A non-denominational church is conducting dog-friendly Sunday services in a bar in Austin, Texas.
The City Community Church meets at La Zona Rosa, a music venue and bar, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Church members say meeting in a bar and allowing dogs seem to make people feel more comfortable, and it only takes about an hour and a half to make the switch from bar to church — a simple matter of cleaning up beer bottles.
Once the services are over, the establishment returns to being a bar.
It all got started a few months ago when the church started giving out breakfast tacos and dog biscuits to local dog walkers and bikers, said Scott Harmon, 50, who helped start the church. Soon members started encouraging dog walkers to stay and bring their pets inside, Harmon said, and the dogs proved to be very well-behaved.
“A few weeks ago, a German shepherd tried to eat one of the smaller dogs, which was a little awkward,” the Rev. Matthias Haeusel said. “But, generally, they’re very well-leashed.”
Haeusel said the church, one of many churches in Austin that meet in unconventional locations, has a core group of about 25 regular attendees.
“La Zona Rosa is a landmark that represents what Austin is proud of — the creativity, the music,” Haeusel said. “What better place for our church?”
Harmon says the decision was also based on the desire to leave a “light-footprint church. Our strategy is to use buildings already there. It doesn’t make sense to have a building used only on Sunday.”
Harmon said he and a small group of church members arrive at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday to clean up beer bottles and put up baby gates to block off the pool tables and the area behind the bar.
Even though letting in dogs draws attention to the church, Haeusel says that members don’t want to be defined by that.
“It’s easy to get pigeonholed as the ‘dog church,’ but we’re about Jesus. We just happen to be in a place where people can bring dogs,” he said. “This isn’t a gimmick. We’re just trying to love our neighbors.”
(Photo: Deborah Cannon /AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)