Two men are playing cards at a corner table, several people sit at the bar to enjoy a beer and watch the game and a young family comes in for an early dinner on a Sunday afternoon. The scene is fairly typical of a small community bar, with one catch—these individuals and more have gathered here to discuss God.
The Gathering at 10th Street Saloon in Plainwell is a monthly occurrence resulting from a partnership between Otsego United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church of Plainwell during which individuals come together for fellowship, food, fun and often a couple drinks.
United Methodist pastor Joe Shaler said, “More and more, the movement is for churches to take the love of God wherever they can, rather than stay in the building.”
Shaler said he hopes the congregations will invite friends or acquaintances to attend The Gathering with them.
“There are many people who likely wouldn’t step foot into a church,” he said. “This offers a neutral setting to come hear about God’s love.”
Danene Gless, who leads the meeting, originally had the idea to have something in a bar in 2005.
“I kept thinking it was a great idea, I’ve had some of the best conversations of my life in a bar over a beer,” she said. “It just seemed to be too huge of a task.”
Saloon owners Kathy Hardy and Katie Haley attend Shaler’s church. He said when they were approached, they were “both really excited about serving God. It was a natural fit.”
Plainwell’s pastor Kathy Brown said while attendance isn’t colossal—typically between 40 and 50 people attend depending on the weather—numbers are not the reason for it.
“We are trying to touch individual lives and bring hope to folks who are in need of it,” she said. “Some people have been hurt by the traditional church or have been turned off by what they see in the media. It’s a common entry point for anyone who is interested.”
“We’re not disruptive or forceful, people can come and go as they please,” said Ray Grimm. “We just wanted to make something that was laid back that everyone can enjoy and have a good burger.
Anyone interested is invited to attend the third Sunday of each month at approximately 4:15 p.m. at 10th Street Saloon, 136 N. Main St., Plainwell.