WILKES-BARRE — An open can of Monster energy drink sat next to a dog-eared Bible in the corner of a wooden pew in the former First United Methodist Church on Sunday.
The drink seemed out of place in an already high-energy environment, but the Bible was one of many in the hands of nearly 400 people who came to the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Restored Church on Public Square on Sunday.
As they cheered a Christian rock band with whistles and hoots, worshippers of all ages and backgrounds sang along to contemporary gospel music.
Alternating between prayer, scripture reading and music, pastors Tim Walker, 24, and Dan Nichols, 25, explained what the Restored Church is all about to the attentive crowd.
“If you’re here and you feel broken and can’t bear it any longer, I have great news for you,” said Nichols. “There is hope in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the real deal and he can radically change your life, but it takes faith and understanding.”
Lacey Payne, who oversees Restored Kids, a program for children from infant to 10 years old, told of her journey to accept Jesus in her life. Raised as a Methodist in the tiny town of Springville, Payne says she stopped going to church in high school and “lived for me.”
At the urging of a cousin, Payne said she started by praying for her uncle who had a heart attack and another cousin who was killed in a car accident during the summer of 2010. That was when she attended one of the Restored Church’s first gatherings at another Springville home.
Her initial fears of being judged were dissolved when she met Walker and Nichols. Choking back tears, Payne said accepting Jesus has changed her life.
“I’ve just grown so much being a part of this church,” the young woman said. “It’s changed the way I live. My life has purpose, hope and faith.”
Joanne Dougherty, 55, of Wilkes-Barre, said she first heard Walker preach two years ago, when she was a volunteer at the Wyoming Valley Rescue Mission, a spiritual outreach program at the Sherman Hills Apartment Complex.
“The truth of the gospel is preached here in an amazing way,” said Dougherty, noting she has been a born-again Christian for 25 years.
In addition to Sunday services at the church on Franklin Street, The Restored Church holds several smaller, two-hour house services during the week in Wilkes-Barre, Mountain Top and Forty Fort.
“We’re here to tell you the truth because we love you and we love this city,” said Nichols. “We want everyone in this city and world to have hope again, to have freedom. We are in a broken, fallen city that desperately needs hope.”
More information about the Restored church, including house church locations can be found at www.restoredchurch.org.