Pastor Philip Chryst has become a regular at Ted’s Fun on the River over the last month and a half. Word has gotten out around nearby neighborhoods in downtown Wilmington that the pastor hangs out in the music venue, and people come by for a chat.
A pastor in a night spot, you say?
You could call him the on-call chaplain of Ted’s Fun.
Chryst has started a missional community called The Anchor in Ted’s Fun, with the permission of its Methodist owners Julia and Kelly Jewell, of course. It’s a new kind of faith community the NC Conference of the United Methodist Church (NCCUMC) is piloting in Wilmington.
That means Chryst isn’t looking to start a church in the bar. Instead, the bar is a staging ground for a community of like-minded people to go into Wilmington and give back. So far, the growing group has helped the Interfaith Refugee Ministry at St. James Episcopal Church. “Oftentimes people ask, ‘Where are you meeting,’ or ‘Are you starting a church?’ But church has preconceived notions of needing a cross and a building,” the pastor expresses, sitting in the comfy mismatched seats at Ted’s. “Not starting with worship is radical. . .Most people I know want to do good, but sometimes they don’t know how to do good. I offer them a way to do that.”
People were already coming into Ted’s Fun and occasionally asking Julia Jewell to pray with them. The Anchor seemed the next logical step, she says.
“I would take my church paperwork down there to work on it, and someone would come down and tell me their troubles, and I would think, You’re interrupting my church work,” she quips. “But then I realized, Well, duh, it doesn’t matter where you shuffle the paperwork—just as long as the work gets done.”
The NCCUMC is trying this church-outside-the-walls concept across the state as part of its New Faith Communities project, and Chryst seemed right for the job. The conference has similar pilots in Durham, Rocky Mount, Morrisville, and one planned for New Bern.
“It’s a real call to do this type of work,” Jeff Severt, director of the Methodist conference’s New Faith Communities office, tells. “We have more of a kingdom-of-God focus here than a church-centric focus. In the process, we’re trying to find people all along who would love to know God more.”
It’s an unusual ministry for the city. But Chryst is no usual minister. He felt his calling to go into ministry while bartending at Front Street Brewery many years ago.
He had an overwhelming urge to read the book of Exodus and study Christianity more deeply. “In it I found a God who is passionate for his people. I found over-the-top passion and that did not quite sync with what I grew up believing,” he reveals.
Chryst grew up Southern Baptist in Charlotte but wasn’t sure if he wanted to stick with that denomination. After attending Methodist seminary, Chryst knew he wanted to be in a position that allowed him to creatively worship and serve.
“Missional communities are designed to be 20 to 30 people because we believe it’s small enough to care,” he assures, “but big enough to dare.” Severt shares that missional communities actually re-connect Methodists to the roots of the small family worship groups that made the denomination so popular nationwide at its beginnings in the 18th century.
Chryst is modeling The Anchor partially on 3 Dimensional Ministries (3DM) in Pawleys Island, SC, which trains Christian communities how to become more mission-minded.
Chryst has started a children’s ministry with arts activities at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays at Ted’s Fun for neighborhood kids. And as The Anchor grows, Chryst has plans to try his own unique form of faith experience. He calls it Wiki Worship, where audience members can edit a sermon in real time.
The Anchor’s next missional outing will be at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 28th. On September 9th, Chryst will hold The Anchor’s first interest meeting to find out what projects community members want to tackle together. Call the pastor for meeting locations. Learn more about The Anchor at http://anchorwilmington.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (910) 524-5676.
Amanda Greene is the editor and community manager for Wilmington Faith & Values, WilmingtonFAVS.com. Know of an upcoming ministry or nonprofit event? Send it to Amanda Greene, Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com or call (910) 520-3958.
DETAILS: The Anchor Next missional outing: Wednesday, August 28th 6:30 p.m. Interest Meeting: Monday, September 9th Call (910) 524-5676 for locations anchorwilmington.org