It was surreal, really. We were in the cutest little nook at a pub near Leichester Square in London when 3 guys named Steve showed up. The fact that we were in London at all was unbelievable, but the fact that my husband, Steve, met those three guys in a pub so crowded that people were lined up on the street outside was even more surreal. What are the odds? 4 guys named Steve and a girl in a pub….sounds like a bad sitcom. But it was the best night of our trip. Turns out, Steve and Steve and Steve were in London with 3 other friends celebrating the fact that they all were turning 40.
I wanted in on that party and, to our amazement, they were gracious enough to invite us. These 6 strangers sat down and chatted with us for about 45 minutes. We talked about Texas, guns and hunting (of course). About church, family, racism and politics. One of the Steve’s even had the opportunity to go toe to toe with my strong-willed youngest daughter on an issue they disagreed on. That was priceless! And then, as suddenly as they came, one of them shook my Steve’s hand and said, ” Nice to meet you but you’re boring me, so we’re leaving.” It was so British and so matter of fact that it made us feel accepted into their group and dismissed all at the same time. I can’t tell you how many times we have smiled about that night and kicked ourselves for not taking a picture with those guys. They cussed a lot, were “uncouth” by certain “southern” standards and probably thought we were the strangest Americans they had ever met; yet, I could see us being friends for a long time if we lived nearby.
That’s why I’ve always wanted to open a pub.
“The Pastor’s Wife’s Pub” Don’t you think that would go over well in the south? I wanna do it more because it wouldn’t go over well.
But seriously, think about it. This was a place where we were strangers in every since of the word. Our beliefs were different in certain areas and we even talked differently. But we felt welcome. Not only welcome but accepted. And to be honest, Brit’s have figured out this pub thing. They are nothing like a bar in the states. We went to a different one for dinner 6 nights in a row (partly because we loved the warmth and the atmosphere and partly because they had this passion fruit and apple cider that was to die for) and we only saw one drunk guy who was dressed up like a bride. (I’m guessing that’s a British bachelor party at it’s finest.) What we did see were families enjoying a night together instead of watching TV, bartenders from 6 different countries who seemed sincerely interested in us, people playing darts, friends standing around and chatting and, hold on to your hats, NO ONE ON THEIR CELL PHONE. Seriously. Well, we were, but we were annoying tourists looking for directions as to how to get back to the tube.
For those of you that are old enough to remember, it was “Cheers” but better! A place where community was happening but without the annoying waitress and drunk guy at the end of the bar.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful? A place of acceptance. A place of fun. A place of laughter. A place where you can disagree but still be kind. A place of hospitality. A place of warmth. A place where anyone can come and strangers will say hello. A place where you share a table with someone you haven’t met and end up meeting them. A place where you find you have things in common – like the name Steve.
Sound familiar? It should. It should be what our churches look like. People that don’t know God should feel welcome and accepted. People that do know God should feel the same. People with differing opinions should be able to disagree but still experience kindness. People who have a birthday, or a baby or a marriage should find others to celebrate with them. Strangers should find that people say hello and sit down to chat. No one should feel like they are alone because, let’s just be honest, we all struggle with life and we all want others to struggle along with us. I don’t think we do so well at this anymore. Maybe it’s because we’re such a virtual society that we’ve forgotten what hospitality looks like. Maybe we’ve become so jaded by those that hate what we believe that we’re afraid to talk to people we don’t know. Maybe we’ve just become too self-centered to realize there are lonely people walking into an unfamiliar place every week that would be blessed by someone acknowledging their presence.
But I believe we can change that. I believe we can create places of worship that have the warmth of a pub. I’m lucky. My pastor’s a Brit (in case you’re confused, my husband travels to teach and preach now, so I’m not married to the Brit), so he may go for the idea of adding cubbies with tables and benches in the worship center, wood on every wall, a dart board in the entry way and dim lightening throughout. I might be pushing it to ask for passion fruit apple cider on tap, but a girl can dream.
The truth of the matter is that it’s not up to the pastor to create this kind of place. It’s up to those of us sitting in the pews. It’s up to you and me. So, when you’re at church this week, pretend you’re in cute historic pub in London and find someone to say hello to. After all, people just want a place where everyone knows their name….even if it isn’t Steve.