Denver Quirks: Making a Difference After Hours

By Rebekah Hanish

“Love God. Love people,” Pastor Jerry Herships says. It’s the closest thing that After Hours church would have to a mission statement.

It’s a statement that may not be that revolutionary for most churches. But holding church during happy hour at a bar probably is.

After Hours church holds a bi-monthly service at either Blake Street Tavern or The Irish Snug on Monday nights. Attendees are invited to eat, get a drink and talk as well as bring however many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or the ingredients!) they want.

But not for themselves. It would be weird to bring your own peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a bar.

As an act of service, during worship time, several people head to the back of the room where an assembly line is formed. They make and pack up the sandwiches with bags of chips, a piece of fruit and crackers or a cookie into brown paper lunch bags. The next day, a crew will head out to Civic Center Park at noon to distribute the lunches to the homeless along with water, clothes, hygiene items or anything else a homeless person might need. They also offer prayers and communion for those who wish to take it.

Originally starting as a ministry branch of St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, After Hours started about three years ago. But the church didn’t have the resources to keep it going. Shortly after discontinuing After Hours, the bishop appointed Herships to take it on as a full-time church in downtown Denver, not necessarily associated with St. Andrew’s.

After Hours has been operating on its own for a year now and is thriving. About one third of the 50-60 people that come are from the original St. Andrew’s group, and the rest are from the downtown area, largely drawn in by the marketing coasters that After Hours leaves around the bars.

With a church that small, making the lunches for the homeless six days a week would be an impossible task. But after hearing about what After Hours is doing, seven other churches, two businesses and an apartment complex have approached After Hours wanting to partner with their cause. It’s with their help that people can regularly get lunch at Civic Center Park six days a week.

“You may come here, and you may meet some people you like and you might not. You might learn something about the character of God, and you might not. You might love it, and you may not. But at the end of the day, we made lunch for a lot of homeless people tomorrow,” Herships says during his leading of the sermon/discussion time. 

Church & Hate

Nick Brown reads the Bible every morning to begin his dayText & Photography by D. Giles Clasen

For most of Nick Brown’s life the thing standing between him and true love was a deep belief in God. 

“It occurred to me that the word ‘gay’ might apply to me when I was fifteen,” Brown said.  “I was terrified. Just terrified. I’ve never prayed so much in my life. ‘God, take it away, take it away, take it away,’” he said. “I’d known that I was attracted to guys. I’d just never really realized that that attraction was also sexual.”

For Brown, who is deeply religious, being gay and Christian became a defining struggle in his life, a source of confusion and empowerment, but the process has not been perfect.  Nor is it complete.

Brown’s life is like a narrative exploration of one question: is it possible to be gay and Christian? According to a 2009 Gallup poll, 78 percent of Americans identify as Christian, putting this question at the heart of many people’s lives.

And churches fall on all sides of the issue. A Canadian organization called the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (OCRT), which publishes the website  religioustolerance.org, have been following the debate closely. Their website lists the positions of 47 Christian denominations in North America. “Of the thousands of Christian denominations in the United States, it is the mainline faith groups who are most actively discussing homosexuality,” OCRT said.

 

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