fishes and beer"
Bar None is a church in a pub. Chris Coffey, one of the founder members, comments. "The bar staff in the pub really want to work in the basement room we hire, on a Sunday evening. They love the atmosphere. They get involved in the discussions, and theyíve even asked for prayer. I guess thatís always been a bench mark for me. If those guys arenít stood there cringing, hating every minute of it, when they have to be there, then thatís pretty good...
Bar None grew out of a chance meeting at Spring Harvest. Chris met up with Bill and Rachel Taylor-Beales and started discussing ideas for new ways of doing church, in a "non-churchy" sort of way. As Chris describes it,
The idea of "church in a pub" came from there.
Things only started to happen when Chris came to live in Cardiff, near Bill and Rachel, and they got the backing of Glenwood, a local independent church. A couple of people from the church went round local pubs, suggesting the idea, and the group were amazed with the positive response they got from all of them. Theyíd expected it to quite a battle, but most pubs were enthusiastic.
They eventually settled on The Oz Bar, in the city centre, which had a good basement room. Chris says
Bar None was created - and has now been running for two years.
For the first evenings Bill and Rachel played their own music, with bibles and newspapers set out on some of the tables. They soon realised that people were so interested in talking, that most people just werenít listening to the music. This did cause some tension, once other local musicians began to come and play.
One Sunday a month, Bar None hold a dedicated discussion night. A recent example was a debate started by a young Christian just off to join the army, and a Christian pacifist, about the rights and wrongs of going to war. Each said a short piece, then the floor was open for debate. On the other Sundays in the month there will be a short ten minute talk - maybe a story, or someone playing and talking about a song they have written. The discussion will tend to flow from that.
To begin with the group were attracting about 100 people per night - many of them curious Christians from local churches. Theyíve now dropped to a steady 30-40. They are mostly people who donít regularly attend a "normal" church, because for whatever reason, they donít feel that they fit. Some have been hurt by the church in the past. Some have never been involved. A substantial number grew up going to church, but just drifted away, because it didnít make much sense to them.
Bar None form the fourth, city-centre, congregation of Glenwood church. Itís important to the leaders that they are considered a congregation in their own right. They donít exist to be a "feeder", moving people into the more regular congregations. For the people who go along, Bar None is their church.
Worship has been an ongoing issue for discussion, for the leadership of Bar None. There is a smaller, midweek group that meet like a house group, and worship together. While Chris, Bill and Rachel are keen that worship isnít just the preserve of an "elite group", they also donít want to push the issue on a Sunday. The majority of the Sunday regulars wouldnít necessarily call themselves Christians. The team are keen not to cheapen worship by pushing people into expressing something that isnít true for them. Prayer does happen on a regular basis, on a Sunday, though, arising out of the discussions all round the room.