MELISSA BLOCK, host:
There was an unusual religious service yesterday in Jacksonville, Florida. It involved burning some objectionable, old movies. Members of Christ Church Anglican gathered at the site of their new home, formerly the Playtime Drive-In Movie Theater. The 300-member congregation recently bought the property to develop as their new meeting place. And the drive-in held a bit of a surprise for the staff when they arrived. Senior Pastor, Mark Eldridge, told me.
Reverend MARK ELDRIDGE (Senior Pastor, Christ Church Anglican): We knew that historically, the Playtime Theater had shown x-rated movies as - in its history. But that was several years ago, it had been a family-friendly place most recently. But we knew that was the past, and we thought that was kind of exciting to take over a piece of property that once was used for that which is immoral, as we want to be a church that's standing on God's definition of right and wrong, and all of that, so we thought that was all neat history. But when we closed on the property a few weeks ago, we discovered just cases and cases of old pornography.
BLOCK: So that gave this dilemma of, you know, we have all this porn, what do we do with it? How did you decide?
Reverend ELDRIDGE: Well, obviously we knew the right thing to do would be to destroy it, and not let it ever be out in the market, so to speak. And then we also wanted to consecrate that land as new, holy ground for our church. And so we decided to have a dedication service where we'd pray over the land, and then it seemed right to symbolically burn the pornography as a sign of moving from that past and taking the land from unholy to holy. And that's what we did.
BLOCK: So how did you burn it exactly?
Reverend ELDRIDGE: Well, we had a big fire pit and for symbolic reasons, we unraveled it, and had it kind of hanging over the sides of this pit, and put some lighter fluid on there and lit it up. And the - we had the fire department out there also, and we thought it would be neat to pray over the water in the fire truck, and I asked God to make the water holy water. They proceeded to spray down the land, and they had some other children of the church help spray the land. And I jokingly called it the holy water hose down, symbolically cleansing the land.
BLOCK: You know, Reverend Eldridge, if you think about book burning, it obviously has a dark history and you know, people burn a lot of things that they're opposed to. Did you think at all about whether sort of a public ceremonial burning like this, I don't mean to defend the porn industry in any way, but if you think about, you know, the possible meanings of that and how it might be taken?
Reverend ELDRIDGE: It certainly crossed my mind. But again, it never crossed my mind that we might stick it out on eBay or something and try to profit from it. I mean what are you going to do with pornography? You certainly don't want anyone to ever look at that. So, other than throwing it into the dumpster, or - we thought it would be good to - again, symbolic reasons, burning it.
BLOCK: In public, with the crowd to watch.
Reverend ELDRIDGE: Yeah, yeah.
BLOCK: What were children thinking, do you think?
Reverend ELDRIDGE: I think everyone just thought it was cool. Just sort of a neat event, a positive forward-looking, what is God going to do with this land in the future and how can we bring people from the community on to that land to see family-friendly movies, and possibly connect to our church. And our slogan of our church is, a church where lives are changed for good. And I think that's what we're focused on seeing happen here in Jacksonville.
BLOCK: Reverend Eldridge, thanks very much for talking with us.
Reverend ELDRIDGE: It's my pleasure. Thank you.
BLOCK: It's Reverend Mark Eldridge, senior pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Jacksonville, Florida.
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BLOCK: You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.