Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby discusses her ‘church in a bar’ on Daniel Island and progressive theology
(Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series on Two Rivers United Methodist Church, which currently meets on Sundays inside Three Lions Pub within the Charleston Battery facilities on Daniel Island.)
Two Rivers United Methodist Church services might be the only time religious discussions have happened in a bar without things getting at least slightly heated.
The congregation began to meet at The Three Lions Pub at the MUSC Health Stadium in March 2018, and while it is not their permanent location, it is a worship spot that might raise eyebrows for some. The topics discussed at Two Rivers services can be just as attention-grabbing. The church openly supports both the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ community and has examined mental health problems.
“Two Rivers Church openly supports all groups and movements that have been marginalized in our society – because we believe that is where Jesus spent most of his time, with those who were ignored, oppressed and overlooked,” said the church’s pastor, Reverend Wendy Hudson-Jacoby.
“We are committed to being anti-racist and fully inclusive in our worship, our service and our fellowship with others, because we believe that all are welcome in God’s kingdom.”
Hudson-Jacoby instills incredibly progressive values in her sermons, even advocating for non-Christians to attend services and bring their doubts and questions to the table.
To learn more about the Two Rivers United Methodist Church and their Sunday congregation in a bar, The Daniel Island News spoke with Hudson-Jacoby about the origin of her church and her hopes for its future.
The Daniel Island News (DIN): How did your congregation get started?
Wendy Hudson-Jacoby (WHJ): Some people might call it happenstance, we call it how God arranges these things. We had been looking for a place to hold worship services. I was sent here exactly a year ago, out to Clements Ferry and Daniel Island to start a new United Methodist Church, and we don’t have a presence in this corridor. With as quickly as development was happening out here, and as fast as things were starting to grow, we really wanted the opportunity to have a presence in this growing community and also be able to partner with new neighbors and old neighbors in
creating a place of justice, a place of hope, and a place of service for everybody that lives here. So, we started looking around for a place we could hold worship services, and available meeting spaces are very, very slim on this corridor. We started our life at Bull’s Farm. We worshipped there once a month in November, December, and January. We loved being out there, but two of our three worship services— it was 34 degrees outside. We realized being outdoors was not a long term sustainable solution for us. I had a friend who had worked with the Battery on some different volunteer activities. She called me one day out of the blue and said ‘you know, you should call over to the Charleston Battery and see if you could meet in the pub.’ We set up a meeting, and it turned out it was a wonderful connection between the two of us.
DIN: Why did you say “yes” to the idea of church in a pub?
WHJ: We want our community and our church to be a place for people who have felt like they’ve been on the margins of traditional church. Whether it’s folks who have never had a church experience, maybe it’s folks who have had a very negative or very limiting church experience, people who would not feel comfortable, for a whole variety of reasons, walking into a traditional church building— we always knew we wanted to create a place that was welcoming and lowered the barriers for people. When we saw the pub and looked around, we thought it was a really great marriage between their available space and their hospitality, and our desire to really offer something different.
DIN: Your church is noted for its progressive statements on Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ community, anxiety and depression. Why has your church openly discussed and supported these topics?
WHJ: One of the great gifts of being United Methodist is that we’re a ‘Big Tent.’ We have a wide range of beliefs, ways we look at scripture, look at one another, and approach the world with God. When we first started meeting, almost a year ago on July 10, we had our first gathering together of about 12 people in a living room in a neighborhood off Clements Ferry Road. Very few of them knew each other, but as we talked, met, prayed, and as we talked to our friends and our neighbors, we realized that people were really hungering for an experience with Jesus, but from a more theologically progressive point of view, a more open and inclusive point of view. There were very few congregations [in the Charleston area] that offered that particular ministry.
DIN: Why do you think it’s important for Two Rivers to reach out to the “margins” of the church going crowd?
WHJ: One of the gifts of our city is that you can find almost every Christian expression, from very small churches, big steeple, 300-year-old congregations to new churches with the big band, the big sound system, but we realized there were folks, even within that breadth, who were hungering for a different type of connection, a different type of community. We wanted to be able reach out to folks who those more traditional experiences were not serving.
Look for more questions and answers with Rev. Hudson-Jacoby in next week’s Daniel Island News.