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A pastor in Michigan wants people, who may feel uncomfortable in traditional churches, to feel more welcome at The Bridge, his non-denominational church, which recently started to feature a tattoo parlor inside.
Reverend Steve Bentley believes that mainstream religion has become futile in reaching out to their communities and that it no longer appeals to most of society. In an attempt to be more relevant to the mainstream, he has opened up a tattoo parlor called Serenity Tattoo.
Ryan Brown and Drew Blaisdell, the artists at Serenity Tattoo, work from 12:00-8:00 P.M. or by appointment, every day but Sunday. The parlor is located close to Bentley’s office and the Church’s water trough used for baptisms. The pastor has two tattoos himself, one of which he got at Serenity Tattoo.
He believes that tattoos are “morally neutral” and that they’re like ear piercings, though he acknowledges that some will oppose to a tattoo shop inside a church. The pastor said that since tattooing is such a prominent feature of today’s society, he wanted to make a place where people could come get a tattoo and still be aligned with their moral code.
“We are about doing church in a different way and being relevant to people,” Bentley said to the The Flint Journal. “You can get a tattoo in a clean environment. You can do it while still sticking to your moral code.” Some people believe tattoos and piercings should be considered taboo and signals bad morals. At the same time, most would agree that ear piercings are morally upright and more socially acceptable.
Brown, one of the artists, is a recovering alcoholic who thinks that being in a church setting has helped him stay on the right path and avoid temptation. He said, “I was running my own studio. I was just working. There wasn’t much purpose in it. I was struggling with whether I could keep my studio” and stay sober.
“I prayed a lot and decided the best thing was to close it, and come to the church. I figured I could have a lot more positive impact” here. The church takes up 30,000 square feet inside the shopping center where it is located. It was founded in 2009 as a means of reaching out to the 300,000 people in Genesee County that have never gone to church before.
Bentley said his congregation consists of around 1,000 people and he regularly visits the Serenity Tattoo’s customers, though not all of them come to participate in the church services.