When you walk in the front door of Remnant Church, you might walk back out to check the sign to be sure you’re in the right place. The Shockoe Bottom building looks more like an art gallery, with industrial concrete floors, exposed brick, rough-hewn wood, black trim and, well, lots of art hanging on the walls. The lobby includes a coffee bar, computers and flat-screen TVs that stream the service. The sanctuary is more of a black box theater, lead pastor Bryan Laughlin says.
But while Christian iconography is nowhere to be found, faith fills the place.
Church wasn’t a big part of Laughlin’s life until he began talking about faith to friends when he was about 22. This led to a long spiritual quest.
“I had lots of doubts, I was skeptical,” he says, and blind faith wasn’t going to suffice. Laughlin went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and after five years had his master’s of divinity and master’s of theology degrees. In addition to his pastoral duties, he also teaches philosophy at Liberty University.
The seeds of Remnant Church started when he and a small group started meeting in the basement of Tikvat Israel at Grove Avenue and the Boulevard. Within two years, the congregation had outgrown the space, and Remnant Church was created out of the shell of the old Laser Quest building in the Bottom.
In 2010, Laughlin founded Serve RVA, a nonprofit that works as a funneling agency to help volunteers — individuals, churches and businesses — connect with charitable organizations that need their help. He also works on a more basic level, helping the city with neighborhood projects and encouraging parishioners to take care of nearby parks, remove graffiti and clean up trash.
The Christian message goes beyond the personal for Laughlin. “We’re here not to be just takers, but to serve the city,” he says. “It informs how we orient toward society, how we orient towards others. … Social justice issues are the natural outflow of followers of Christ.”