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Going to Church by Staying at Home

Windsor, 48, became interested in home churching almost 10 years ago while he was attending a megachurch in Montgomery County.

"The person sitting next to you in the pew could be close to dying, but people don't really know one another," he said. By abandoning the steeple, the pastor and the crowds of people, Windsor said, his tiny congregation is trying to live according to the New Testament.

"A lot of embellishments happened over the centuries," Windsor said. The modern Christian church is "like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy," he said. "It starts getting distorted and changed."

Windsor and his wife started reading about home churches and broke off from a bigger church to meet with a group in northern Maryland. After several years, that group grew too large -- about 30 people -- and the couple broke off again, starting the home church in Rockville.

Stripped to its most basic elements, he said, his group can focus on developing "deep friendships" and "helping one another grow spiritually."

The service changes from week to week, depending on what members are going through or thinking about; they might organize a Bible study or discussion around managing their finances or overcoming depression.

On a recent Sunday, they watched a film by Focus on the Family that chronicles the lives of early Christians and their attempts to convert the Greeks. Afterward, they talked about how those experiences compare with challenges in spreading the faith today.

They sang hymns and put money into a small cardboard box, to be donated to homeless programs and victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. As the Communion bread and wine were passed around the circle, music played while others swayed and whispered "Oh God" and "Merciful God."

By about 9 p.m., it was time to go home. But Windsor said church does not end when the service is over. Members might meet several times during the week, and church can continue over coffee at Starbucks or during a biblical discussion at a family barbecue.

For them, church is not tied to a building or confined to a couple hours a week, he said. "It's a way of life."

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