At the City Community Church in Austin, all guests are welcome — even the ones with fleas.The church, which meets Sunday mornings at La Zona Rosa, a music venue and bar on Fourth Street, allows dogs to attend services with their owners.It began a few months ago when the church started giving out breakfast tacos, Clif bars, 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."Wow! But, there is more:
Church members say meeting in a bar and allowing dogs are ways to serve the community and make people feel comfortable.The City Community Church is a nondenominational church started in September 2008 with help from Hill County Bible Church, although it now operates independently. Haeusel said the church has a core group of about 25 regular attendees, plus a number of visitors each week.It's one of many churches in Austin that meet in unconventional locations such as concert halls, coffee shops, and bars.Haeusel, 38, says members chose to rent the space at La Zona Rosa because most churches move to the suburbs as they grow, and his group's mission is to bring the message of the church back to the central city."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?"It also represents some interesting "bar smells":
Harmon says the decision was also based on environmental reasons."We want to be a light-footprint church," he said. "Our strategy is to use buildings already there. It doesn't make sense to have a building used only on Sunday."Although Harmon says there were some raised eyebrows at the idea of meeting in a bar, most members were more concerned about making the environment safe for children. 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.My eyebrows are still raised. Sacred space anyone??!!