Bushwick Pastor Partners With High-Tech Megachurch to Draw New Residents

By Meredith Hoffman on July 29, 2013 8:21am 

BUSHWICK — Historic chapels and storefront congregations may mark most corners of his lifelong neighborhood, but Daniel Torres feels "the burden" to fill a spiritual hole in Bushwick. So he's starting a church with video sermons, DJ's, hip-hop and local artists.

"A lot of churches here have become stale, stagnant and not growing," said Torres, 27, who grew up attending a Spanish language evangelical church with his family from Puerto Rico. "You have a lot of second and third-generation Hispanics who want an English-speaking church. And Bushwick has gotten to be a very artsy place."

But Torres' worship center — opening this spring and named Swerve Church since "swerve" means "an abrupt change in direction" — will "rock out with hip hop and rock" at Sunday services, to reach Bushwick's new "diversity," Torres said.

And Torres' evangelical center will be the only New York City congregation to feature virtual sermons from the Oklahoma megachurch "LifeChurch," whose famous pastor Craig Groeschel already broadcasts his talks at the church's 16 other network churches around the nation each weekend.

"He's a down to earth, very funny guy," said Torres, 27, who notes on his blog that Groeschel's summer series "At the Movies" features "some of Hollywood's greatest hits and brings out Biblical principles."

"Everyone loves a good movie, but not everyone likes church," Torres writes. "LifeChurch has found a great way to get church and non-church goers alike to attend during the hot summer months!"

But while Torres plans to use LifeChurch's videos and other high-tech resources, the father of three emphasized his congregation's independence and its aspiration to become an integral part of the Bushwick community.

Apart from Sunday services, he said Swerve would offer weekly small group meetings to discuss "fears, doubts, and just do life." And he noted that the church would provide important community service in the neighborhood stricken with high poverty rates.

"I don't see the new crowd step into church.  I think if they hear of what we're doing, of the heart of Swerve Church, they'll at least give it a chance," said Torres. "Church is supposed to be fun...People are missing out."

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