Creepy Cove Community Church

"Like Songs of Praise meets Stephen King"

Peter Laws, founder of Creepy Cove

Our Spooky Church

Every two weeks, I preach a sermon at a spooky old church. It sits on the very edge of a windswept cliff, overlooking the mysterious fishing town of Creepy Cove. Our humble little church ‘went global’ in 2020 when the pandemic prompted us to start broadcasting our services. We share ours via a free podcast. A year later Creepy Cove Community Church services have been downloaded over 13, 000 times – but not by locals. Every single one of our listeners are from out of town. How do I know that? Because Creepy Cove doesn’t exist. And yet the services (and those listening to them) really do.

Let me explain…

Horror Fans are People Too!

My name is Peter Laws and I’m an ordained church minister who left the pastorate ten years ago to write. Since 2017, I’ve had five books out, all released by secular, high-street publishers – I guess they’re a little too oddball and dark for Christian presses.

I’ve had four scary crime fiction novels published, so far. The main character is Matt Hunter: an ex-pastor turned atheist professor who helps the police catch Christian murderers .

Welcome to Creepy Cove Community Church!

Creepy Cove is my latest project, designed to give an immersive church experience for people who enjoy horror and mystery. I share it with you not so much for the horror aspect (that’s a controversial topic for Christians, which is why I wrote my book explaining it). Rather, it’s the model of what I’m doing which may be of interest to fellow pioneers. Particularly as we consider what ‘future church’ might look like, especially those on the fringe.

 

Listeners know that Creepy Cove isn’t a ‘real’ church. Yet on social media posts they still describe themselves as ‘attending a service’ which features sermons, prayers, weird comedy, and bizarre versions of church hymns. The illusion of ‘being there’ is achieved with sound effects and voice acting. The first ten minutes or so, complete with church notices, is a mixture of comedy and audio drama based on the fictional location. After all, Creepy Cove is a town where all horror films are real, so each week we interview a local at the start of the service. Town thespian Vincent Price runs our drama club for example. Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th is in charge of our Thursday keep fit class, (Jogging with Jason). Jack Nicholson’s character from The Shining recently took part in the churches nativity play. Yeah, it’s pretty left-field.

Yet the bulk of the show consists of much more normal fare. I preach a full sermon on ordinary topics like ‘Dealing with Fear’ or ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ or ‘How to Stay Positive in a Negative World.’ I offer prayers, Bible readings and eerie meditations. Listeners can choose from the full service, or sermon-only editions (if they want to skip all the crazy horror stuff at the start).

What’s fascinating is that people are genuinely connecting with this combination of the surreal and the spiritual.

I keep getting messages like 'the Creepy Cove sermon this week was really meant for me' or 'that was exactly what I needed to hear, I was in tears.' These comments are often coming from people who say they don't feel safe or comfortable going to 'normal' church. Many of them are atheists, yet somehow the sheer weirdness of Creepy Cove intrigues them. Once they try it, they find a safe, non-judgmental, spiritual space. Some have even told me they're going to try their local church because of it.

The Potential of Virtual Churches

The idea for all this came during the first lockdown when my family and I attended our local church via YouTube. I braced myself for what I assumed would be an awkward, even tokenist experience, but the remote services were surprisingly meaningful to me. I didn’t just have a sense of God in my lounge, I felt a connection with all the others who were scattered in their homes, watching what I was. In the anxiety of a global pandemic, this was helpful indeed. Yet what about my friends, and the readers of my books, who didn’t go to church? Why couldn’t they have a resource like this to draw on…and if geography was no longer an issue…why not get creative with it?

I realised that for many ministers, ‘online church’ simply meant putting a standard service on YouTube. Or maybe getting the local congregation to meet on Zoom. I was convinced there was more potential to it. The pandemic showed us how church could exist in a meaningful way, even if it was in a virtual, liminal space.

So why not design a ‘virtual church’ geared at a specific interest? And why not specifically connect with those who are often shunned by Christians – horror fans.

A Growing Congregation

With the success of the Creepy Cove Podcast I set up a ‘Patreon Program’ to help fund the project and to keep services free. This is where people pay a monthly subscription to not only support Creepy Cove, but they also get a bunch of extras. From Creepy Cove ‘God of the Minor Chord!’ Guitar Plectrums to masses of digital content. The latter includes a weekly, members-only podcast from me, which reports on Strange News and Reviews – including a special section called Holy Moly which explores the latest shocking, weird or bizarre stories from the Christian world. Gentle nudge: this is the only source of funding for Creepy Cove, so if you were interested in supporting us each month, click here. We follow the Netflix model – a monthly charge, for exclusive content, but you can cancel at any time.

At the time of writing there are 37 ‘Patrons’ who have formally joined ‘The Congregation’ from the UK, USA and Germany. What’s fascinating is that this group often ‘feels’ like a church: we have services, we have ‘fellowship’ via Church Socials on Zoom. It’s a place of fun but also genuine and deep care for each other. We support other causes with some of the Patreon money. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re a Christian or not, everybody feels like they belong, and they’re happy to own the word ‘church’ even though it’s not a normal expression of it.

Yes, there are obvious limits and cautions to the pastoral function of Creepy Cove. Yet it’s prime aim is to simply be a safe space for encouragement. In that sense of Church, it really seems to be working. Particularly amongst a community that is so often vilified and dismissed by Christians because of they like monster movies and ghost stories.

Hope Amongst the Horror

At the time of writing there are 37 ‘Patrons’ who have formally joined ‘The Congregation’ from the UK, USA and Germany. What’s fascinating is that this group often ‘feels’ like a church: we have services, we have ‘fellowship’ via Church Socials on Zoom. It’s a place of fun but also genuine and deep care for each other. We support other causes with some of the Patreon money. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re a Christian or not, everybody feels like they belong, and they’re happy to own the word ‘church’ even though it’s not a normal expression of it.

Yes, there are obvious limits and cautions to the pastoral function of Creepy Cove. Yet it’s prime aim is to simply be a safe space for encouragement. In that sense of Church, it really seems to be working. Particularly amongst a community that is so often vilified and dismissed by Christians because of they like monster movies and ghost stories.

Rev. Peter Laws is an author, podcaster, and journalist. He’s the creator of the Matt Hunter crime fiction novels about an ex-pastor turned atheist professor, who helps the police solve church related murders. The first in the series is called Purged (Allison & Busby). His non-fiction book ‘The Frighteners: Why We Love Monsters, Ghosts, Death and Gore’ (Icon Books) explores how humans have used dark stories to deal with real life fears. He trained at Spurgeon’s Bible College in London.

Peter’s website: www.peterlaws.co.uk

Creepy Cove Community Church Podcast: www.creepycove.com

Peter’s Patreon Program: www.patreon.com/creepycove

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