BANGOR, Maine — The worshippers who filled Peakes Auditorium on Easter morning seemed to be rocking ’n’ rolling in the Risen Christ.
The Rock Church band blasted Christian rock past the doors of the auditorium and down the halls of Bangor High School.
Kirk Winters, senior pastor, estimated after the services that about 1,000 adults and children from locations in Bangor and Brewer attended the event that combined five Sunday services usually held at the two locations.
“It’s encouraging to see what the Lord is doing at our congregations,” Winters, 42, of Glenburn said as he greeted people after the service. “Everybody gets to come together and it’s bigger, more exciting.”
Winters’ flock includes great-grandparents, retirees, baby boomers, young couples with growing children and teenagers. Some came Sunday decked out in frilly Easter finery; others wore jeans and T-shirts, ordinary outfits for an ordinary day.
“I have something from the Word of God today that could change your life,” Winters told the crowd in his sermon. “It’s a message of radical change that God is a master at. If he hasn’t done work in your life, it could be you today.”
Bob Wood, 64, of Bangor began attending the church four years ago. He was one of more than a dozen congregants who came onstage at the end of the service holding signs. One side described their lives before accepting Christ, the other, what life is like now for them.
“Far from God for the first 60 years. Wholehearted for the next 60 years,” Wood’s sign read.
After the service an emotional Wood said he couldn’t find the words to describe how his life has changed since he began attending the Rock Church in Bangor and working with its youth group.
“I’ve found love, compassion, fellowship,” he said. “I know who I am now.”
Sunday was the fourth time Matt Sereyko, 27, and Anita McKinnon, 22, both of Old Town, have worshipped at a Rock Church service. With them was their 8-week, 1-day-old daughter, Ava McKinnon.
“I needed a change in my like,” Sereyko said about why he decided to attend the church shortly after his daugther’s birth. “I’ve found faith, forgiveness, purpose.”
For McKinnon, Winters’ personality and preaching style has helped her feel comfortable and welcome.
“He’s easy to make a connection with,” she said. “He seems real.”
The Rock Church, located at the corner of Ohio Street and Finson Road in Bangor, opened in October 2005. About 18 months ago, the Brewer branch opened at a shopping center on North Main Street. In June, a team will head to Falmouth to begin a new church.
The network of congregations, Winters said Sunday, includes churches in Winter Harbor, Brownville and South Portland, which continues to thrive.
Winters, a Maine native, grew up attending Glad Tidings Church in Bangor and graduated in 1986 from Brewer High School. He graduated four years later from the University of Maine with a degree in business administration.
After a few years at Bath Iron Works, Winters left the secular world to attend Bible college. He graduated from Rhema Bible Training Center in Broken Arrow, Okla., in the mid-1990s and felt called by God to return to Maine to start a nondenominational church after a stint in Jacksonville, Fla.
In May 1998, Winters and his wife, Lisa Winters, moved back to Maine and rented a house in Portland where they conducted Bible study with six adults and eight children. Six years later, Winters had baptized 100 people, the congregation had grown to nearly 200, had a permanent home in South Portland and was debt-free.
“In early 2005, we felt God was calling us home to Bangor,” Winters said in September 2006. “We started the church that summer and moved into the building last October. I think God set it up. We just walked into an existing building with 10½ acres, which allows us room to grow.”
This summer, Winters said Sunday, work will begin on a 10,600-seat auditorium at the Bangor location.
The rapid growth the Rock Church is experiencing appears to be unprecedented in Greater Bangor over the past 50 years.
“We change lives and people are sharing that,” Winters said of why his flock has expanded in such a short time.
For information about the Rock Church, call 942-9977 or visit www.rockmaine.com.