Hanging outside an unassuming, beige commercial building on Indian School Road in central Phoenix, the large industrial sign reads, “Leslie’s Pool Supplies.” Hidden around the backside of the building, however, is the entrance to the progressive-forward “Christ’s Church of the Valley,” or CCV, as the congregants call it.
As children played outside on green AstroTurf, associate Pastor Caleb Harrison smiled and greeted church members entering the lobby, which resembled the inside of a busy sports bar—sans the alcohol.
Three large-screen televisions, hung on the walls over rustic wooden tables, flashed church bulletins—a café, complete with coffee and refreshments, opposite the tables.
“This space was a Sam’s Club years ago, if you can believe it, before Leslie’s bought it,” Harrison said. Leslie’s is now occupying half of the building while leasing the other half to CCV since 2016.
Harrison, originally from Oregon, grew up with “hippy parents” and agnostic beliefs before deciding to give his life to God, he said.
Harrison said his church’s background and beliefs stem from the protestant “Restoration Movement,” which has its roots in the early 19th-century American frontier. “Today, it’s just known as an independent, non-denominational place to worship God,” he said.
Churchgoer Mitchell Friedman, eating a hotdog from a food truck parked just outside the church entrance, has been attending service every Saturday night for the past two years.
Friedman talked about his love for the church community and the practical teachings he likened to “tools” that he’s learned to help navigate his daily life.
“I just can’t ‘feel emotional’ all of the time,” Friedman said, referring to other evangelical-type churches he’s been to. “It’s more just real-life lessons here,” he said.
Cierra Clement, the new coordinator of the “Next Steps Center” set up outside of the church sanctuary, helps members progress within the church. From arranging baptisms to aiding volunteers and helpers inside the church.
Clement said she felt disillusioned and disconnected during the pandemic. Not a stranger to church, Clement, with a devout Christian and Bible college background, found herself lacking a church family to call home and discovered CCV.
Clement also discussed taking on her new position as coordinator and said she wanted to get more involved within her church community. “Serving is a great way to be plugged in,” she said.
Walking inside the sanctuary, a large bowl containing small, sealed, single-serve communion wafers and wine sat on a table in front of about 300 chairs. Worshippers could grab their mini-communion bundle before taking their seats.
The Saturday evening worship service began with a full band on stage playing modern rock-sounding songs with purposeful lyrics praising God.
The hour-long sermon on ‘getting out of your comfort zone,’ delivered in a serious yet comedic-at-times way by senior Pastor Ashley Wooldridge, concluded with a prayer.
Three worshippers, very moved by Wooldridge’s words, held each other tight as they prayed.
“Even if you don’t believe in God, you can take something away from the sermon,” Clement said as she left the sanctuary to go and help out in the lobby.
Harrison said the church’s mission is to spread God’s word across the Phoenix metro area. “We want to do a better job reaching more of the Valley for Christ,” he said.
And he encouraged new members to return, “If people keep coming back, they’ll feel like they’re home.”
Caleb Harrison – CalebHarrison@CCV.church
Cierra Clement – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mitchell Friedman – MitchellFriedmanJR@gmail.com