Church on the margins: Two Rivers reaches out to lost, lonely in Charleston

By Jessica Brodie

DANIEL ISLAND—It’s not your typical church scene. You park outside a stadium, then climb a short flight of stairs to find yourself in a pub—only instead of a host waiting to seat you, there’s a smiling church greeter offering a marker and a peel-and-stick nametag.

You’re ushered to a long mahogany bar, only instead of an array of questionable libations, you’re offered regular or decaf coffee and your choice of brownies or chocolate chip cookies.

Loose gatherings perch at tables scattered around the room in all manner of dress, from khakis to sundresses and high-end heels to flip-flops. Kids intermingle, some at tables coloring, some in the back playing Legos, some eating breakfast biscuits and chatting with parents.

There’s an excitement in the air, a sense of camaraderie and fellowship. A sense of belonging.

This is Two Rivers Church, a United Methodist community in Charleston, and all of it—the fellowship, the laidback vibe—is intentional.

Two Rivers is a new church start that meets Sunday mornings at Three Lions Pub at the MUSC Health Stadium. Its pastor, the Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby, said they formed to reach people who don’t necessarily feel welcome or wanted in church.

“From the beginning, our vision was to reach out to people who feel on the margins of church life, who’d given up on church or felt ‘preached out’ of church,” Hudson-Jacoby said.

They started meeting monthly in November and weekly in late March. The Sunday the Advocate visited, they were on Week Six and kicking off a new series, “You Can’t Say That.”

The people of Two Rivers run the gamut: older people and young families, gay and straight, racial and economic diversity, diversity of ability. A growing number of deaf and hearing-impaired are beginning to come. Some of the Two Rivers flock are United Methodists who moved to Charleston and began seeking another United Methodist church to attend. Others have not ever been to church as adults.

“We really embrace the fullness of community,” Hudson-Jacoby said. “We’ve found there’s a hunger for a welcoming, diverse faith community. People are flocking to that. We’ve found the more open we are, the more people are embracing it.”

Stanton Adams, part of the ministry team, said the church works hard to intentionally reach out to people and lift up its five core values— inclusive, vulnerable, authentic, creative and beautiful—plus keep a focus on Jesus-centered, service-oriented ministry.

“Most of the people who’ve come have stayed,” Adams said. “They feel there’s a space here where they finally feel welcome.”

And it’s not just so-called “misfits” or church-outsiders.

Adams said, “We were shocked at the number of young families who feel that way.”

The fact that it meets in a bar doesn’t hurt, either. While the setting was not intentional but rather the only affordable space they could find, Hudson-Jacoby said they love the way the clusters of tables and cheerful lighting have added to a welcoming space—and found it’s lowered a ton of barriers.

“People have said ‘I think my husband will come if it’s in a bar,’” Hudson-Jacoby said.

That works for them. All are welcome. All are loved.

Jackie Clarke, who attends with her husband and children, said she appreciates the multicultural, diverse nature of Two Rivers, as well as the way it works hard to involve itself in the community, such as the Maypole diversity event many at the church attended the day prior.

“It reaches out of bounds to the lost, the lonely,” Clarke said.

Just as Jesus did: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

For more on Two Rivers, a United Methodist community:

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