Showing posts with label Cheers and Amen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cheers and Amen. Show all posts

Monday, July 15, 2019

2016 Revisited: Terrill Road Bible Chapel, Fanwood, New Jersey

Terrill Road Bible Chapel, Fanwood, New Jersey
Back in 2016, we needed help to find a church to visit in New Jersey. Thanks to friends of missionary friends, we found ourselves visiting this church and getting to know some of the very welcoming people who are part of the assembly of Terrill Road Bible Chapel. 

We had no idea how far-reaching that visit would turn out to be. Our hosts introduced us to their family, their church fellowship, the Jersey Shore, (and our favorite sermon illustration), and CCML.  Over the next couple of days, we'll be sharing a few other results of our stay in New Jersey.

Terrill Road Bible Chapel
A few weeks ago, I asked a woman in a bar what would make for a good church. She replied, "No priest, no minister, no pastor!" Well good news, Jeanie of Delaware, I've got a church for you!

Terrill Road Bible Chapel was built in Fanwood, New Jersey in 1957, but the Brethren Assembly that worships there has more than a century's worth of roots in the area. The assembly (the preferred term for what we grew up calling the "church" or the "congregation") is associated with the Plymouth Brethren, but Brethren don't seem big on formal ecclesiastical ties of any kind.

We attended the Wednesday night Bible study, where the group is working their way through the book of Hebrews. After a bit of a spirited discussion about whether Hebrews 6:4-6 taught that believers could "lose their salvation," Steve, the study leader, approached the issue with a clear stance of "eternal security." A couple of people respectfully challenged his position, and I was impressed by the biblical knowledge of many in the group of 20.

Also in that same meeting, there was sheet of paper filled with prayer requests. One side was chiefly requests by members of the Assembly, while the other was missionary and ministry requests. After about fifteen minutes of sharing prayer request information, the group spent another fifteen minutes to pray for those requests. (During the Thursday morning men's prayer meeting, we also prayed through that list.)

We were happy to be allowed to join in on the Saturday morning Chapel work day. Thirty people, about a third of the Assembly, showed up to work on the house and grounds. Mindy wiped down kitchen counters while I got to work on the street sign. Officially, the start time was 8:00 am, but some of the window washers arrived closer to 6:00 am. Before noon, everything was in good shape for the afternoon "Ping Pong por Pequenos."

For the past five years, the table tennis tourney has been an annual event, raising money to send Ecuadorean kids to a summer camp. Anyone can compete as a self-proclaimed professional or Forrest Gump (which, from what I remember of the film, should be the pro level, but never mind). Neither Mindy nor I wond the championship belt, but the event raised more than two thousand dollars, so we're okay with that. (If you would like to help Ecuadorean or low-income New Jersey kids with the cost of camp, contact the good folks at the Chapel.)

You may have noticed on the church sign that the names of the worship services are different than at many other churches. The 9:15 am worship is called "The Breaking of the Bread," while the 11:00 am is called "Family Bible Hour." Every week, the first service is a celebration of the Lord's Supper. It is a time of songs and scripture readings, the bread and the cup...but no sermon. Men in the assembly suggest hymns, which are sung without instrumental accompaniment. Other men stand and read Scripture, briefly commenting on it. There are many stretches of silence between the hymns and readings. After about 45 minutes, the bread and cups of juice and wine are passed among the seated assembly, and the service is concluded with a hymn, prayer, and announcements. Some people leave after this service, but many go downstairs for coffee and refreshments.

The Family Bible Hour is when the sermon is preached. First there are hymns and songs with instrumental accompaniment, then announcements again, then the sermon. This morning an itinerant preacher, Ken, concluded a two week sermon series, "Discerning the Will of God."

Not on the sign (but on the calendar on the website) is a third service, "Second Session." Most, but not all, Sundays the assembly goes to the fellowship room in the basement for sack lunches. After a brief lunchtime, the morning preacher continues his teaching, either with more preaching or with a question and answer time.

During the snack time after the breaking of bread, I was able to talk to people about what they appreciated about TRBC. Ben is a homeschool student between his junior and senior years of high school. I asked what he liked about the church, and he said he likes the variety of preaching. Since there is no pastoral staff, there's a rotation of preachers,  usually one of the elders in the assembly. There is no paid staff in most Brethren churches, and only men preach. The Brethren try to replicate New Testament worship, including Paul's instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that women should remain silent in church.

Ben could have attended the high school Sunday school class, but though he likes the people who teach the class, he prefers to hear the adult teaching. Something else he likes about TRBC? Lots of food.

I also spoke with Ken Barrett, the morning's speaker, before the Family Bible Hour. During the week, he works fulltime as a high school history teacher, while on the weekends, he preaches at various churches.  I asked what he appreciated about Brethren Assemblies in general. He said one of the best things about the Brethren is, "they're not trendy." Brethren churches are consistent.

Two things, he said, have always been values in Brethren assemblies that are hot trends in other churches. One would be a high regard of for the Lord's Supper. In this regard, the Brethren are similar to Roman Catholics in the central place Communion plays in the life of the Church. The other value is the priesthood of all believers. In this way, the Brethren are quite different from Roman Catholics. Individual assemblies have no denominational authority over them, and a board of elders rather than a paid clergyperson leads the group.

Ken said this assembly does well at following tradition without letting it become rote and lifeless.

I should mention how we came to TRBC, especially since it was a topic of conversation throughout our time together. Friends we stayed with in Florida contacted friends who suggested the church and their friends who worship there. We contacted the church, their friends contacted strangers welcomed us into their home and into their church. You might wonder what prompts people to that kind of hospitality.

Well, our host, Allan Wilks, decided in 2013 to walk from Scotch Plains, NJ, to his former home town of Toronto, Canada. Along the way, a number of people welcomed him into their home and he wanted to imitate that hospitality. The Wilkses also remember Hebrews 13:2 "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers." In fact, the whole assembly of TRBC values the Word of God and visibly seeks to honor and obey it.

The Lord's Supper assembly
Service Length: 1 hour 12 minutes
Visitor Treatment: we were greeted at the door and introduced during the service by our hosts. Mindy also found a guest book and signed it. Many people chatted with us during the snack time.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 75
Probable Ushers' Count: 80
Snacks: coffee, hot water for tea or hot chocolate, gold fish crackers, water, coffee cake, watermelon, bagels, tangerines, other pastries and fruit.
Musicians: none
Songs: "Jesus Lord, We Know Thee Present"
"Praise the Savior"
"Holy, Holy, Holy"
"Everlasting Glory be"
"I've Found a Friend"
Distance to church: 2 miles
Miles from start: 14,987
Total 2016 Miles: 14,690
Church website:

Family Bible Hour
Service Length: 58 minutes
Sermon Length: 38 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Dean was asked to share briefly about what we're doing this year. A number of people talked to us during the lunch time.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 63
Probable Ushers' Count: 75
Snacks: people brought sack lunches and food to share (either with the table where they were eating or on a table meant for all). Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water were available as well.
Musicians: acoustic guitar (man), bongos (man)
Songs: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"

"My Savior and my God"

Sunday, July 14, 2019

2016 revisited: CCML in Wall, NJ

We originally posted this at Dean and Mindy go to church in June, 2016, while we were in New Jersey on the quest that culminated in Cheers and Amen

Thanks to Alan and Fiona, our NJ hosts, touring CMML's headquarters was only one of the fascinating experiences we had in the state. Over the next couple of days, we'll be sharing a few other results of their hospitality. 

While we were in New Jersey, we got to visit the US headquarters of CMML (Christian Missions in Many Lands), which isn't a missions agency...but for the sake of missionaries around the world functions a little like one.

C: Comfortable accommodations for visiting missionaries and others who need to be in the area for a missions conference or meetings

M: Money donated to missionaries all goes to the missionary. Nothing is held back to run the organization. The missionaries have each been "commended" by Brethren Assemblies in the United States or Canada (rather than being sent through a denominational organization) and serve in a variety of capacities in countries around the world.

M: Magazinesmissionary prayer handbooks, and events are planned here, from missions conferences to magazines. This, along with processing the financial support for missionaries, is a major role CMML plays in the life of the assemblies.

L: Lots of clothes and other necessities are donated for use by missionaries and other workers who travel through the CMML guest house. Pretty much anything a person might need to wear (and a lot of other things) is available. We heard a great story about a young man who knew he'd need a tuxedo the next year for graduation from his school overseas. Though tuxedoes were rarely available, he found one when he looked. It was slightly too big...but fit just right when he graduated a year later.


Monday, November 5, 2018

All the posts: October 29 - November 4

You knew, didn't you, that at the end of the year, we'll be finishing our bar and church wanderings? Movie Churches will live on as long as Dean can find movies to write about (and that list is always growing), but visiting a new place every week, though exciting and fun, is hard to keep up. We're ready to belong, not just visit. 

As we enter the last two months of walking into new bars and going to new churches, we're looking back at the past four years of church visits and the past two years of finding bars. What are you still curious about? What questions do you have that you'd like us to get answers for? And would you like a post with as many statistics as I can cram in? Please email us at deanandmindygotochurch at gmail dot com, send us a facebook message or comment on a post. We'll try to do what we can to complete this project well.*

But you came for links to the past week's posts, didn't you? Well, here you go:

And just in case you're really eager for Christmas and want to put on a show, check out Dean's latest book (which I just discovered is the #1 new release in liturgical dramas and plays!):

*Cheers and Amen, the book about our 2016 quest to visit a church and a bar in every state, is also available on Amazon. Your pastor or bartender probably wants a copy in their Christmas stocking. If you'd like an autographed copy, let us know!

Monday, October 15, 2018

All the posts: October 8 - 14 with bonus church photos (and a cat)

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church,
Cicely Roslyn, Washington
Back when we were on the year-long adventure that led to Cheers and Amen, we used to post pictures of churches we saw. When we stopped in Roslyn, Washington, for this week's bar visit, we also saw some churches that took our fancy. It was too late on Sunday for worship services, but we took pictures to share with you anyway.

And that leads to a little announcement! We've been secretly working on a project that might be useful to you. Back when Dean was a youth pastor, he was usually in charge of the Christmas programs at the churches where he worked. We compiled seven of those skits into a little book, and it's avaiable now in paperback and Kindle. Here's the special part: the paperback is only $5.00 and with that you get the Kindle version free! You can also copy the skits so you only need to buy one book for your whole cast.

Roslyn Presbyterian Church
The skits are short and easy to stage, but they're something new if you're used to the same children-in-bathrobes Christmas play every year. We hope you like this new book!

But you came for the links, didn't you? Here they are:

You were wondering about the furthest east church in Washington, weren't you?

It's part II of Horror Movie Churches Sequels!

Where is this bar anyway?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

We remember a bar we walked into two years ago

With the news that Kelsey Grammer is considering revisiting Frasier, we were reminded of our visit to the bar his character frequented before moving back to his hometown of Seattle. Do you remember when we walked into Cheers?

We were amazed at the number of people who respond to our question about what makes for a good bar with the answer, “You know, like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.” The theme was so constant, we chose the title of our book about visiting a bar and a church in every state, Cheers and Amen, as a nod to the fictional bar.

The show premiered over three decades ago, but we’ve heard this response not just from geezers like ourselves but also from a number of millennials.

So why is this sitcom still part of the contemporary conversation in the same way that Seinfeld is, while shows like Happy Days and Different Strokes are not? Off the top of my head, here are ten reasons Cheers endures.

  1. The Theme Song - Not only have people told us what they want in a bar; occasionally they sing, “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” There’s a reason the song plays on a continuous loop at the Cheers tourist attraction in Boston. The chorus of that song provides a wonderful picture of acceptance and openness even though the show was…
  2. Rarely sentimental - It was never mawkish, but when the show shot for the heart (such as when Coach talked with his daughter about her mother’s beauty or when Norm admits Vera is the only woman he has ever loved), it hits the bullseye.
  3. It’s not about politics - Even though the show had cameos by such pols as Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and Tip O’Neil. Even though many of the actors and creators have been quite vocal about politics outside the show. The cast and crew members embraced quite different politics. Ted Dansen (Sam) spoke at the Democratic Convention and Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) is one of the few well-known Republicans in Hollywood. Woody Harrelson (Woody) has long been an outspoken champion of cannabis and Kristie Alley endorsed Trump. Show producer Rob Long now writes for the conservative National Review. If there was a laugh to be found in politics (such as when Woody ran for office or Sam dated a politician) they’d go there, but the writers wanted to entertain, not to make partisan points.
  4. It’s not about religion - On occasion, characters talk to priests or pray. On occasion the absurdities of the characters are a source of humor (particularly Carla’s weird mix of Catholicism and superstition*), but God and faith are not mocked.
  5. It endured - The show lasted for eleven season and stayed funny. This is a remarkable achievement. Most shows, especially comedies, start repeating themselves after two or three seasons. The show also survived major cast changes. Nicholas Colasanto, who played Coach, died after the second season. Shelley Long, who played Diane, left the show after five seasons to pursue a career on the big screen. Perhaps there is a link to the cast changes and the show’s freshness. New characters didn’t replace the old ones, but brought something utterly new.
  6. The actors have endured - Ted Danson, for instance, has been on a number of popular TV shows since Cheers ended, from Becker to CSI to Fargo. Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith) has a Tony winning career on Broadway. Kelsey Grammer’s spinoff to Cheers, Frasier, was nearly as acclaimed and long running as the original show. Woody Harrelson went on to become a major film star. And Pixar can’t make a film with John Ratzenberger. The continuing success of the cast (and creative staff) of the show is a mark of the show’s quality.
  7. Enduring one liners - Norm’s lines alone continue to be quoted for laughs: “It’s a dog eat dog world, and I’m wearing milkbone underwear.” “Women. You can’t live with them… Pass the beer nuts.” “Once the trust goes out of a relationship, it’s no fun lying anymore.”
  8. Characters as friends - Psychologists have coined the term “parasocial relationship” to describe the one-sided connectedness between real people and fictional characters. All things considered, the gang at Cheers are a fairly smart, witty, and usually kind group of people to hang with, in a meta sense.
  9. Introduced long term storytelling to sitcoms - Before Cheers, the characters on sitcoms and their relationships with other characters didn’t change much. They were set in stone. But this show, beginning with the relationship between Sam and Diane, set up stories that took many episodes, sometimes seasons, to play out. That’s not how TV used to work, but because of Cheers, it’s how it works now.
  10. It really is excellent - Amy Poehler (the creator of Parks and Recreation) claims “It’s the best show that’s ever been.” The show has fans in such diverse television notables as Dan Harmon (Community) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield). But I’ll quit with one other recommendation from the great novelist Kurt Vonnegut:I would rather have written Cheers than anything I’ve written.”

While we were in Boston, we had the opportunity to visit the bar that was used for the exterior shots of Cheers. It used to be called The Bull and Finch, but they’ve given up on that now and call themselves Cheers. Because that’s really the bar everyone seems to want to go to.

*If you are looking to make the cheap joke that Catholicism and superstition are the same thing, that’s not where the show ever goes. Religion is treated with respect. Strangely, even superstition is often treated with respect.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2016 Memories: Utah

We want to recognize some of the wonderful people we met during 2016 whose stories didn't fit into Cheers and Amen, the book about our adventure of visiting a bar and a church in every state. We'll be sharing some of our favorite posts. Check the end of the post for a recent update from former strangers who allowed us to become their friends.  

Jordan Presbyterian Church, West Jordan, Utah
originally posted 11/22/2016
"Please join me in the call to worship,” Brian, the pastor of worship, said as he opened the worship service at Jordan Presbyterian Church (since our visit the church name has changed to Jordan Valley Church), “We’ll read responsively. Please read along with the bold print.”

People struggled through the call to worship until Brian partly asked, partly stated, “There was no bold, was there?” He quickly recovered, and we all enthusiastically read the passage from Exodus 15 together.

In these posts, I usually don’t like to talk about things that churches do wrong. We’re usually only there for one service, so it doesn’t seem right to focus on the mistakes. But here I am, starting right off with something that went wrong. The reason I’m starting there is because it was kind of the theme of the morning -- not that there were a lot of mistakes. The theme of the morning was transparency.

Pastor Jon called the kids to the front for a children’s message (listed as the “Youth Message” in the bulletin). He asked the kids if he could show them a picture of himself. He then held a picture frame (with glass) in front of his face. Some of the kids argued that it wasn’t a picture, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to hold the picture frame in front of their own faces. Jon asked if the kids knew what the word “transparent” meant, and a kid responded, “It means you can see through it.” (Obviously this kid studied his thesaurus more than I did as a kid. Jon said we need to let people see our whole lives, even our weaknesses, because then people can see how God helps us when we struggle.
Transparency was also the theme for Jon’s sermon, with a text taken from 2 Cor. 1: 8 - 11. It was part of a series setting a vision for the church, “Our Journey to Know Christ.” In earlier weeks, he’d spoken on Landmarks for the Journey (Worship, Prayer, Sharing, Discipling); now he was working through unique supplies the church had for the journey. This week’s supply element was “transparency.”

He used the windows in his house as an illustration. He explained that he likes to have plenty of windows on his house, but that he and his family live across the street from a school under construction, so those windows had gotten very dirty. Fortunately, an enterprising youngster came to his door and offered to clean the windows for a dollar a piece ($.50 for screens). Soon the windows were clean, and the family could see out. But people can also see in. For the most part, that’s been okay.

He talked about two mistakes we can make in regards to transparency. We can put up a false front and pretend that there is nothing wrong in our lives, or we can vomit all of our problems out on everyone. Neither of those options is Biblical or healthy. The Apostle Paul didn’t share every problem, but he did say how he felt and how God strengthened him. When we share what is going on in our lives, in our church, people should come away thinking about the goodness and power of God. (Later, he said, “We’re an awkward church. That’s a good thing.”)

I thought the contrast he made next was quite interesting. “So much of religion here in Utah is kept in secret. But we want to be a church with big windows for people to see the power of God in weakness.”

The religion he was talking about, obviously, was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons or LDS). That faith is central to the culture of Utah. The state was founded by Mormons and the LDS Church (which might be commonly called “the Church” in the state) continues to have a great influence on laws and social mores.

Earlier in the week, we visited the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Or, more properly, we visited Temple Square, because non-Mormons (formerly called “Gentiles”) are not allowed inside the Temple, and there are no big windows so you can look inside. We were shown a model of the temple, though: the scale was somewhere between Barbie and Lego figure size.

The people we spoke to in Temple Square, an Elder and a couple of Sister Missionaries who gave us a tour, were all very polite. But after a year of visiting bars where people talked about how they want churches to be “accepting,” I couldn’t help wondering what those people would have thought if they were told, “No, you can’t come into that building.”

“So, I’m not good enough? So, that’s only for you Saints, huh?”

Also, in conversation with the Elder, I noticed a strange paradox. He talked about how many Christians don’t accept LDS as Christians, and that seemed to bother him. But on the tour, we heard that the LDS church was a restoration of the True Church (not a reformation of it) and Christians post-Apostles and pre-Joseph Smith had things all wrong. Why should it bother the Elder that the people he doesn’t view as “True Christians” don’t consider him a True Christian?

The Elder also asked me how many denominations there are in the United States. I said hundreds, and he pointed out that Wikipedia said there are over two thousand. He viewed this as a bad thing, and I said that our tour of churches in the United States had affirmed my thought that the multiplicity of churches in America is a feature, not a bug. Different churches and denominations can minister to different people with different needs.

This variety of denominations is quite confusing to people who leave the Mormon Church. Jon told us that many people in their church are former Mormons (“transitioning Mormons” was the phrase Jon used). It can be confusing to learn that, say, most Methodists and Lutherans don’t really think of themselves as being very different from one another. But there are differences. In fact, Jon wrote a book on choosing a church to help Mormons in this process.

Jon and his wife, Lisa, invited Mindy and me to dinner the night before church. We talked about the challenges of ministering in the area. Lisa said she’s always loved being with LDS people and was tagged as most likely to live in Utah in college. Jon said he viewed working in the area as a puzzle (and he loves puzzles).

Jon said one thing he loved in Utah was how well Christians (meaning non-Mormons) got along. Recently, he was talking to a young pastor of a different denomination who was looking for a place to meet. Jon surprised the other pastor by offering their building.

But that’s how Christians roll in the area, because there are special challenges for churches in the area. For instance, according to Jon, there aren’t Protestant church buildings in South Jordan (Jordan Presbyterian Church meets in West Jordan). South Jordan has two LDS Temples, but obstacles are put in the way of some non-LDS church planters. For instance, a church found property, but other businesses in the surrounding area opposed the church. Schools are a popular site for church plants in other places, but school systems in the area can rent facilities for only four events per year, no more, eliminating them as an option for churches.

Jordan Presbyterian Church is working to sharpen their vision to minister to the many former Mormons who are trying to figure out how to join a new faith community. One of those ways is a change in the church name. The new name hasn’t been announced, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they drop the “Presbyterian” part of their name, since to most people, it doesn’t carry much meaning.

Jon said they they are looking to be a simple church that focuses on Jesus and His forgiveness. They want to do whatever they can to help people on that journey to know Christ.

Jordan “whatever it will be called soon” Church seems to be doing a good job of meeting people’s needs. Between services I talked to Dan, who’s legally blind. I asked him if that hampered him during the service. He told me the church office always prints a large print order of service and song lyrics for him and has for the six years he’s attended. He said they never did that for him in the LDS church.
Not everyone in the church is former LDS. Jeremy said that he and his wife came from an Orthodox Presbyterian background, but when they moved to the area there were no Orthodox Presbyterian Churches nearby. This church is a part of the Presbyterian Church of America, and they thought that might be close enough. After their first visit, they knew they didn’t have to look further. They had young daughters and saw there would be support for their kids, too.

We also met Rhonda. She said she decided to join the church because it reminds her of her church back home. She appreciates that she can know everyone in the church, “it’s family.” I asked her if that would change if the new plans implemented by the church led to growth. She said she’d stay, because again, “it’s family.”
There are unique opportunities and challenges to ministering in this area, but it seems that “the Church Whose Name Will Soon Be Revealed” is up to those challenges.

Miles from start of trip: 43,750
Church Website:

When we contacted Jon about the book, he wrote back to let us know that the church was growing and that a family had recently been baptised. At their baptism, the parents told about their experiences before making the decision to become part of Jordan Valley Church. 

They first talked to Jon when they found out they were going to have a baby and needed to change their way of living and wanted help. Jon invited them to read the Bible with him, and after several meetings, Jon explained the idea of God as one Person Who is also three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The parents said they began to see that their own sins caused Jesus' death, and that though He was perfect, He'd sacrificed Himself so they could have a relationship with God. 

They said, "We were overwhelmed with how much Jesus loved sinners....For the first time, we understood why Jesus mattered. And for the first time we didn't feel so lost. We finally had a reason to be sober and found more strength to do it. Without Jesus and this church we wouldn't be here with our son. We are so thankful for this church being accepting of us and not treating us differently and for caring for us in so many ways. You treated us like family."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

2016 Memories: Mississippi

We want to recognize some of the wonderful people we met during 2016 whose stories didn't fit into Cheers and Amen, the book about our adventure of visiting a bar and a church in every state. To do that, we'll be sharing some of our favorite posts here. Check the end of the post for a recent update from former strangers who allowed us to become their friends.  

QuarterDeck Bar, Long Beach, Mississippi 
originally posted 3/5/16

outside the quarterdeck
People sometimes ask us how we decide we decide which bar in a state to write about. Needless to say, it is a complex and studious process designed with scientific precision. For instance, this week the deciding factor was that we found ourselves in Long Beach, Mississippi, and we wanted to watch the Golden State Warriors play. (The Warriors were attempting to tie the Chicago Bulls' record for consecutive home wins.) We noticed there was a sports bar in town, so that's where we went.

tv at quarterdeck
They have eight TVs at the QuarterDeck; the largest, center screen was playing the Republican debate. (We enjoyed the bar's peanut gallery commentary: "They're arguing like two year olds -- it's great." "Don't change the channel, they might break out in a fist fight.")  I asked the bartender if he would change the channel on another TV from a college hoops game to the Warriors. John Paul the bartender happily made the change and launched into laudatory praise of the wonders of Stephen Curry's shooting skills.

After we ordered, we asked John Paul (J.P.) to tell us about himself. He said he'd been in the bar industry for seventeen years. He seemed young for that, but he explained he started working in restaurants when he was sixteen. He's worked most of those years in the Gulf Coast area, but he's been at the QuarterDeck eight months. He's also working on his Master's in Business Administration.

JP tending bar at QuarterDeck
J.P. seemed a bit apologetic about the small crowd at the bar that night, explaining that when Thursday night football was going they always had a good group, and that on Friday and Saturday nights they usually have one to two hundred people. Since he wasn't too busy, though, we asked him our two questions, "What makes for a good bar?" and "What makes for a good church?"

cucumber martini as mixed by JP
For a good bar, J.P. argued for the importance of the staff knowing their customers. He finds it important to not only know the faces and names of his guests, but also their drinks. He takes pride in anticipating what his customers will order before they order it. (A number of other guests assured us that J.P. and the rest of the bartender staff of QuarterDeck do remember their customers.) "My 200 people are my 200 people. No one could buy them," J.P. said.

sign on quarterdeck
He also argued for the importance of quality and consistency in service. J.P. said he could be a "bonehead" outside of work but when he was at work, he takes his work seriously. Bartenders are often offered to be treated to a drink by a customer, but J.P. always refuses because he wants to be able to give 100 %. The bar is also consistent in its hours. The sign says they close at 2:00 am, and they stay open until 2:00 am, even if the people are sparse and the weather is harsh. Often, J.P. said, bartenders from other places will come to QD after their bars close.

When we asked J.P. what made for a good church, he first said what he didn't like in a church: hypocrites. "I went to a youth group, and kids would make pledges to remain a virgin and say they wouldn't drink, and during the week I'd see and hear about them breaking their word." But he had nothing but kind words for the Baptist Church in Mississippi. Beginning at the age of five, J.P. lived in an orphanage, the Baptist Children's Village, where he remained until he was on his own. His parents were abusive, and he appreciated the safety he found at the Children's Village. "I'm the product of donations. Where I am today is because of the generosity of random people who made donations; of time and money and goods."

every night's special at QuarterDeck
The customers we talked to were all enthusiastic about the bar and especially the staff at Quarter Deck.

Retired Petty Officer First Class Gibson appreciates the many special nights: Taco Tuesdays, W whiskey and wings on Wednesdays, free pool on Thursdays and karaoke on various nights. There's always stuff to attract people. He said, "When I walk in here, I don't have to request a drink -- everyone knows I'm having a Bud Light."

His fiancĂ©e Stacy added, "Everybody's welcome here. It's almost like family. Almost like Cheers."

As for a good church, Gibson said he thinks the church should be "open to everybody whether Baptist, gay, lesbian, I don't care. God accepts all of us. I'm sure when we get to St. Peter's gate and ask forgiveness if we do what we think was right, he'll let us in."

night at QuarterDeck
Aaron of the Air Force likes a bar where he can hear himself think. And meet women. He calls himself a "checkbook Catholic," attending four times a year. He appreciates it when the church speaks English, having once or twice found himself in Mass where only Spanish -- or Latin -- was used. When he was in Basic he appreciated the Catholic Church having alcohol.

We met Julie and Paul, a married couple who look forward to embarking on an adventure. They plan to fix up their sailboat to explore the world. Paul is a writer, and Julie is a photographer, so they anticipate recording their adventures. For some reason, Mindy and I really liked Julie and Paul.

nobody playing pool just now
In the bar, Julie appreciates when the staff seems happy to have you there. In the church, she appreciates when people help each other. She said that in this area, people will pitch in to babysit or help someone move when needed.

I didn't ask Paul and Julie what they'd do out on the ocean without any bars or churches. I guess I'll have to find out how they manage when they start writing about it.

Last week, we contacted QuarterDeck to let them know about the book (and to thank JP once again for how he'd made us feel welcome). We were sad to learn that JP passed away last September. We'll never forget him.