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UMTV: Bar Church Serves All


A former stand-up comedian and bartender offers an unusual alternative to traditional church. United Methodist pastor Jerry Herships' After Hours Denver holds worship services in bars. Herships believes that in today's world you have to reach people where they are. "Jesus never said, 'If you need me, I'll be in the temple.' Jesus was always out in the world." The congregation makes a commitment to community service their main focus.

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(Locator: Denver, Colorado)

(Voice of The Rev. Jerry Herships) "Our business cards are beer coasters. Initially with the idea of doing church in a bar there were folks that said, 'Wow that...that seems like an odd place.'
We thought, you know, Jesus never said, 'If you need me I'll be in the temple.'"

(Jerry onstage) "A big round of applause for God." (applause)

A stand-up comedian turned United Methodist pastor, Jerry Herships believes that in today's world, you have to meet people where they are. Herships' newly formed congregation After Hours Denver meets on Monday nights at pubs around the Colorado town.

(Jerry onstage) "God's love, and I've said it before, is like gum on the bottom of your shoe. You cannot get rid of it."

Herships spent 10 years as a bartender. He knows some might not be comfortable with the idea of church in a bar, but he feels it's a natural fit.

(Jerry onstage) "God knows, that when we are at our best, that is where the abundant life hangs out."

The Rev. Jerry Herships, After Hours Denver: "A missional church is kind of a different model. It's very much a go into a community, find out what the needs of that community are, where their pain is, and go and be with them."

(Jerry onstage) "After everything I've done, God still loves me?"

The Rev. Jerry Herships, After Hours Denver: "Wesley was always out on the street. He did prison ministry. He believed in not just sitting in the pews. He believed in taking God to the people. Grace is central as a Methodist guidepost."

The concept has caught on. Herships almost always preaches to a full house. Dee and Tony Kerby attend regularly with their young daughters.

Dee Kerby, Member, After Hours Denver: "It gives the kids the experience and the idea that no matter where they are, God's there."

At the bar church, sermons are simple and looking out for others is always the focus.

The Rev. Jerry Herships: "We make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during the service. And that freaks a lot of people out. That's our call to worship. It's service within the service. And it's a way for people to sort of dip their toe into serving other people."

Bar meet-ups may happen once or twice a month, but the After Hours church is active six days a week. You can find members in Civic Center Park taking love to the streets.

(Man looks at lunch) "Got a couple of turkey sandwiches, a bottled water, bag of chips, banana, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, two granola bars."

Thomas: "I been walking around for three days. I got thrown out of my motel room. I don't have a job. I'm trying to find a job. And I'm just thankful that I was able to have lunch today."

Chris: "It's awesome. Me and my girl get food every day. We live on the streets, we sleep outside. A lot of people judge us based on what we look like or how we live our lives you know and we're just trying to get a head start in life."

Matthew Moore found After Hours through an ad in a men's restroom.

Matthew Moore, Visitor, After Hours Denver: "A lot of people, the biggest thing they fear with churches is that it's all talk and no action. And this one is very heavy on, you're out there, you're helping people. It draws people in."

(Herships offers communion in park) "We got communion right here. Communion for you today bro?" (Man accepts) "What's your name? (Brian.) Brian, a reminder of how much God loves you today. God bless you."

Dante Bloodrose: "He's definitely an interesting guy. And he's helped us out considerably since he's been out here."

The Rev. Jerry Herships: "I think with missional churches it's not always gonna be about homeless. You know, there may be a neighborhood where for whatever reason there's a lot of single parents in that neighborhood. So you go and find a way to help the single parents. Missional church is not doing a single thing. It's about finding out what's the need of a community and addressing that need."

Amber Marsh is a lifelong United Methodist. Herships spoke at her church and she's been coming to Civic Center Park ever since.

Amber Marsh, Member, After Hours Denver: "I hand out lunches. I give people hugs that want hugs, let them know they can have communion if they want it. I've even written a song."

(Amber sings) "Come to God's table. Come big and come small. Come to God's table. God welcomes us all."

For more information, contact AfterHours

This story was first published on May 10, 2012.
It was produced by United Methodist Communications. Media contact is Fran Walsh, at 615-742-5458.

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

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