By MaryAnn Kromer, firstname.lastname@example.org
ATTICA - Legacy Life Enrichment Center, a new non-denominational church in Attica, differs from traditional congregations. For one thing, its services take place in a former coffeeshop in the town's central business district. The Rev. Mark Boedeker preaches in jeans and a T-shirt while listeners sit on folding chairs and sip their coffee - not what one might expect.
Last Sunday, about 50 people attended the inaugural service at LLEC. Lisa Daniel and her son Matthew were serving coffee and cookies as people entered. With mug in hand, Boedeker circulated among the group and visited until it was time for the 9 a.m. service.
A contemporary music combo led the congregation in song to get things started, using song lyrics projected onto the wall. Boedeker welcomed all and emphasized the casual dress and informal nature of the format. His message followed a theme of joy and included references to related Scripture passages.
In a later interview, the pastor shared some of his background and explained the origins of LLEC. A native of Fremont, Boedeker is working as a nurse's aide in the Alzheimer's unit at a nursing home in Fremont. He said he had spent 16 years in various management positions at the corporate headquarters of Nationwide Insurance in Columbus. Then, he transferred to Bank One for two years.
"I was in a management position there when I just felt an emptiness. About that time, I went back to church. From there, I just had a feeling inside that God was calling me to do something more. So, I left the corporate world and went into ministry," Boedeker said.
After completing coursework at Methodist Theological School of Ohio in Delaware, he served as pastor at Attica United Methodist Church and at churches in the Mount Gilead area of Ohio. Then, he got out of active ministry and moved back to Attica in 2003.
"I was living over in Attica and working at CROSSWAEH as a chemical dependency counselor. I had recently gone through a divorce, and I went back to the Attica United Methodist Church as a congregation member, just for peace of mind, peace of heart," Boedeker said.
In talking with another man at church, Boedeker mentioned he was feeling a call to return to ministry as a pastor. The man said for nearly 10 years, he and several other people had been thinking about starting a nondenominational church. The conversations evolved into plans for change. The dozen or so people began by meeting together in a home. As the gatherings attracted more people, they decided to look for a larger location for services and asked Boedeker to serve as pastor.
"The church itself was initiated by about a dozen people who now serve as the board," Boedeker said.
One of the core group members knew the owner of the building at 2 N. Main St. The owner was willing to make the space available for the church. Regular services take place at 9 a.m. each Sunday, and Christmas Eve services are planned for 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Boedeker said members hope to form small groups for Bible study and other purposes early in 2011.
"Our true mission is to have intentional and sincere relationships with all people," Boedeker said. "I am a recovering alcoholic of 18 years, and my sobriety is the result of relationships."
The pastor expressed hope the church would attract a variety of people from neighboring counties who may be looking for something different from traditional churches. He said LLEC has access to a kitchen and other rooms in the back of the building. A large area beside the worship space could be converted into classrooms and possibly a computer center.
"God and Jesus are for everyone, not just people dressed a certain way or make a certain amount of money. That's also what's so special, also, about us meeting in an old store front," Boedeker said. "People can come as they are, hang out with us and be in God's fellowship."