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Sunday Marks a Grand Opening for New City Church

By Eric Richardson
Published: Saturday, September 13, 2008, at 08:35AM
New City Church New City Church of LA

Sunday service in Club 740, courtesy of New City Church.

Club 740, located in the historic Globe Theatre, isn't the sort of place one thinks of when they think of church. The club's website currently advertises a recent "Back 2 School" night featuring the scantily-clad "740 GoGo Dancers."

And yet, for the last few Sundays the venue has served as home to New City Church, a growing congregation that started meeting just before Easter. In the time since, the church has grown from 15 to 70 attendees. This Sunday the church is having its "Grand Opening," and Pastor Kevin Haah hopes the occasion sparks a new period of growth.

Club 740 is the third location for the church, which started out meeting in Promenade Ristorante, an Italian restaurant on Bunker Hill. For approximately three months the church met over in the Arts District, at e3rd Steakhouse. As the congregation continued to grow, they again needed to find a venue with greater capacity. Club 740 owner Ralph Verdugo was glad to host the church on Sunday mornings.

The church made its move in mid-August, and that first Sunday it learned that it can be a bit of challenge using a nightclub space just hours after it has closed. "When we first got there we were struggling a little bit because there was kind of that post-club, kind of alcohol smell that we couldn't get rid of," Haah recalls. "We didn't know we had to ventilate the place. We learned that for the second week." With the facility aired out, the space has worked out much better.

Haah likes the fact that the church integrates into the facilities of the community. "I really have no interest in owning real estate. We would rather be renters. We would rather invest our money elsewhere, to serve the city and to help the poor." Haah also feels that the non-traditional facilities create a more approachable environment for those who might otherwise not attend a service. "We're trying to reach out to people," he said. "We're trying to create a place where it's comfortable for people to come to."

Whether by neighborhood, or by setting, or by approach, New City has found itself a church that's highly diverse. Haah notes that roughly a quarter of the congregation comes from Skid Row, a neighborhood where Haah ministered for several years before starting New City. The core group that started the church spanned multiple ethnicities, and that make-up has stayed diverse as attendance has grown.

Haah is a long-time Downtowner. He lived on Bunker Hill before the current wave of redevelopment, and practiced law in the Financial District. Soon after making partner at his firm, Haah began question his career. "I began to struggle with whether this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," he said. After much thought and prayer, Haah left his practice and attended Fuller Seminary. Afterward, he took a job as Associate Pastor in charge of urban ministry at Young-Nak Presbyterian, a large Korean church on the northern edge of Downtown. It was while serving in that role and working on Skid Row that Haah felt the calling to start a new church in Downtown.

In advance of Sunday's Grand Opening, New City has sent out three postcard mailers to 20,000 residences around Downtown. One of them asks "What if the church admitted that we are as messed up as anyone else?" That message is important to Haah, who stresses the church's inclusiveness. "We're not a church that says everything is ok," Haah said, "but we're a church that says 'You're messed up. I'm messed up. But you know what? Jesus has done something amazing for us to bring us together.'"

New City Church of LA's Sunday morning services meet at 10am. Club 740 is at 740 S. Broadway, but entrance is through the alley between Spring and Broadway. Free validated parking is available in the lot at 8th and Spring.

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