Get ready for some pretty big changes at Zion Christian Fellowship. Among them:
Dick Patterson, who founded the church, has retired. His grandson, Jason McEachron, has taken over as senior pastor.
The church's interior is being extensively remodeled.
Beginning tonight, the weekly service will be held on Saturday nights instead of Sunday.
And the church has a new name — Gravity.
McEachron says he likens God's power to the law of gravity.
"No matter how high you jump, gravity always pulls you back to the center, and God is at the center of it all," he said.
McEachron describes Gravity as "a vintage faith with a modern story."
"We're not doing anything revolutionary with the message," he said. "We're just taking a modern approach."
Such as removing half the pews to make more room for music and dancing.
"It's hard to do mosh pit dancing and slam dancing with pews," McEachron said. "You couldn't move too well."
The church is affiliated with Outreach Ministries International, which Patterson founded in Stockton in 1982. Outreach spent weekends on Pacific Avenue, where young people hung out at the time. Patterson organized concerts until merchants complained and Stockton police put a stop to it.
Patterson then purchased the building on South Central Avenue in 1988 and named it Zion Christian Fellowship. He was the church's only pastor until he retired in June. That's when McEachron took over.
"I back Jason completely," Patterson said. "Whatever he's doing is fine with me as long as it's fine with everybody else."
McEachron has a pastoral style where everyone's theological opinions are valid. He welcomes people who disagree with him, whether it be on topics like the Bible's interpretation, social issues, or whether God exists.
"A lot of people who are turned off to organized religion don't like one person doing all the talking," he said. "They want to be included in the conversation. We encourage conversation."
The main focus of Gravity is a parable Jesus told about a shepherd who had 100 sheep, 99 of which were safe and secure. However, one sheep wandered away and got lost. Jesus left the safe ones behind to find the lost one.
"Gravity is focused on finding that one lost sheep," McEachron said.
So how would he describe a "lost sheep" in Gravity terms?
It could be someone who is jaded or skeptical toward God or the church, McEachron said.
"Maybe it's been through situation that caused pain," he said. "Some of that pain came through the church."
Several homeless people come to services, McEachron said. The church, continuing the tradition started by Zion Christian Fellowship, prepares dinner and discusses Christianity with the homeless on Tuesday evenings at Lawrence Park. McEachron said he enjoys hearing the homeless' life stories.
Another focus of Gravity: Less emphasis on a traditional service and more on developing a relationship with God. McEachron tailors the way he relates to people by the different ways they relate to God.
"The way you relate to God and have a conversation with God is uniquely personal," he said.
McEachron is involved in his pastoral duties only when he can get away from his main job as a contractor. But he sometimes gets ideas for his sermons by chatting with people, whether they are at a construction site or a newspaper interview.
Details aren't clear, but it's believed that the church building at 715 S. Central Ave. was built in the 1920s. The Seventh-day Adventist Church originally occupied the building, with Patterson bringing Zion Christian Fellowship there in 1988.
McEachron said he once thought he knew it all about religion.
"I've been in the ministry since 1993. When I started out, I thought I knew so much, and 17 years later, I realize how little I know," he said.
Jason McEachron at a glanceAge: 37; born in Reno, raised in Lockeford and Lodi.
Occupation: General contractor; builds custom homes and remodels others.
Former ministry: Youth pastor of River of Life Foursquare Gospel Church in Galt, 14 years. River of Life is now known as The Gathering Place.
Residence: Moved from Galt to Lodi a month ago.
Family: Wife, Schaunna; sons, Taylor, 14, Micah, 12, Luke, 8.
Office hours: None. The church is not staffed during the week. Announcements and contact numbers are posted on the church's Web site, www.gravitychurch.com.
Jason McEachron's views on Gravity"We believe God is the center of everything. He is the center of the universe."
"We don't focus on the categorization of people (i.e. saved or unsaved, baptist or charismatic, etc.). It gives room for the single most destructive force in God's family — pride. It shouldn't be 'us vs. them' in any way."
"I believe that other people's opinions are valid even if they're different from mine."
"There is no place within the faith community for the following things: manipulation of any kind, motivation by using guilt, fake appreciation and imitation relationships, judgmental attitudes or spiritual pride."
"I'm in shorts and flip-flops (at services) because that's who I am."
New service timeSept. 27 was Gravity Church's final Sunday morning service. Beginning today, the weekly service will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and Senior Pastor Jason McEachron is excited about the new time and format.
After tonight's service, the church will host "Gravity Late at 9," featuring live bands. One of them will be the church band, which McEachron leads. He sings and plays guitar.
"We're looking at (tonight) as our 'first service,'" said McEachron, who has conducted Sunday services since June.
McEachron hopes to have several Gravity Late at 9 events.
Bible study will be held on Sunday mornings.
The church is at 715 S. Central Ave., south of Tokay Street, Lodi.
Source: Jason McEachron