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Pastor holds church services at Williamsburg dive bar • Brooklyn Paper

Pastor holds church services at Williamsburg dive bar

Pastor Mike Turrigiano is often accompanied onstage by a band that sings religious songs.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

At this church service, a disco ball spins in the corner, the pews were once the back seats in vans, and you can get a PBR and a shot for just $5.

Pastor Michael Turrigiano of the North Brooklyn Vineyard Church shares the word every Sunday evening in Trash Bar on Grand Street, turning the typically raucous Williamsburg night spot into a gathering place for those who seek spirituality — alongside spirits.

“There’s a growing population of people who are open to the answers of life and are spiritually hungry, but who would never walk through the doors of a traditional church,” said Turrigiano, whose church uses the bar because it lacks a brick-and-mortar house of worship. “There is a negative stereotype around Christianity that prevents people from seeing Jesus. We are trying to overcome that.”

Turrigiano hopes his taproom sermons make Christianity more accessible — meaning he’s not big on judgment or rules. He doesn’t mind if worshippers show up in jeans or covered with tattoos, he welcomes gay couples in his flock, and he hopes that everyone sticks around for some beers when the service is over.

“Jesus was criticized for hanging out with the wrong people,” said Turrigiano, who has preached at the watering hole for more than six years. “We’re just following in his footsteps.”

Jesus did of course turn water into wine.

Becky Wulf, a regular congregant, says Trash Bar was the first church where she has ever felt comfortable.

“It’s less fraught with stereotypical Christian culture,” said the 43-year-old, who lives in South Williamsburg. “It’s about experiencing god. And Mike doesn’t give us rules, he give us tips. He says ‘If it works, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t.’ ”

During the services, which start at 6 pm, the North Brooklyn Vineyard pays bartenders to staff both the back bar, where the services are held, and the larger front room. The church tends to draw between 10 and 40 visitors, depending on the weekend.

“There is no business anyway on Sunday that early, so it works out for everyone,” said Trash Bar owner Aaron Pierce. “It’s nice to have them here. They’re really friendly people.”

Services at Trash Bar are 21 and up, but Turrigiano delivers an earlier, more family-oriented Sunday sermon at 11 a.m. at P.S. 132.

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