I parked past a back alley in the pub’s space for cars a couple blocks off of Lafayette Street. The intersection is Colfax, historically and notably the part of town full of sleazy dive bars, trouble, and cheap motels that people get for Lord knows what.
When the front door shut behind me and the bell rang, I asked the nearest cocktail server where I might find the group I had come to meet.
“Ma’am, where might I find the After Hours group?”
“Oh – that’s downstairs, hon.”
One wooden step at a time, I slithered against an empty dining room and continued towards the sound of laughter and loud voices. I glanced about 20 yards off to the left and around 20 people were scattered in a small corner of the bar. Maybe it’s them?
I started to see a few of them paying their bar tabs and that the tall glasses of Colorado’s delicious craft beer were nearly empty. I stumbled a moment while I looked at my black sports watch on my left wrist and thought, dangit. Forgot to wear that thing today. What time was it?
I approached two older men and a middle-aged woman and introduced myself.
“Hi there, is this After Hours?
“Oh you sweet thing! Yes this is it,” the older woman excitedly yelled. In that moment she also saw my hands full of three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It happened to be the day that instead of making sandwiches together, each person brings a couple to donate for the following day’s distribution. This woman sure ain’t Southern but she saw those things and before taking them exclaimed, “bless your heart, sweetie.”
She hugged me too and I was like woah. What’s going on?
Turns out, I read this week’s online posting wrong – on days we meet at the Irish Snug (this particular pub), we start at 6:30pm, not 8:00 like other weeks. Oops.
I heard about After Hours here: After Hours Denver
Well, really, the link came from my dear friend Michelle who heard about it and thought it might be something I would like to check out and maybe be a part of.
After Hours is spear-headed by Pastor Jerry and a group of people who embrace God’s love in whatever form that might look like. Rotating every Monday, the group meets at different Denver bars to put together sandwiches for distribution in the homeless community but also to discuss God’s word and hear a sermon every couple of weeks. Read carefully: this happens in a bar. This group believes in trying to explore God in a different, unique way, welcoming all who come. Anyone who walks in the door is welcome.
I saw a little bit of everything. Homeless men, young professionals, people of both sexual orientations, government officials, people all over the spectrum. I stood at a small round table after being introduced to the group and talked to an ex-parole officer, an environmentalist, and a homeless man about the great need for water in our country. And the origination of the “Cornish Pasty” (no, not pastry). Evidently this is totally a mid-west thing (at least in Indiana) so I just sat back and listened. Because I was so late, I missed the sermon, but I stuck around for over an hour for some pretty open and fluid and random conversation.
I was told later in the evening that Pastor Jerry’s sermon was focused on racism, abuzz like most of America post-Ferguson.
What I noticed quickly was that no one’s physical or societal classification seemed to matter. I was only present for a short time but first impressions do carry a lot of weight.
The Pastor slipped me his card as we started to exit and head back upstairs to the cool air of a slow-ending summer. It was in the shape of coaster, colored in scarlet red, and with yellow writing it said,
“Love more laugh more judge less.”
Chances are, I’ll be back. Hopefully on time.