The neighborhood pub is one of Wisconsin’s favorite places to get together for friends and fellowship. On Dickinson Road in De Pere, the Chicago Street Pub and Grill is a hopping happy hour spot. There’s a saying that Wisconsin has more bars than grocery stores, and even if that’s true, the Chicago Street Pub is likely the only one that shares their building with a church.
In the same building, one door down, is the New Hope United Methodist Church. The pub and church share the building and the parking lot, but otherwise have separate entrances and maintain mostly opposite schedules. New Hope pastor Rebecca Rutter has served at churches around the country, but none quite like this.
“The District Superintendent called me to let me know about this appointment and he said ‘Oh and by the way, New Hope is sharing a building with a bar’ and I thought well this is a fun thing,” Rutter said.
Pub manager Austin DeCleene says his customers often find it humorous.
“You would never think that those two things would be right alongside each other, usually they’re kind of on opposite sides of the spectrum,” DeCleene said.
Especially considering the history of the Methodist Church. Founder John Wesley was a staunch opponent of drinking.
“He really emphasized abstinence from alcohol, and the Methodist movement in the U.S. was similar in that they were part of the prohibition movement,” Rutter said.
Today the church preaches moderation, so New Hope isn’t pushing prohibition. In fact, church members occasionally hold meetings at the pub. The two tenants work together to make their relationship a fruitful one. Churchgoers have a spot to spend Sunday afternoon praising the Packers, and Rutter says bar patrons are always welcome to walk over and give her church a shot.
“We’re both places that are welcoming to all people, we’re both places where people feel connection and a sense of family, and while they feed people and quench thirst in a very physical sense, we do that spiritually and so in a way there’s a lot of overlap,” Rutter said.
Instead of worrying about their differences, these two unlikely neighbors have learned to celebrate their similarities. That’s a sermon that should raise everyone’s spirits.
“With church and a bar right by each other, you can’t get any more Wisconsin than that, that’s for sure,” DeCleene said.
New Hope United Methodist Church puts a musical twist on communion by taking traditional communion liturgy and putting it to the tunes of popular music.