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N.Y. Church Goes Into the Bar and Finds a Flock

BY CATHERINE JHEE
                                                                              ©2007 Religion News Service
 
rock 'n' roll bar with a neon "Pabst Blue Ribbon" sign in its window and truck-driver kitsch seems an unlikely setting for a room full of devout Christians gathered for prayer.
 
But on a recent Sunday evening, a small crowd gathered in the back room of Trash Bar in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood as a band warmed up onstage. Friends greeted each other with handshakes and hugs by the bar; some sat in the ripped-out car seats that line the bordello-red walls to chat.
 
By the time the band began to play "Glory to God," about 40 people had assembled. Some were clean-cut, casually dressed young professionals; others sported tattoos, T-shirts, and sneakers. Many closed their eyes and lifted their hands while they sang along with the band. Some knelt to the floor or sat with their heads in their hands as they prayed.
 
A small crop of evangelical groups like the Church at Trash Bar have begun gathering in informal locations throughout Williamsburg over the past year, holding services in bars and cafes and promising an open environment for those who have given up on traditional churches but remain interested in worshipping in casual settings.
 
The Church at Trash Bar is one of a handful of New York congregations affiliated with the Vineyard Church, a looseknit Pentecostal denomination of about 1,500 churches worldwide. Courtney Bender, a professor of religion at Columbia University, said finding an evangelical church in a bar may seem unorthodox, but actually fits into efforts to "missionize" people wherever they are comfortable.
 
"They want to show young people that they are not their fathers' or mothers' church," she said. "Meeting in untraditional places also doubles as a way to appear cool or, maybe to put it differently, to demonstrate that Jesus is not out of step with modern times."
 
For Matt Nolan, a 25-year-old rock musician who grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Missouri, the nontraditional setting and rock music feels right. "I grew up with hymns and pews and stuff," said Nolan, a first-time attendee whose band was already scheduled to perform at the bar later in the evening. "But this kind of environment makes a lot more sense to me. I feel a lot more comfortable."
 
Courtney Noel, a 28-year-old law student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, has been attending for more than a year and doesn't mind the hour-long commute from her home on the other side of the Hudson River. "I've been coming to Vineyard churches since I was 16," said Noel, of Newark, N.J., "so this feels very comfortable to me."
 
The congregation is composed of mostly young adults in their 20s and 30s who came to New York for school or work. For 16 years, pastor Mike Turrigano and his wife Char led a Vineyard congregation that met in an office. They switched venues for a space that would allow more community-oriented activities beyond weekly services.
 
"We'd all go out for drinks after services to a pub on Third Avenue in Manhattan," said Turrigano, 57. "And we found we were really good at hanging out and bringing people together. Why not meet for service at a bar, where we can hang out afterwards too?"
 
Eventually, the congregation looked for a neighborhood setting in Brooklyn, where many of the parishioners actually lived, and wanted a popular bar where they could hold services and hang out afterwards. After checking out a few bars in Williamsburg, the congregation has been meeting at the Trash Bar since March 2006.
 
Turrigano said he felt the bar's reputation as a hip venue for live music helped attract curious newcomers -- a handful of new people attend the service each week. Part of the appeal of hosting services at a bar was the possibility of "reaching out to the hipsters, the angry young rebels who have been hurt by the church before," he said.
 
"It is our mission to be among unbelievers," he said. "We want to show them it's possible to have a relationship with Christ. They're not as likely to come to us in a church. So we go to them to break the stereotypes."
 
Services don't necessarily rake in tons of revenue, but the church brings in some business during the early evening hours when business is fairly slow anyway. "A few have been known to tie one on," Pierce said. "Whatever brings you closer to God. People are welcome to drink however much they want to drink or not, and they often stay on afterwards and have a good time."
 
Turrigano said it's all about meeting people where they're at --both spiritually and literally. "We're just trying to break the stereotypes," he said, "and be a little subversive."
   
 
Gordon College Triples Endowment With $60 Million Gift

BY G. JEFFREY MACDONALD
                                                                         ©2007 Religion News Service
 
An evangelical college on Boston's North Shore is about to become nearly three times richer, thanks to a $60 million gift from a California couple whose two grandchildren attend the school.
 
The gift to Gordon College from real estate developer Dale Fowler and his wife, Sarah Ann Fowler, catapults Gordon's endowment from $33 million to $93 million. In honor of the gift, administrators on Wednesday (Aug. 29) unveiled a sign naming the Wenham, Mass. campus, "The Dale E. and Sarah Ann Fowler Campus."
 
"Our great desire is for Christ to be pre-eminent in our management of wealth," Dale Fowler told a school-wide audience at a chapel service marking the first day of school (Wednesday, Aug. 29). "Hopefully many others, led by God's Spirit, will see in Gordon College an opportunity to make a difference."
 
Even before pledging their endowment gift, the Fowlers had become active donors to Gordon. Their financial commitments paved the way for such projects as new bleachers for athletic events, campus landscaping projects and a soon-to-be-established post for an admissions recruiter in Southern California. Now the unrestricted endowment gift opens a range of opportunities for the school's approximately 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students.
 
"The Fowlers' gift is often the most difficult money for colleges and nonprofits to raise as most gifts go towards a specific project," said Dan Tymann, the school's executive vice president for advancement, communication and technology. "Their generosity will not only secure the financial future of the College, but will also allow Gordon to invest in more student scholarships, enhance faculty salaries, support new and ongoing programs and assist with capital projects."
 
 
D. James Kennedy Dies

BY MICHAEL FOUST                                                                                                              ©2007 Baptist Press

D. James Kennedy, the Presbyterian pastor whose Coral Ridge Ministry television and radio programs were broadcast worldwide and whose Evangelism Explosion lay-witnessing method led to the salvation of millions, died Sept. 5. He was 76.

Kennedy died from complications from a heart attack suffered in December. He had been in poor health since then and retired in August as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a congregation he planted in 1959.

Known for his distinctive baritone preaching voice, Kennedy was a leading conservative in America's cultural battles and often used his broadcasts to touch on such issues as abortion, "gay marriage" and evolution. In addition, he was well-known among evangelicals for his books and sermons about the nation's Christian founding fathers.

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Survey Says Women Solo Pastors Earn More Than Men

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                          ©2007 Religion News Service
 
Women clergy who serve as full-time solo pastors earn more than their male counterparts, a new study of church workers shows. But women who serve as senior pastors -- with other clergy serving beneath them--earn less than males in the same position.
 
An overwhelming majority of solo pastors responding to a survey by Your Church, a ministry of Christianity Today International, were male. But the 6 percent of respondents who were female reported a total compensation that was 10.4 percent higher than male counterparts.
 
Looking at salaries and housing alone, researchers found, on average, that the earnings of female solo pastors were 8.7 percent higher than those of males.
 
The total compensation for female solo pastors was $62,472, compared to $56,558 for their male counterparts. In comparison, the average total compensation for women serving as senior pastors was $66,218 while their male counterparts had an average of $81,432.
 
Total compensation included the sum of salary and benefits, such as housing, retirement, continuing education, and life and health insurance.
 
The survey found the only other position where females reported higher compensation than their male counterparts was secretary/administrative assistant. Information for the survey was gathered through mail and the Internet from January through May from subscribers of publications such as Church Law & Tax Report, Leadership Journal, Church Treasurer Alert! and Christianity Today International e-newsletters. Of the more than 5,750 respondents in 13 different church positions, 661 were solo pastors and 899 were senior pastors.


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