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Faith and fellowship on tap: Local church to host services at Brandon bar

BRANDON — Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church has come up with an idea to encourage visitors to come to downtown Brandon. On the second Sunday of the month, the church will begin to hold services in an innovative new location: the public dining space next to the Center Street Bar. 
The first service is scheduled for Sept. 9. 
While there is no construction on weekends, Brandon’s downtown has struggled to attract visitors while the streets are stripped of pavement and lined with machinery and equipment. Furnace Brook Wesleyan’s pastor Joel Tate said he hopes the regular services will change that. 
“We hope that our decision to go there now sends a message about how valuable the downtown is and how its worth a little bit of inconvenience to enjoy and invest in,” he said. “Even if it’s on a Sunday morning, we’re doing it to get people downtown.”
While the congregation has hosted Bible studies in libraries, holding a church service in a location other than a church is a first. Tate said he got the idea for services outside of the church last winter when the Brandon Free Public Library and the Brandon Town Recreation Department teamed up to host a trivia night in the classroom space adjacent to the Center Street Bar’s main room.
“During the trivia night I started looking around the room and got to thinking, ‘Yeah, we could do a service in here.’” he said. 
The church currently holds services at locations in Pittsfield and Forest Dale. Tate said until they pitched the idea to Café Provence, which owns the bar, the church had been hoping to make their Forest Dale services more accessible to the Brandon community. The church’s leadership spoke with the owners and received permission. 
Tate added that the idea of holding the service in the bar space wasn’t a hit with the entire congregation. 
“There have been some people that have expressed reservations or sadness about not being in a church,” he said. “We’ve honored their concerns. But the church is really motivated to do whatever it takes to give people the benefit of the news that’s changed their lives.” 
Bernie Carr, president of the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce, is excited to see the move.
“I’m for it,” Carr said. “If it’s going to get people downtown, I’m for it. It’s a great use of the space for a time when traffic might otherwise not be very high.”
Services will have the same order as a normal church, however seating will not be in pews but in rows of chairs and a café style with chairs around small tables. 
“It’ll have a pretty casual, informal feel because those of us that are leading will be on the same level as everyone else,” Tate said. “A small television screen will have the songs and readings will be the focal point.” 
Tate said the services will last about an hour and will include coffee and pastries from Café Provence. However, Tate said those looking to pair their prayers with a pint will have to look elsewhere. 
“The bar doesn’t open until four in the afternoon anyways so that won’t be an issue,” he said. 

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