Chris Synesael sets up a sandwich board for West Village Church outside of the Cineplex in Langford

Easy going pastor tries to boost church attendance

Chris Synesael would be the first to admit he’s not your average preacher, if the place he’s holding Sunday service didn’t give it away.

  • Sep. 29, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Chris Synesael would be the first to admit he’s not your average preacher, if the place he’s holding Sunday service didn’t give it away.

In the plush chairs of the newly opened Langford Cineplex Odeon, Synesael will lead the congregation of West Village Church through scripture, prayer and song — projecting the words on the big screen for folks to follow along.

“We’re a church for people who wouldn’t usually go to church,” the 32-year-old says. “We’re all about breaking down the boundaries that keep people from coming to church.”

The music is contemporary, the dress code is nonexistent, and no topics are off limits.

Synesael was a youth pastor at Saanich Baptist church for 10 years before starting West Village, so he’s used to tough questions and he welcomes them. He describes his style of preaching as, “unapologetically truthful.”

And if the 100 people that come every Sunday are any indication, it’s something young adults are particularly attracted to.

The average age of adults in the congregation is around 30 years old, much younger than most churches. A lot are young families with kids.

“What we’re doing might offend some church people,” Synesael said. “But the people we want to engage are people that would be offended by the traditional church, who don’t like the structure.”

Synesael decided to start West Village after learning that West Shore has the lowest church attendance in the region. Only 1,600 West Shore residents, or two per cent of the population, attend church on the average Sunday, according to Synesael.

He began the church last February with 25 people meeting in his living room. By April, West Village started meeting monthly at the Caprice movie theatre, and when the Cineplex opened they made it their weekly meeting place.

“The theatre is neutral territory. You know where it is and your way around it, you don’t have to ask where the bathroom is,” Synesael said. “It’s less intimidating than going somewhere totally new.”

Throughout the summer, the church has held free barbecues outside Ruth King elementary after Sunday service. They set up bouncy castles, activities for the kids and invite everyone to hang out. This helped attract members.

“People (non-church members) would come by and wonder who we were partying at the school, and we’d invite them to join us,” Synesael said.

Throughout the week the church has social groups that meet in coffee shops and pubs. West Village’s first baptism will be this fall — at Thetis lake.

Synesael has high hopes for the church, the first being that he’ll attract a large enough congregation to warrant moving into the deluxe 300-seat theatre with leather chairs. He also wants to become more involved in the community, beginning with supporting Ruth King by donating to programs there.

“I want people to look back and think, I’m really glad this guy decided to start a church in his living room,” Synesael said.

West Village Church meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at the Langford Cineplex movie theatre.

It’s final community barbecue of the season, at Ruth King, will be held following after it’s grand opening service on Oct. 2.

West Village is online at



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langford cuts red tape, engages in random acts of kindness to uplift spirits

‘I Am Langford’ campaign promotes supporting local

Saanich bylaw sparks EV charging infrastructure requirements in new builds

All new developments to be EV-charger compatible starting Sept. 1

Summer program helps Greater Victoria teens sharpen writing skills

Registration for the program runs until Aug. 17

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

Most Read