As former bar musicians turned Christian, performers at New Song Fellowship haven't strayed far from the bar scene -- at least not physically.
Located next to The Rail in downtown Brainerd, New Song Fellowship is a Sunday night hangout for people not comfortable going to church.
"Most people (who go bar-hopping Saturday nights) are not going to get up Sunday morning to go to church," said Richard Castro, New Song's outreach administrator.
Musicians rehearsed at New Song Fellowship in downtown Brainerd in preparation for an outreach event being held Sunday at Cub Foods in northeast Brainerd. Band members include Richard Castro (left), A.J. Castro, Tim Miles (drums), Fay Holtz (guitar), Missy Miles and Jenny Castro.
New Song Fellowship, a music ministry that started last year with only four people in the audience, has grown to see crowds of about 80 pack into the back of the Downtown Brainerd Mall building.
Musicians from local church worship teams gather to play edgy Christian tunes 6:30 p.m. every Sunday. Pastors from area churches take turns speaking each week.
Castro and his wife, Jenny, played in the rock band Avoiding Tom until they decided it was time to get out of the bar scene.
"The bar crowd is just there for the party. They don't care who's playing," Castro said. "With Christians, they pay attention. The lyrics have meaning. When you play Christian music, you're doing it for a reason -- it comes from within."
He may have left his rock music roots, but Castro said he can't resist playing a couple sort-of-Christian tunes, including "Spirit in the Sky" and "Some Kind of Wonderful."
"We mix it up quite a bit," he said.
Aaron Sutton, worship leader at North Creek Church in Pequot Lakes, used to frequent coffee shops where he'd sing original songs and play guitar.
A.J. Castro, 3, practiced playing the bongos at New Song Fellowship while his parents, Richard and Jenny Castro, rehearsed with the band.
"I realized these people have no idea what I'm talking about," Sutton said. "I like having a relationship with who's listening. New Song is like a big family. It's a cool atmosphere."
Castro hopes to move to the front of the building that houses New Song Fellowship to use the storefront to attract more attention from bar-goers. Major work needs to be done to the old building, Castro said, including installing a sprinkler system, a costly venture.
When enough money is raised and the front of the building is updated to meet safety standards, New Song will be open Friday and Saturday nights.
"Our emphasis will be to be open when the bars are," Sutton said.
Another way the ministry is trying to gain notoriety is by putting on outreach events in high traffic areas. Bands from New Song will perform 2-7 p.m. Sunday in the northeast Brainerd Cub Foods parking lot. Hot dogs, barbeque and roasted pork will be served.
HEIDI LAKE can be reached at 855-5879 or email@example.com.
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