A weekend at the Potter’s House

Jeff Rome

Staff Writer

My friends warned me against it. “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” said Prescott College student Alan Brown. “Don’t let them trap you,” said my housemate Lily Jackson. But I went alone to find the truth in all the hubbub surrounding Club One80. I made it out, the doors as open to my departure as they were to my arrival.

Club One80 is connected to the Potter’s House, an organization consisting of 1,744 Pentecostal churches throughout 112 countries, according to its Facebook page. It started here, in Prescott, in 1970. With at least 1,744 churches having opened over the past 43 years, that is an average of about one church opening every nine days.

Club One80, at 422 West Gurley St., advertises itself as, “The best in: alternative, hip-hop, reggae, blues, rock, punk, R&B,” attracting a younger, more weekender crowd than most places of worship.

The sign outside reads “Live. Music. Drama.” The Club opens every Saturday at 8 p.m. It is unclear what goes on in there. From the outside, the few windows reveal nothing but empty space.

On Saturday night, the aura of the building changed. The double doors remained open for all to hear the music floating out and to catch a glimpse of the concert lighting inside.

There was seating for over a hundred, all facing a curtained, triparted stage. Five large flat-screen TVs hung from the ceiling.

A young woman made rounds with three large thermoses filled one each with coffee, hot chocolate and raspberry punch. She knelt on the floor to pour so as not to spill. Families dressed in casual wear sipped their drinks slowly. The music played, but no one danced. Fake mist drifted to the ceiling.

By 8:30 p.m., the room was nearly full with around ninety or a hundred people. The show progressed rapidly from skit to band to sermon to TV clip, then repeated, for an hour. All conveyed the same religious message, and no one openly questioned it. “If you die in your sin you go straight to a Devil’s hell,” After Madness’ drummer Steven Ciaccio said during a message to the crowd.

Like the name “Club One80,” which carries with it a sense of turning oneself around, the name “Potter’s House” has a similar connotation. In Jeremiah 18:2, the Bible says, “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.”

Formerly on Ruth Street, the Potter’s House church now lies on the fringe of town, by the airport at 5195 Highway 89. Services are on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m, and on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. Potter’s has an unlabeled 15-passenger white van available to pick up visitors who need a ride.

At the church, numerous clean shaven men wearing ties made their way over to welcome people with firm handshakes. Jesse, the Youth Director in charge of programming at Club One80, addressed the rumors:

“Here’s my best analogy for what we do . . . when you go to the emergency department, they ask you all these questions to diagnose your problem. They say, ‘All right, we found the problem. You need to take this medicine. Now you have an option. You can choose the cure or you can leave.’” Potter’s House offers a similar kind of medicine. “Here, we’re doing the exact same thing … we’re doing it to save you.”

In the church, there was no large cross and no Jesus. Overhead lighting reflected off row after row of shiny shoes.

The apse had an American flag stage right, a podium, some seats stage left, and two giant pull-down screens on which verses were shown for church songs. In one of the stage-left seats sat Wayman Mitchell, the founder of Potter’s House.

Now in his eighties, Pastor Mitchell delivered an energetic sermon about self-deceit, and an idea popularized by Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels that a lie repeated often enough can seem like the truth. He pointed out that one of this generation’s most recognizable symbols is a bitten apple (Apple computers), and he occasionally lifted his hands with gusto and said, “Can I hear an Amen?”

“Amen,” congregants replied.

“There’s a truth you need to lock on to, and that’s that words have tremendous power,” Pastor Mitchell said. “People are like sheep [says the Bible], and sheep are stupid animals.”

“The real genuine thing is always going to be attacked . . . [People] want to believe more negative than positive. That’s just human nature,” said Sam Deangelis of the rumors about Potter’s House.

Other church members joked about the rumors that they lock the doors behind newcomers and sacrifice chickens. One member says, “The only chicken I ever sacrificed was on a barbecue.”

Outside the church, the Potter’s House logo is at the bottom right corner of its sign: a blue world engulfed in red flame.


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