When most people think of going to church, a movie theater may not be what they have in mind.
But, that’s exactly where Spark Church meets every Sunday at 10 a.m.
Pastor Garrett Hamblen says the Grove Theater, Bistro & Entertainment (located north of S.R. 54, just west of I-75) has been the perfect location for his young church, which launched just six months ago.
“We love the movie theater,” Garrett says. “It’s newly renovated and the facility is amazing. From a tech standpoint, we have a huge screen and a nice sound system. Plus, everybody’s been there at some point, so they know what to expect.”
Garrett says movies start shortly after the service ends, and the other amenities at and coming to The Grove — such as the KRATE container park, a mini-golf course and more — make it a very desirable location for families to gather.
“I think that whole area is going to be like the center of Wesley Chapel,” Garrett says, “and we’re thankful to be in the middle of all that.”
On Sundays, the church takes over one wing of the theater, offering worship in a large theater, kids’ church in a smaller theater, and a nursery in a birthday party room. He describes the kids’ areas as “locked down” for safety, in a corner of the building where no public traffic passes by.
“A typical service is very modern, with worship music and lyrics on the screen – not hymns,” Garrett explains. “It’s a time of exciting worship, with a message that’s relevant to you today. We talk about what is happening in the world today, and what the Bible says about it.”
The recently-concluded summer series included a costume contest with prizes for those who were dressed in their most summer-y outfits, including gear like bathing suit trunks and Hawaiian shirts. He says Spark Church offers a very fun atmosphere and everyone is friendly.
Garrett and his wife, Katterine, were married in March of 2020. He says they went on their honeymoon and when they returned, everything had changed. They were basically “the last wedding” before everything shut down due to Covid.
They now live in Wesley Chapel, just a few minutes from the movie theater where the church meets.
Another perk of meeting at the theater is that it already has procedures in place to ensure good air and surface sanitation, plus temperature checks at the front door. The church follows local and theater requirements to take precautions against the spread of Covid.
Garrett says there’s plenty of room to spread out and masks are not currently required, but many people do wear them. A wristband system allows people to choose a color so others know if they want to be greeted with close contact or keep their distance.
An “Outreach Church”
Garrett describes Spark Church as an “outreach church.”
“The big thing is that we’re here for the community,” he says. “We’re here to see lives changed in Pasco County.”
He explains that means the church is connected to schools, law enforcement, nonprofit organizations and the government and is available to help in all of these areas in the community.
As for the church’s name, he says, the it comes from the church’s mission, which is “to spark life change throughout our communities.”
Garrett says he moved to the area several years ago, when he took a job at Loving Hands Ministries, a drug rehabilitation program in Dade City. He also recently served as young adult pastor, then executive pastor, for Calvary Assembly of God in Dade City.
He is licensed as a minister through the Assemblies of God and also has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and an MBA from Indiana State University in Terre Haute.
“I’ve worked with Restored Hope, and in partnership with Habitat For Humanity and Meals On Wheels and most of the organizations that do good in our county,” he says. “At Spark Church, this is our focus.”
He says that problems facing the community — whether it’s something like homelessness due to a lack of a homeless shelter in Wesley Chapel, or human trafficking — “aren’t going to be fixed by one little church,” but that he hopes that Spark Church will prove to be part of the solution.
“It’s going to take all of us working together,” he says. “I believe we can do much better.”
Garrett is a member of the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel, which he says is starting a major project to build a home for victims of human trafficking in Wesley Chapel. “Spark Church intends to be a big part of it.”
Created For Everyone
“We have a family atmosphere, and there a lot of people who just moved here,” Garrett says. “We’re all looking for friends. Or, maybe you’re not new to the area but haven’t made friends. Especially now that people are working from home, they’re so isolated, so we do a lot to cultivate developing friendships with other families.”
He says that might be cookouts, or providing popsicles after church on a Sunday, or a fun day like a pool party. He even opens his home once a month for “Pizza with the Pastor,” just to “hang out get to know each other.”
As the church grows, Garrett says it will continue to expand. For example, life groups are launching, which he describes as, “Church in people’s homes,” and while the church focuses on families, it welcomes people in any life stage, and recently started a ministry for single, younger adults.
Garrett also has a vision to start a ministry school in the spring that will help people learn to develop of gifts they may have to use in church — whether it’s at Spark or somewhere else.
“Someone might want to sing, but their church is full of rock stars, so they learn how to develop that skill and then go back and use that gift in their church.”
Asia McGlinchey and her husband Brendan met Garrett at an interest meeting for the church last year. At that time, they were living in Belize and were visiting family in Wesley Chapel who wanted to attend the meeting. They tagged along.
“We heard the vision and felt like the Lord was leading us to join them,” Asia says, “so we moved from Belize last December and have been a big part of the church since then.”
Brendan and Asia bring their three girls, ages eight, six and six months (Asia says her youngest was born just a week after the church launched) and volunteer for the church in various ways. Asia leads the kids’ ministry and the women’s ministry, and Brendan leads music as the worship leader.
“We think that church should be more than Sunday morning,” Asia says, “and that’s their vision, too. Let’s become a family, do outreach, get into the community, become a community, and learn to be a family of believers, not just people who pass by each other on Sunday morning. We love that.”
She says their experience in a tight-knit church in Belize, which served as the center of their small community, gave them a vision of what church can be like. Asia hopes they can bring that sense of connection to Wesley Chapel, too.
“People who come to Spark Church can expect to be welcomed, whatever their background or life,” she says. “We want to get to know everyone, and we want to grow together as a family.”
Spark Church meets at The Grove Theater, Bistro & Entertainment (6333 Wesley Grove Blvd.) every Sunday at 10 a.m. For more info, visit SparkPasco.com.