On a regular day, the Alamo Drafthouse on Sixth Street is the venue to catch the latest box office releases. However on Sunday, the Drafthouse was home to the opening of Christian Family Church Austin, a new endeavor by pastors Andrew and Reneé Fox.
As a self-described alternative church, the Fox’s said they wanted to engage members in a new way. With approximately 20 attending, the sermon strongly encourages questions, and concludes with a question period. In addition, members from the San Antonio Christian band Amplify performed at the beginning of the service.
Using a favored mode of communication among today’s youth, attendees can text their questions anonymously and have them displayed on the main screen for the pastor to answer during his or her speech. Although there were technical difficulties with displaying texts on the screen on Sunday, the Foxes plan to make it work for future services.
“We believe you have to be able to ask questions and contemplate something in that manner in order to learn and understand it,” Reneé Fox said.
Another way that CFC-ATX differs from other churches is its location at the Alamo Drafthouse. Attendees can order food and drinks during the service and the movie theater setting is smaller and more intimate, which can be beneficial in teaching the word, Andrew Fox said.
“I’m used to bigger services, but it was nice how Andrew knew the names of the audience members,” said international relations freshman Morgan May. “It made it more comfortable and more personal. The straightforward manner in which the issues were addressed was definitely very different.”
The sermon on Sunday did not focus on the traditional Easter story, but on the idea of “be-become-do,” a philosophy in which people become something before they can carry out actions. Andrew used the examples of Amy Winehouse and other famous celebrities who died of drug overdoses. He said the examples show how although those people “became” something, their actions were far from what God intended them to do with their talents.
“I focused on the be-become-do idea this Sunday because everybody knows the Easter story,” Andrew said. “I’m trying to start something long-term at CFC-ATX and I want to do that by building up character and ideas for the people here instead of telling people what they already know.”
Andrew also focused on the effect culture has on the spread of Christianity. He said churches in America seem to make people feel as if they have to look and act all the same in order to fit in at church. He brought up slides of the different “tribes” or types of people, such as the “hipster musicians” who live in Austin. He said churches often shy away from welcoming alternative groups into their communities.
“When you start treating people like a project, you demoralize them and the workings of Jesus inside of them,” Andrew said.
Andrew and Reneé moved to America 13 years ago and served as pastors in different regions of the country. They said they realized that the method in which churches are set up does not always focus on the best interests of the attendees. Andrew and Reneé set out to open CFC-ATX as a church that would involve more interactions between the pastors and their attendees.
“We want this church to spread by word of mouth and not by advertising,” Reneé said. “We want people to hear about CFC-ATX, recognize something that speaks to them and then attend for that reason so that we can bring in all kinds of people.”
The next CFC-ATX event will be on Sunday, May 6 at 12:30 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse on Sixth Street and will be an interview session between Andrew and human development sophomore Kalie Kubes. Kubes has had cancer three times in her life and is deaf as a result of her cancer treatment.
The interview session will focus on Kubes’ battle with cancer, how she was labeled as a “sinner” by her church because of it and how these experiences have affected her life and view of her faith.