By Mark A. Leon
Charleston, South Carolina, known to so many as the Holy City, is decorated with church steeples throughout its majestic skyline. It is a place of recreation and pleasure, but also where so many come to reinforce or restore their faith.
Sometimes, faith can come from the most unlikely places including a music/concert venue and bar. The Charleston Music Farm has witnessed some of the most powerful forces in rock, rap, punk, funk, bluegrass, folk, pop and country appear on stage over the years. Yet, every Sunday at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM, it is converted to a house of worship for families, students, visitors and homeless. It is a haven, without prejudice or judgement. The City Church partners with this venue to create a setting unlike most houses of worship you will ever see.
Across the street at the museum, a daycare is run to keep the young and rambunctious youngsters at bay while the parishioners spend 90 minutes in song, prayer and community.
At the end, they are released to the arms of their loving parents with smiles and warmth.
As you enter the building, you hear a young Christian rock band play music from the heart. At the bar, you are greeted with French press coffee and local pastries.
I have often attended services alone, but have never felt alone. During the early part of the services, we are asked to turn to our neighbors, shake hands and offer a warm greeting. It is a way to remind us that we are all here together and for a brief moment in time, it doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor, happy or sad, married or single, but accepted.
The sermons are human, refreshing and pure. From the NFL playoffs to the tragedy at Sutherland Springs, the words are not about preaching a religion, but understanding our place in this world and how we can work together to make it better.
Often, I will look around and think that only seven short hours ago, these floors were packed with beer drinking music lovers screaming the words of their favorite band playing on stage and now we are in a place of peace and reflection. In a way, both emphasize faith and loyalty to a cause, in just slightly different ways.
As my eyes wander around the hall, I am comforted by the vision of students, elderly, families, couples and homeless sitting together in a harmonious place.
The Sunday services at the Charleston Music Farm at 37 John Street in downtown Charleston reminds us that church is not about the physical structure, but the message. The City Church in partnership with the Charleston Music Hall is a place, regardless of your denomination or level of faith, safe for all to come, listen, pray and belong.