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Church on the margins: Two Rivers reaches out to lost, lonely in Charleston

It's not your typical church scene. You park outside a stadium, then climb a short flight of stairs to find yourself in a pub—only instead of a host waiting to seat you, there's a smiling church greeter offering a marker and a peel-and-stick nametag.

You're ushered to a long mahogany bar, only instead of an array of questionable libations, you're offered regular or decaf coffee and your choice of brownies or chocolate chip cookies.

Loose gatherings perch at tables scattered around the room in all manner of dress, from khakis to sundresses and high-end heels to flip-flops. Kids intermingle, some at tables coloring, some in the back playing Legos, some eating breakfast biscuits and chatting with parents.

There's an excitement in the air, a sense of camaraderie and fellowship. A sense of belonging.

This is Two Rivers Church, a United Methodist community in Charleston, and all of it—the fellowship, the laidback vibe—is intentional.

Two Rivers is a new church start that meets Sunday mornings at Three Lions Pub at the MUSC Health Stadium. Its pastor, the Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby, said they formed to reach people who don't necessarily feel welcome or wanted in church.

"From the beginning, our vision was to reach out to people who feel on the margins of church life, who'd given up on church or felt 'preached out' of church," Hudson-Jacoby said.

The people of Two Rivers run the gamut. A growing number of deaf and hearing-impaired are beginning to come. Some of the Two Rivers flock are United Methodists who moved to Charleston and began seeking another United Methodist church to attend. Others have not ever been to church as adults.

"We really embrace the fullness of community," Hudson-Jacoby said. "We've found there's a hunger for a welcoming, diverse faith community. People are flocking to that. We've found the more open we are, the more people are embracing it."

"Most of the people who've come have stayed," Adams said. "They feel there's a space here where they finally feel welcome."

And it's not just so-called "misfits" or church-outsiders.

Adams said, "We were shocked at the number of young families who feel that way."

The fact that it meets in a bar doesn't hurt, either. While the setting was not intentional but rather the only affordable space they could find, Hudson-Jacoby said they love the way the clusters of tables and cheerful lighting have added to a welcoming space—and found it's lowered a ton of barriers.

All are welcome. All are loved.

Just as Jesus did: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)

Jessica Brodie, South Carolina Advocate

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.

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