WILLIAMSBURG — In a 5,000-square-foot former textile factory called the "Villain Warehouse," 140 people waved their arms Sunday night to acoustic rock and video projections.
But curious passersby who peeked in got a shock when they learned why the crowd was gathered: to worship Jesus with the church C3 Brooklyn, said Josh Kelsey, the church's pastor.
"We didn't pick the place because of the name, we picked it because of the space," said Kelsey of his congregation's recently launched services at the Villain Warehouse. "But it has a great tongue-and-cheek meaning. We believe we're all villains in a way...God can save those parts of us that are villain."
The Wythe Avenue warehouse — which has hosted Jameson whiskey for concerts at Northside Festival, the Brooklyn Night Bazaar market, Thrillist for a Cinco de Mayo party and countless other party companies, Villain's staff said — indeed drew unexpected visitors during C3's first service Sunday, Kelsey said.
"We had a lot of walk-ins, people heard the music or saw the lights and wandered in thinking it was a gig or a band," Kelsey said of his congregation's debut service at the warehouse. "And we told them, 'This is a church.'"
Kelsey, 31, who founded the congregation with his wife after moving here from Australia, said the unusual setting was perfect for attracting Williamsburg residents who might have sworn off church.
"It was a perfect warehouse vibe to start the church," Kelsey said of the space. "The perception of church, particularly in Williamsburg, is that it's boring and basically irrelevant for young people. I think that [this] atmosphere helps people to drop down walls that church is not a boring service it's actually relevant to [a person's] life."
The congregation, which until now has just held monthly Bible studies and informal meetings, is nondenominational with "evangelical roots" but is "trying to stay clear of labels" that might prompt negative associations, Kelsey said, noting that the church incorporated live bands and projections to keep services "visually engaging."
For now, C3's home is at the Villain Warehouse, but Kelsey said its future spot was uncertain.
"We might move into another venue that might be called 'Angels' House,'" he laughed. "What I've experienced is that God can transform the parts of me that aren't the best...I'm a bad guy without God."