North Texas Church-in-a-Pub

Fort Worth brewpub hosts church services for the wicked and thirsty

Fort Worth brewpub hosts church services for the wicked and thirsty

Craft beer at Zio Carlo in Fort Worth
Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills sponsors a church service in a bar. Zio Carlo Magnolia/Facebook
Church in a Pub at Zio Carlo in Fort Worth
Chuck Berry and Phillip Heinze lead worship at Zio Carlo Magnolia Brewpub. Phillip Heinze/Facebook
Tapwall at Zio Carlo in Fort Worth
Craft beer is on the agenda at Kyrie Fort Worth, though not all members choose to drink. Zio Carlo Magnolia/Facebook
Zio Carlo Magnolia Brewpub in Fort Worth
Zio Carlo Magnolia Brewpub in Fort Worth hosts a variety of events, including a Sunday night church service. Zio Carlo Magnolia/Facebook
Craft beer at Zio Carlo in Fort Worth
Church in a Pub at Zio Carlo in Fort Worth
Tapwall at Zio Carlo in Fort Worth
Zio Carlo Magnolia Brewpub in Fort Worth

It's no secret that people like to gather in places where alcohol is served. What is a surprise, however, is that it took churches this long to realize it. Since 2012, pastor Phillip Heinze of Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills has organized a Sunday night worship service at Fort Worth's Zio Carlo Magnolia Brewpub

The interdenominational group has grown to about 30 regulars who listen to Christian music, pray and sip on craft beer before communion.

Heinze got the idea for holding church at a bar in 2010 from a similar group that met at Mambos Bar & Grill. Heinze proposed the idea to his congregation, and they readily accepted it. 

 "Pretty much anything I do is going to be a little bit crazy by conventional standards," pastor Phillip Heinze says. 

"Calvary is a congregation that doesn’t think anything is too 'out there.' They are excited about doing new things," Heinze says.

And thus Kyrie Fort Worth was born. The group is similar to the Boston-based Church-in-a-pub and boasts the tagline "For the wicked and the thirsty." The word Kyrie is the basis of a Greek phrase that means "Lord have mercy."

"Pretty much anything I do is going to be a little bit crazy by conventional standards," Heinze says. His church allows homeless men to spend the night and then provides breakfast for them in the morning. Heinze hasn't kept office hours in two years. Instead, he works out of coffee shops, restaurants and bars, where he is more likely to meet and interact with people. 

Adam Gonzales, a managing partner at Zio Carlo, says Kyrie Fort Worth is full of good people following what they believe. Zio Carlo was originally closed on Sundays, so the Kyrie crowd was using the space privately. When Gonzales and his partners decided to open the pub on Sundays, they saw no reason to kick out Kyrie to let in the public. 

"I'm not religious at all. But for me it is just good people who are following what they believe, and that is totally acceptable and what our nation was founded on," Gonzales says. He added that only two people have ever complained about the pub's church service.

"The people who are into that message kind of tune in, and the people who aren't into it, for the most part, aren't bothered by it." 

Christianity and booze haven't always been at odds. Jesus and early Christians openly drank wine. But several denominations have since eliminated the practice, and teetotaling Christians are a common sight in the South.

However, plenty of Christians consume alcohol, and many incorporate wine at communion. Most people would differentiate between a sip of wine from a priest's chalice and a pint of beer, but Kyrie Fort Worth is attempting to bridge the gap. 

"We want to bring in enough people to make it worthwhile for the bar and also have the ability to reach people who otherwise might not hear the Lord's Prayer or get communion," Heinze says.

Although many attendees imbibe, they also insist that beer isn’t being used to lure new members as other news outlets have suggested.

"It's just an added bonus in my eyes," Michelle Denison said on Facebook. "I love Kyrie, and I don't drink beer when I'm there. I definitely come for the people and the peace time."

After all, there's no shortage of places to get beer without a helping of Jesus in Dallas-Fort Worth. "This isn't about luring anyone. This is about taking the Gospel to where the people are," Criss Forshay posted on Facebook.

Heinze hopes to expand the Kyrie Fort Worth model to Dallas proper and is looking at locations in Uptown. "It doesn't have to be a bar. It could be a coffee shop or a restaurant that has some down time.

"We're not trying to come in at the most crowded point and set up a church service. We want to help business."