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Spooky surprise

Salem church uses a zombie theme to keep faith alive

Union Leader Correspondent

September 25. 2013 6:00PM
Staff from the Salem-based Granite United Church prepared for a worship service inside the auditorium of Haverhill (Mass.) High School on a recent Sunday. The church offers seven worship services at four different locations each weekend. In keeping with the coming Halloween season, next month's worship series will have a zombie-theme. (COURTESY)

SALEM — Worshippers at all four Granite United Church locations will be in for some spooky surprises next month when the New England mega-church zooms in on the current zombie craze.

“We sometimes turn to pop culture when we’re looking for ways to teach people how to practically apply their faith in their own lives,” said Gregg DiCecca, one of the church’s several pastors. “And it just so happens we have some hardcore Walking Dead fans serving on our staff right now.”

Seventeen years ago when the church was started, it was a rare Sunday when all of the seats were filled in the Granite United Church’s 170-seat facility on Sand Hill Road.

Things have changed quite a bit since then, lead pastor Anthony Milas said, noting that the church has expanded its offerings well beyond the Salem community.

These days, Granite United Church holds services at the Apple Tree Cinema 12 in Londonderry and at its Salem headquarters, as well as at Haverhill High School and Lawrence Showcase Cinemas in Massachusetts.

“Creativity plays a big role when it comes to filling the seats in two different states,” Milas explained. “And it seems to be working. Right now we have seven services each weekend and around 1,300 active members.

While there won’t be any zombies at the pulpit next month, worshippers at Sunday services will be treated to a series of zombie-themed videos aimed at sending a memorable message.

Church staff is currently producing the videos onsite in the media studio at the Salem church headquarters.

“For us, this isn’t really about zombies at all,” Milas noted. “It’s about engaging our church in a way that meets them where they are.”

Milas added that, “while the Bible has a message that can transform lives, that message won’t reach people unless they’re interested in hearing it.”

The October worship series, “The Walking Dead” Moving from a Dead Faith to a Living Faith,” is set to begin Oct. 5 and 6, with the program, “Are You Fully Alive?”

Similar themes will continue in the weeks to follow, with the programs, “Zombie Outbreak: Hope is the Antidote,” “How to Service an Attack,” and “From Death to Life,” with the program finale, “Safe Haven: Follow me if you want to live,” taking place the first weekend in November.

The church will also be hosting a Zombie Fun Run on Oct. 26, and parking-lot “Trunk or Treat” events at all four of its church locations on Oct. 27 through 31.

“What can we say, we love candy around here,” Milas said. “Church should never be boring.”

The Granite United Church offers a variety of worship services every weekend.

Salem services take place Saturday afternoons at 4 p.m. and on Sundays at 8:45 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Londonderry’s Sunday services take place at 9:30 a.m.

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