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Pastor Moves On to a New Stage

January 13, 1994|JOHN POPE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A new act has taken the stage at one of the Redondo Beach's best-known nightclubs, and its leader is quick to say that there is no cover charge or ID check at the door.

The Strand, which has showcased performers from George Carlin to George Clinton since it opened in 1986, is now the Sunday morning home of the Peninsula Christian Center, a congregation of about 100 members.

Pastor John Prassas said preaching in a bar on Pacific Coast Highway is unusual, but it helps him create a more relaxed environment in which to worship. And, he adds, it has a great sound system for the church band.

"If the spirit of God shows up, it doesn't matter where you are," said Peter Xifo, a congregation member and Palos Verdes resident. "People who wouldn't feel comfortable in a traditional place may feel comfortable here. There's no pretense, no stained-glass windows or candles."

Most of Prassas' congregation is drawn from the Lunada Bay Christian Fellowship in Palos Verdes Estates, where he served 6as associate pastor until the church closed last month. The pastor, Wayne Coombs, resigned to work full time with orphaned children.

Prassas, 34, who decided to start a new church rather than continue Lunada Bay, describes his ministry as a "biblical Christian church open to the ministry of Jesus."

He was driving past The Strand in late December when, on impulse, he approached the nightclub managers, who agreed to the plan. The church also rents an administrative office nearby on Pacific Coast Highway.

Prassas said he hopes the church site will draw potential congregation members from the surrounding community who "may have had barriers to get close to Jesus."

He said Christ ". . . found himself in the 'wrong place.' Now, we're not out to do this for show. But it's a place people can easily find."

On Sunday, he held his second service in The Strand, drawing about 70 parishioners, generally dressed casually. The service opened with a song by the Worship Band, a seven-piece Christian rock group that includes Associate Pastor James Ledlie.

When the animated Prassas took over, his hands moved as fast as Scriptures flowed from his mouth.

"When two or three gather in Jesus' name, he is there," he told the congregation. Buoyed by cheers, he boomed: "Yes, my friends, Jesus is in the house."

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