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“One church, multiple locations” is how Mountain Christian Church describes its new worship format as of late March.

After helping organize or support at least seven other area churches over the years, the Joppa-based congregation, which attracts about 3,600 worshippers each weekend, is launching its first satellite site, in Bel Air.

Besides its main campus at Mountain and Jerusalem roads, the congregation is offering its same Sunday morning services in the auditorium at John Carroll School, a private, Catholic school.

It officially opened with two services Sunday morning, March 28, which collectively drew 905 adults and children to John Carroll’s 600-seat auditorium, Luke Erickson, pastor for the Bel Air site, said.

“It was a good day,” Erickson said.

Three services are also planned there for Easter Sunday, April 4, at 8, 9:30 and 11:15 a.m.

Unlike other churches spearheaded by Mountain Christian, such as Christian Community Church, launched in White Marsh four years ago, this site is essentially a second Mountain Christian branch offering the same name and services.

Senior pastor Ben Cachiaras said while the White Marsh church is a completely separate, autonomous congregation, the Bel Air site “is really more like a bank branch.”

Exploring a satellite campus began more than a year ago, when church leaders started looking for ways to reach more people who do not attend church while trying to save money.

“We really thought of ways that wouldn’t require building a new building and make room for people to find their way back to God through Mountain,” Erickson said.

Bel Air made sense because it is far enough away from the Joppa campus and has a large concentration of people, he said.

“We looked at a number of schools and recreation centers. At John Carroll, there was an open door,” Erickson said.

He noted that the church has a very good relationship with John Carroll, but has no direct connection with the school other than renting space.

Mountain Christian, which dates itself to the early 1800s, is one of the oldest churches from the Restoration movement.

The new location is being called Mountain Christian Church-Bel Air, meeting at The John Carroll School.

In an earlier statement, Erickson said while some might be surprised to see a Catholic school and Protestant church working together, it is an example of people showing respect to each other in the interest of serving the community.

John Carroll President Richard O’Hara said in a letter sent Monday to parents that the agreement came after months of discussion with Mountain Christian officials and that the sublease was officially endorsed by the Archdiocese.

“It will not compromise the strong Catholic identity and commitment to the Catholic educational mission that are at the core of our school’s history,” O’Hara wrote, noting that the school has made its facility open to various congregations in the past.

“For our school, the agreement brings to campus on a regular basis many families who may become prospective John Carroll families — since MCC does not have its own high school,” he wrote, adding that it also provides a steady source of rental income.

Executive pastor Rob Kastens said according to the church’s research, 13.4 percent of Harford County residents report having no religious affiliation.

“That tells us something about our county, that we want to reach as many as we can,” he said.

The multi-site church has become an increasingly popular format and of the nation’s 10 largest churches, only one is not multi-site, he said.

“It’s an ever-increasing trend; it’s fairly cost-effective. Most churches can not afford to keep building. We will continue to look at lots of options, adding services,” Kastens said.

For now, “we have been very pleased with this arrangement with John Carroll. They have been fantastic to work with. We have been very pleased with the response, as far as things we have done to kind of serve in the community,” he said.

Erickson said that although the Bel Air site did draw some attendees from Joppa, the goal is to attract new people from the Bel Air area who would not otherwise attend church.

Those who would attend the satellite are “probably the people who live in the Bel Air area. It has more of a community feel, and a smaller, more family feel,” he said.

Kastens and Cachiaras said they do not have specific plans to grow any further but did not discount the possibility of future expansion.

“We don’t have this grand vision to be anything other than what God wants us to be,” Kastens said. “We are not trying to be the biggest.”

Cachiaras added they are not trying to somehow hurt other churches.

“I think we just want to be a blessing in this community,” he said. “Even the word ‘expansion’ makes people anxious in this county, for some reason. We don’t want to be the Walmart church. The more churches of all different stripes, the better.”

Nevertheless, with the Joppa campus, “we are sort of landlocked where we are. We are not ruling anything out,” he said about future growth.

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