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@ the Water, Perdido Key, Florida, USA
Worshipper: Preacher's Kid.
Worship @ the Water, Perdido Key, Florida, USA.
An outreach of the Perdido
Bay United Methodist Church.
The Perdido Bay UMC holds this service at the Flora-Bama®,
a 1960s roadhouse/beach bar. There is no architectural sanity
to the form and shape of the collection of buildings that comprise
the place – each component was added as the demand for it developed.
The structures were severely damaged in September 2004 by the
landfall of Hurricane Ivan, and rebuild/restore has been the
word of the day since. The bar is being rebuilt as close as
possible to the original structures, subject to the newly-imposed
coastal zoning statutes. Included are the usual bar, dance floor
with bandstand, pool hall, and oyster bar common to all such
establishments. On Sunday morning it becomes a chapel.
This sort of worship is unusual and unique to Southern seaside
towns. Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church conducts a similar
service at a restaurant and bar on Pensacola Beach. In addition
to Worship @ the Water, the church holds two traditional services
and one contemporary service each Sunday in their main building.
They maintain a community center that is available for rental
to "provide opportunities for a growing relationship with
God." They also run a thrift shop, called the Redemption
Center, the proceeds of which go to support their missions and
charitable activities as well as local community groups. Among
their other programs for children, youth and adults are a "Grumpy
Old Men's Group" for seniors and "foyer groups"
small groups of eight to ten people who meet once a month
for meals and socializing.
Perdido Key, near the Florida-Alabama border, is one of the
still-pristine barrier islands that remain in northwest Florida.
It is part of the "Redneck Riviera", so called because
many folks from the Southeast make the area their summer playground.
Large swaths of the land are preserved in the Gulf Islands
National Seashore, a part of the United States
National Park Service. Some areas have been opened for development.
On the Florida side of the line there are individual homes
and low rise condos that are rented out to the "rednecks"
in the summer and to the "snowbirds"
in the winter. Some luxury high-rise buildings exist on the
Florida side, but not so many as on the Alabama side. There
are a number of permanent residents, established Protestant
and Catholic churches, and other normal community activities.
The Revd Jeremy P. Mount, discipleship pastor, was the preacher.
Members of the Solid Rock in the Sand Band include Shawn Bowling,
keyboard; Kitty Stevens, guitar; Shane Lamar, electric guitar;
Larry Coleman, bass guitar; John de Jarnette, drums; Mike
Sidebottom, congas; and Brandon Sanford, percussion.
The date & time:
April 22, 2012, 11.00am. An announcement was made that next
week's service would be held at 8.00am due to the annual mullet
tossing contest being held at the bar.
What was the name of
Worship @ the Water Service featuring the Solid Rock in the
How full was the building?
The "building" is a tent that appears to seat in excess of
200 when set up for church. Almost every seat was taken, and
this was an off-season Sunday. Many people were locals or
extended-stay visitors who were neighbors.
Did anyone welcome you
People from the Pensacola/Perdido area whom I knew and recognized
were there. The peace was passed enthusiastically, and there
were general meets-and-greets all around.
Was your pew comfortable?
The seating area was filled with chairs lined up in groups
facing a stage from which the band played and announcements
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
People began to filter in as much as 45 minutes ahead of the
opening of the service. Everyone was meeting and greeting
people as they arrived. A souvenir t-shirt was given to the
person who had come from farthest away (Maine).
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
Kitty Stevens: "Good morning. Y'all put your hands together!"
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Honky-Tonk Hymnal (prepared explicitly for use
at these services by the staff at Perdido Bay United Methodist
What musical instruments
Keyboard, acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, drums,
Did anything distract
Some people milled about during the service. When a hymn was
to be announced, a woman would walk across in front of the
stage holding up large paddles with numerals indicating the
page number of the hymn/gospel song from the Honky-Tonk
Hymnal. The weather was magnificent; the beach inviting.
As the service leaflet emphasized, the dress code is simple:
be comfortable and there were some gorgeous bikini
clad bodies in attendance.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The service was somewhat south of "happy-clappy" it
resembled more a country church service in a small Baptist
church in the South. People sang enthusiastically, clapped
with the music, and said amen at the appropriate places. The
final song of the service was a Southern gospel (not to be
confused with African-American gospel) song, "I'll Fly Away,
O Glory, I'll Fly Away", which everyone sang with gusto.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
10 Pastor Jeremy's delivery was conversational, challenging,
theological, well-prepared. His concepts are useful. Trained
in one of the finest Methodist seminaries in the Southeast,
he demonstrates not only his faith, but his intellect and
skill as a preacher. He was able to deliver what he wanted
to say to the people where they lived. He even threw in some
comments about next weekend's mullet toss!
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
Pastor Jeremy preached on the Sermon on the Mount. He pointed
out that Jesus had a tough message to deliver, perhaps the
toughest of all in the Bible. On a conceptual and practical
basis it tells you what to do, and what not to do.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The enthusiasm of the congregation, the obvious commitment
of the participants, the interest and participation of the
congregation and wonderful praise music, if that is
to your liking.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
This Preacher's Kid is not eager to return to the exposure
in his youth when he accompanied the preacher (his father)
to those country churches and their mode of worship. And somehow
I can't quite get used to someone stopping by the bar to pick
up a Bloody Mary and holding it in one hand while they flip
to the right page in the hymnal with the other hand.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
People retired to the bar after all, this is a roadhouse
and the bar opens at 11.00. The bartender was pulling beers
and mixing Bloody Marys and martinis with astonishing skill
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
With our Bloody Marys and martinis we had cooked-to-order
omelets, which were offered by the staff beginning at 9.30am
and continuing through the service until early afternoon.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 The Kid is high church. A service of this type is
useful, though, as a respite from regularity and predictability.
The open and enthusiastic faith of the participants was palpable.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Pastor Jeremy's sermon and "I'll Fly Away".
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