I woke up with David Vienna’s writing on my arm, a souvenir from the night before. David Vienna is one of two local celebs in our little arts town. The other is Glen Starkey and he’s the one I was meeting along with some other friends at McCarthy’s—an Irish dive with strong drinks, sparkling shamrocks and a jukebox that shuffles 45s of Patsy Cline and Conway Twitty.
Glen and I met in grad school and lately he’d been talking about showing up at church.
“Don’t you think the pews will melt and sizzle when you sit down?” Our friend Brandon commented, listening from the far end of the table.
Glen was getting a lot of this whenever he mentioned his new interest in things like God and church. See, Glen’s not just famous for writing in our local paper (David’s famous for that too—their columns usually slam corporate movies and make reference to wild nights at McCarthy’s). Glen’s also famous for his extracurricular activities: pot, porn, whiskey and women. So granted, his friends think it’s absurd that Glen Starkey of all people would take interest in church.
But when Brandon made his sizzling pews comment, I assured Glen he’d be welcomed on Sunday. “There’s no pews,” I said. “And the pastor doesn’t just assume that everyone there is Christian or that they even agree with him.”
“Really?” David leaned in, Brandon went back for a second round, and Glen announced he was going out for a smoke. “So, you’re really a Christian? Like…” David hesitated, “a serious one?”
This was the first time we’d met and all I knew about David Vienna was what a friend told me: He openly railed against Jesus freaks and all things conservative. It was a great conversation to start after two strong drinks (okay, four, but only if you count the ones I had before dinner). But there we were—talking about Jars of Clay and Christian tattoo parlors and Sixpence None the Richer.
When Glen came back, I caught him up on what David was writing on my arm. “It’s a lead on a story. Santa Maria Tattoo—they hold a Bible study right there in the tattoo parlor.”
“Yeah, did you know Jen writes for a Christian magazine,” David said. “A hip one.” That’s not the word I used to describe Relevant, but David summed it up pretty nice.
Later in the night, Glen said to me, “I do want to come to church. I’m very confused right now, about a lot of things.”
“Too many things to get into right now.” Glen gestured to our empty glasses. “But, thanks for asking…I think I’ll come this Sunday.”
As we filed out of the bar, Brandon waved to me and said, “Call me when you wanna get spiritual.”
Here was someone who was sitting on the sidelines for most of the night, talking to other friends, but still following the jist of my conversation with David and Glen. Never once, though, had I thought of inviting him to church. Brandon and I went way back, as friends go in this town, almost 10 years. He was a writer too and the kind of person you always want at a party because he can entertain an entire group with his stories. In fact, I threw a little cocktail party a few months back and even though Brandon and I hadn’t talked in almost a year, I sent him a hand-written invitation, an e-mail and called him the day of the party because I wanted to make sure he could be there. And tonight, I was the one who invited him to McCarthy’s.
And yet I didn’t think about asking him to go to church with me.
“I will, Brandon. I will.” I pointed at him with certainty as I walked out the door. Maybe next time, it won’t take those few drinks to realize what Jesus would do.