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Queens Residents Find Religion … At The Gym

Ridgewood Church Buys Fitness Center

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Talk about reaching the masses.

A Queens church has found an unusual way to help the community and attract new congregants, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.

The United Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood recently bought the New Olympia Health Club.

“It’s faith in action,” said the Rev. Henry Fury, who heads the church.

“It’s a service to the community. It’s also a place where a person can come in if they want to talk about a problem or have an issue.”

Reminders that the gym is owned by a church are everywhere. There are Our Daily Bread booklets at the sign-in desk and a religious library in the boxing room.

The church’s connection to the gym is even written on the front of the building.

“We’re about taking what little we have — and we don’t have much — and sharing it with those around us,” the reverend said.

Initially, the church hoped the gym would help increase congregation numbers, but Fury said the purpose has evolved. To him, the gym is an extension of his work behind the pulpit.

So how does he explain the spiritual connection to the tanning machine?

“The image of the living God is in each one of us, so you’re maintaining your temple of God,” Fury said. “So we’re help you tan a little bit, we help you take some pounds off. Hey, what’s wrong with that?”

The church said it barely breaks even with the gym. Money from it is used to fund other church outreach programs, such as a soup kitchen and community food pantry.

Marisel Coloado, one of the gym’s 500 members, admits the church was one thing that attracted her.

“I think it’s a great way to combine everything,” she said.

“It’s never too packed. So it gives you that space that you need and want.”

Fury added: “It’s what happens Monday through Saturday that puts teeth into what you believe, and if you’re not doing anything, then what are you all about?”

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