By CHRIS MANSON
Services tonight will be held at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin.
No, this isn’t a wake. It’s “church for the real world,” part of Shoreline Church’s three-years-and-counting mission to bring its message to the people.
Eric Partin, founder and lead pastor of the church, said he wanted to start church at the popular eatery for several reasons. The McGuire’s service is designed for people working in the service industry that cannot make it to Sunday services, but also provides a place where “people feel comfortable in a safe environment, where you can bring a friend who won’t feel out of place.”
The owner of McGuire’s was receptive to the idea. Like any other private party, the church pays a fee to use the restaurant’s upper deck.
FOLLOWING TUESDAY NIGHT church services at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin, Shoreline Church founder and lead pastor Eric Partin (right) greets members Bryce and Kimberly Secondine. The couple joined the unconventional, nondenominational church seven months ago. “We were invited, and it fit our personalities,” says Kimberly. (Photo by Chris Manson)
“Church in a Bar” began April 1. Shoreline Church continues to offer nondenominational Christian services Sunday mornings at Rave Motion Pictures in Destin at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
The congregation includes some regulars and more than a few who wander in off the street. “We don’t care if they drink,” said Partin. “We just want them to hear the message of Christ.”
There is a band made up of musicians who play in local bar bands and worship groups. The seven-piece outfit includes two guitarists, a singer, a drummer, a percussionist, a bassist, and a keyboard player. They begin the service with a few songs that try to adhere to the evening’s message. Tonight’s songs include Depeche Mode’s “People Are People” and Collective Soul’s “The World I Know.” As the band rocks the upstairs deck, lyrics are superimposed on the three monitors placed throughout.
A Youtube clip follows, and then pastor Sam Blowes delivers “the talk” in a warm, conversational tone. Tonight he is wrapping up a series titled “Here Comes the Judge.” The message deals with confronting people with their problems without being judgmental.
The 600-plus member church does not have a building yet, but frequently offers baptisms at Henderson Beach. “We may have a building one day,” said Partin. “But we would rather have the small campuses. We’ve also been approached by two Walton County establishments, and we have our eyes on DeFuniak Springs, too.”
Partin said the response to the bar services has been mostly positive. “People who don’t go to church think it’s great,” he said. “We believe Jesus would be here. He hung out where the people were.”
Shoreline Church’s founder was born and raised in Destin, but never went to church. At age 25, Partin moved to south Florida and began attending services regularly. He soon realized his dream was to return to his hometown and start a church.
Thus began the late night benedictions at McGuire’s Irish Pub allowing patrons to get in the spirit of things.