Years ago, it was common to ask people where they went to church. Today, the question sounds more like “…do you have a place of worship?” or “…what is your faith tradition?”
The question has changed because the choice of answers has changed. Now, in addition to church, the answer could be a: synagogue, temple, mosque, or saloon.
Yes, in Charlotte some of the faithful gather at The Thirsty Beaver Saloon in Plaza Midwood, for the Good-Time Fellowship Hour. It happens on the first Sunday of each month. Curious about this non-traditional way of worshipping, I went to a service at The Beaver to find out what was going on, and to catch up with my friend Danny.
Of course, I was totally out of place. After saying hello to Danny, I picked a spot at the bar and ordered a water. Later I switched to tonic so it could have a lime in it and look more at home (non-drinkers have trouble fitting in sometimes).
Worship started with Reverend Danny Trapp asking the congregation to consider the question, “…who are we to define sacred spaces?”
His question made me reflect. Who am I to impose boundaries on others about sacred space? That is not my job. After the service Danny and I visited and he explained how The Good Time Fellowship Hour came to be.
“The Good-Time Fellowship Hour sprang from several years of conversations among Beaver regulars,” he said. “We knew we had a community already in place so it was not about ‘going to where the sinners were’ or ‘saving the lost.'”
Musician/singer/songwriter Jim Garrett and Danny bounced the idea off the owners of The Thirsty Beaver owners — Mark and Brian Wilson — and got the thumbs up. The Wilsons’ dad was a Methodist minister.
I asked if there was a pattern to The Fellowship Hour. Danny said the order of worship is straight-forward. After a short instrumental piece, there’s a welcome, then Jim plays a few songs — usually of the classic country gospel variety like “I’m All Prayed Up” or “Using My Bible as a Roadmap.”
The end of the service gives people the ability to share their joys and concerns or prayers, Danny said. In between, there’s a short “message” that has Christian references but tends to sound more universal.
“The sermon emphasizes community, love of God and neighbor and reminds folks that it is okay to do this in a bar,” Danny said.
After 10 services, I wondered how it was going. Danny said the response has been amazing. Attendance has grown from about 20 people at the first fellowship in November 2014 to about 40-50 today.
“Bar patrons are no different than any cross-section of American culture,” Danny said. “They likely grew up going to church or being exposed to the rhythms of daily life when the church held more sway in shaping social norms. These same people still long for a sense of community and for something sacred. Some still go to worship on Sunday mornings but many more have fallen away from that routine.”
So on the first Sunday afternoon of each month sacred space is claimed at the Thirsty Beaver Saloon on Central Avenue in Charlotte.
Danny, like so many of us, is just putting his drops in the bucket of life. I am better for his ministry.
Do you have a regular place of worship and is that important to you? Does the idea of church in a saloon sound like a good idea, or is it somehow un-holy? What makes it seem that way?
How does regular worship fit in your life?
As always, the conversation starts here.