Last night was eventful. We went to an East Coast bar called the Lower Deck. As soon as we walked in you were drawn to the stage that was about 6 feet by 6 feet with four guys at least 6 feet tall playing on it with all their instruments, including a drum set. It was quite a sight to see these guys all crammed in to one area with smiles on their faces singing harmonies that you would hear at a Gather concert. I think the fan blowing the bass players hair up like he was in a model shoot was my favourite part though. They were singing songs but their voices were usually drowned out by the crowds of people sitting on picnic tables in long rows in a straight formation all throughout the bar. Everyone had an Alexander Keith’s and would scream ‘SOCIABLE’ every five minutes or so and smash their glasses together like little kids trying to see what exploding shards of glass would look like.
The band was called Signal Hill and they were really good musicians. They sang Pub Songs to hit songs to The Lion Sleeps Tonight. As we walked in awkwardly, we started to settle in wherever we could find seats. I was feeling kind of left out without a beer mug in my hand full of Nova Scotia’s pride so I ordered a beer. I sipped on it, to I reached the quantity of maybe a cap full and decided I could probably go for a gulp. I couldn’t. I proceeded to gag it up on my pants, which added to the stain that Heather gave me because she thought it was funny to smash our glasses together so beer would fly. So I gave my beer away and drank carbonated Sprite for the rest of the night. At least I was able to participate in the Sociables. I still don’t really have a clue what they were.
Walking into the bar last night was sort of uncomfortable at first. Everyone knows each other. They know all the songs. They are all doing the same thing. Most of them are there for the same reason. Everyone had their own group of friends and their own conversations going. Some people were doing things that I have never done before. Others were doing things that I’ve attempted but wasn’t good at it. As I walked in and sat down for the first five minutes I couldn’t help but to think how a visitor must feel in one of our church services. I’m a pretty outgoing guy, and don’t have problems making new friends or getting to know people or even being in uncomfortable places but I still had a sense of unease as I walked into the bar (church service) last night.
Brian McLaren said once that we as Christians should go to a Buddhist worship service once to give ourselves an idea of how most people feel when they walk into our church service for the first time. The bar last night was a church service. No, they weren’t worshipping the same God, and they probably would never call themselves a church. It was remarkably similar though. Songs, announcements, communion, offering, rules, message and pews were all present in their own forms. I didn’t have to go to a Muslim Mosque to get the feeling of not fitting in, I found it in a local bar. However, there is something about the bar I think we as the church can learn from.
This feeling of not fitting in lasted for a maximum of five or ten minutes. In a matter of minutes I was sitting at a table with two couples mid to late thirties and we started chatting. We learned a whole bunch about them and had a blast. The guys by the end of the night were drunker than…..most drunk people. The wives were super nice and we enjoyed the company in enjoying watching their husbands make fools of themselves. I felt overly welcomed in a matter of minutes because everyone was so accepting and enjoying the company of new people. The waiters wanted to serve you the community drink from the moment you walked in the door. Anything to make you feel comfortable and part of the night.
Too bad when new people walk into our churches we usually, if anything at all, give them a handshake and then let them be for the rest of the day. How awesome would it be if when someone new walked in they were accepted and welcomed? Maybe it should be less like welcoming someone to observe an event and more like allowing someone to be part of a community for the morning. I love when God uses ‘sin’ in the context of most churches to teach me some of the best lessons.