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Church gets new place for holiday service

DULUTH — Grace Fellowship Church's 1,000-seat auditorium will stand empty Christmas Eve since the Snellville church moved its service to a much larger venue.

"It's the biggest place, locally, that could seat as many people as we were hoping to gather together in one service," Brian Krawczyk said of the Arena at Gwinnett Center, which the church hopes to fill to capacity with worshipers celebrating the birth of Jesus.

• What: Christmas Eve service

• When: 4 to 7 p.m.

• Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth

• Cost: Free

• For more information: Call 770-979-2502 or visit www.gracefellowshipchurch.com

With 8,300 seats and space to accommodate a total of 9,000 people, the Arena will allow Grace Fellowship to hold one service instead of the seven individual services that were held on its Snellville campus this past year.

"That's when we realized we can do this seven times or we can do one really great one," said Krawczyk, who serves as pastor of the Gwinnett campus. Grace Fellowship also has a smaller campus in midtown Atlanta.

"(The service at the Arena) came out of a desire to have our entire church be able to worship together," said Sarah Farol, Krawczyk's administrative assistant. "Because (our auditorium has) been so full, there really hasn't been any room to open it to the community."

Doors to the arena will open at 4 p.m. Thursday. Music by a strings ensemble and a children's bells performance will follow, with the worship service set to begin at 5 p.m.

Music during the service will be led by Aaron Keyes, worship pastor at Grace Fellowship.

An extended period of informal worship and response is planned from 6:30 to 7 following the formal service. Admission and parking are free and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

"The vision for this (event) came out of the idea that two thousand years ago when Jesus was born, the most important moment in all of history, most of the people in Bethlehem missed it," Krawczyk said. "Today, in 2009, the tendency for a lot of us is that we still miss the most important event in all of history. (This service) is to say the most important thing that has ever happened is available to us all."

Communion stations will be set up in the main concourse for those who want to partake. A voluntary offering will be collected to assist the church in offsetting the cost of the event.

"We really wanted to offer an event for the entire community," said Buddy Hoffman, senior pastor for Grace Fellowship. "We wanted people to have a place they could take their friends. We wanted to have an environment where if their church wasn't having a Christmas Eve service, they could come and enjoy that with their friends and family. We just think the community, as a whole, needs to celebrate this event that changed the world."