The dancers walked out Saturday — cheeks still flushed, gym bags in hand — and members of Bismarck’s newest church walked in.
“Please join hands and let’s pray,” said the Rev. Andy Early, before work began transforming DanceWorX dance studio, at 1300 Tacoma Ave., into a place of worship in time for service tonight.
Just as Jesus was born on Christmas, so will Legacy South celebrate its first church service on Christmas Eve.
“It’s like a new beginning,” said Kathy Roll, one of the founding members.
The church, a south Bismarck branch of Legacy United Methodist Church on the north end of town, is getting its start by leasing out the dance studio on Sundays. About 30 parishioners teamed up, packing the dance studio yoga mats and hand weights into storage and rolling out carpets over the studio floor.
The ritual transformation will take place each week.
Early said many families already may have a set church they attend for Christmas each year.
“But it’s also a day people who don’t go regularly choose to go to church,” he said, so Legacy South hopes to be able to reach those people.
The one-hour Christmas Eve service will be by candlelight and start at 5 p.m.
“Being a portable church, it will be a little more minimalistic,” Early said. “We won’t have quite as extensive decorations for Christmas.”
But they’re still going to mimic the north location in every way possible, said Early's wife, JoAnn Early.
Founders of Legacy South, a group of volunteers from the north location who call themselves the Legacy 50, will stand as greeters at the doors. A sign in the entryway reads: “Welcome to Legacy South. We’re glad you’re here.”
For youth ministry, Legacy South will start with nursery and preschool age children in January, said youth leader Nicole Champagne. Much like in the church space, carpets will be rolled out in an adjacent studio and toys and tables will be brought in for the kids. If there’s demand, they will expand to elementary, middle school and high school ministry.
Champagne, who lives in Lincoln, said she’s excited about the prospect of meeting and reaching new people with the church’s south location.
“It’s a new year and people may be ready for change,” she said. “Hopefully we can be the ones to help them find that.”
Champagne has attended Legacy for about 15 years. She said she enjoys the practical, relevant message at services and the enthusiastic, friendly nature of her fellow parishioners.
JoAnn Early said she and her husband have never started a church before but her husband has felt called to for some time.
“We have a number of people who attend Legacy who live down south and make the drive up north every Sunday,” Andy Early said, so when the opportunity came for a second location, it was a good fit for him.
He said Legacy’s north location has about 400 people attend Sunday services. The south location will start with seating for 125.
The south location will have two Sunday services in January, on the sixth and 20th, before starting services every week, Early said.
Legacy’s north location grew in much the same way that Andy Early hopes the south location will. They started in Mandan 20 years ago and then it was in the First United Methodist church in downtown Bismarck before going north.
For now, Legacy South feels blessed to have the space in the dance studio to get its own start.