own theater, and the nursery, toddlers and preschoolers each have their own party room. There’s even refreshments, though not of the popcorn-and-nachos variety — get there early to enjoy coffee. And the soundtrack is very contemporary, with guitars and drums featured in the music.

Meeting in a theater does have some unique challenges, Stewart said.

“Every Sunday, you have to set up and tear down,” he said. “At some theaters, you have to load it up in a trailer and drive it away, but luckily at Harbour View, they have some storage rooms they allow us to keep our stuff in.”

But there also are benefits to meeting in a theater, he said. The more relaxed setting can be more welcoming to someone who has not been in church for a while.

“Some people don’t want to be in a traditional, ‘churchy’ church,” Stewart said.

It appears the community is responding well to the setting. The church has grown to around 220 attendees on a typical Sunday.

“If everybody showed up at the same time, we’d be at about 250,” Stewart said. “That’s some really positive growth for two years. It’s definitely showed us that there’s a need for a church in that area.”

Attendees are coming from all over North Suffolk and surrounding areas, drawing from Riverfront and College Drive.

“We have both sides of the highway coming and attending Three in One,” Stewart said.

The church also has been active in missions, sponsoring trips to Israel and the Dominican Republic. It’s adding an African trip this year.

“We’re very into getting outside the walls and helping people,” Stewart said.

Services begin at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday at the theater, 5860 Harbour View Boulevard. For more information, visit