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service, almost exclusively women and men under age 30.Led by a loud rock band, the congregation was singing Christian “praise” music, while many held paper cups of coffee obtained from lobby dispensers. Then pastor James Bonney bounced on stage, dressed as casually as most of the members in the audience.

Putting on his youthful charm, Bonney peppered his sermon with slang expressions and references to pop culture.He used words and phrases such as “you guys,” “dude,” “burbs,” “I’m, like,” “super-cool,” “blow off,” “hey,” “tattoos,” “video games,” “pool party,” “flip out” and “awesome.” But Bonney also put forward a lot of traditional Christian language, including conservative interpretations of the Bible.He used words such as “repent,” “darkness,” “covenant,” “debaucher,” “rebuke,” “Lord,” “sin” and “shame.” He spoke of what he considered the super-natural reality of “hell” and referred to God only as “He.” And even though Bonney told his evangelical congregation that newcomers to Westside Church might find it a “little weird,” he went on to explain that his church doesn’t allow women to be “elders.” That, he said, is what the apostle Paul taught in the Book of Titus.The church news release contained a free bag of coffee beans and a four-gigabyte flash drive.The promotional package, sent out by AHA Creative Strategies, boasted of two “casual” and “forward-thinking” Metro Vancouver churches.

The churches were said to “serve great coffee, provide free Wi-Fi, have a live Christian rock band, no dress code and offer baptisms in the Pacific Ocean at Kits beach.” The Metro Vancouver print and broad-cast media responded enthusiastically when Westside Church and its North Shore spinoff congregation invited journalists to witness new members being baptized at Easter in the frigid waters of English Bay.The Westside Church was also highly active on Facebook and Twitter and had its own polished website.It seemed like some new hip congregations were appealing to hundreds, if not thousands, of young Metro residents.Would Westside Church’s theology be as free, open-minded and liberal as its marketing appeared?To check out the buzz, I attended one of the three Westside Church services held Sunday at the Granville Island Stage.Normally a theatre for secular plays and concerts, the Granville Island Stage was packed with about 450 people for the 10: 45 a.m.