Ministry seeks bar for informal services

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Nico Savidge
Saturday, July 13, 2013

JANESVILLE—After her ministry's home for the past decade closed, Pastor Kathy Taylor's small church group is looking for a new place to hold services.

She only has one requirement: The new space has to be a bar.

Taylor's Red Door ministry spent the past 10 years holding services and religious discussions over beers and wings at the Willowdale Saloon, until the bar closed last May.

A Beloit bar, Jake's Corner Tap, offered the group a place to use this summer. The first services were planned there for August.

Last week, however, Taylor found out that bar was also closing.

Now the ministry is searching for a new place to hold its Sunday services, which blend a welcoming non-denominational Christian message with an informal atmosphere.

“I feel the need to be in a bar,” she said. “Having it in a bar makes a statement about the gospel and what it was meant to do.”

Taylor hopes that by getting the word out, another bar—hopefully in Beloit or Janesville, she says—will offer them space. They hope to start services by the end of the summer.

The services aren't about shaming people who drink or trying to convert other patrons—quite the opposite, Taylor says.

It's about rejecting a stuffy, moralistic image of Christianity that Taylor believes has turned people off from the church.

“I feel like there's no better way to challenge the mindset that Christianity is a moral code than having church in a bar,” she said. “It will invite those in (who say), 'Wow, she can have a Corona while talking about the Bible. Maybe I can actually come be a part of that.'”

There were about a dozen regulars when Red Door held services at the Willowdale, Taylor said, although the group would sometimes swell to 40 or 50.

They don't require much, Taylor says, just a few tables and an hour of time on Sunday mornings without having to compete with a jukebox or televisions.

In return, she says, the bar benefits from a batch of customers buying food and drinks during what's usually a slow time.

Willowdale's former owner and manager, Art Conner, said he enjoyed the group's conversations at his bar, and would bring them back if he could.

“I would recommend it to anybody that was interested,” Conner said. “I would do it again if I had the chance.”

There's another reason for the setting: Taylor wants to hold services that don't cost anything, so nobody feels like they are less a part of church because they can't put money in the collection plate.

“We don't take offerings,” Taylor said. “We say, 'Tip the bartender.'”

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