Church… At The Gym?

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From Religion News Service Writer Elizabeth Crisp

Ron Williams is the pastor of Church at the GYM in Sanford, Fla. As the Baptist church’s name implies, Williams’ congregation meets, well, in a gym.

Williams said the goal is to remove the “stained-glass barriers” for people who might not be comfortable in traditional church settings. “I think all the trappings of traditional religion can make it difficult for people to start coming,” he said. “You can invite someone, and they will say, ‘I don’t have any clothes to wear to church.’”

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To make people feel more comfortable, Williams wears jeans. In the warm Florida climate, some members wear shorts. Other clothing types, from urban wear to biker gear, also are welcome. Sanford native Sandy Adcox, 38, had not been to church in 18 years before she attended Church at the GYM last March. She hasn’t missed a service since. “I’ve never in my life felt more comfortable in a church,” she said. “It’s so warm and welcoming.”

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