The two-and-half year saga (not Sega) of the First United Church Of Nintendo has been amazing to follow. From its humble beginnings illuminating the mirrored walls of Fubar, to the way it’s become a true Bay area sanctuary for local NES-heads, the free, two-time BOTB-winning retro-gaming night (complete with one of the state’s largest collection of NES games) has won the hearts of anyone who’ve ever had this reaction to being put in front of a gaming system.
The church’s humble, mulleted, and always-smiling leader, Matthew Barker, routinely deflects attention away from himself to talk about his love of St. Pete and the Bay area, or all the friends he’s made through the project, instead.
Two weeks ago, the congregation suffered a huge setback when its van completely hit the shitter. The steed’s final voyage happened on November 5 before a worship session at The Amsterdam in downtown St. Petersburg. The church is on indefinite hiatus, with plans to get back on the road as soon as possible, but Barker, 32, is asking the community for help. A modest crowdfunding campaign has set a goal of $3,500 dollars and as of today 15 people have chipped in the raise just under $700.
“It's a bit overwhelming and emotional to see so many believe in what I’m doing,” Barker wrote in an email to CL. “To see a community come together and share, give, and offer their support not just financially but any way that an individual can — a ride, a dollar, a connection, a shoulder so many things ... response has been exceptional.” Barker’s long-term goal has been to eventually turn the church into a nonprofit, and he has aspirations to apply for grants that’ll be utilized to continue giving back the community he loves so much.
“I was born and raised here and have no plans on leaving, so why not give back to the city? I absolutely love being able to put my passion into something and present it to people in a form where you could hang out with your friends, relive a part of your childhood, possibly bring your child,” he added. “I love what I’m doing and have a strong support group. To me Church is everything.”