Some of The Story So Far
As a result of an established and ongoing ministry within the biking and arts communities, a need became apparent to provide a forum for Christian community and discipleship among them. Questions were being raised, amid priestly roles being fullfilled, among groups of people somewhat removed from many church expressions – we wanted to find a way to make a deeper connection and therefore create an opportunity to see change in peoples lives. After discussion among a few interested folk, other missional minded church leaders and drawing from Sean’s experience within God’s Squad, (whose history dates back to the Jesus Movement era of the late 60’s), Zac’s Place – “Church in a Pub?” began to gather each sunday night in the Autumn of 1998. The question mark was important as we didn’t know what, if anything, it would develop into.
It needs to be understood, this wasn’t just taking what happens in many churches on any given Sunday and dumping it in a bar. That would have been a futile exercise. It was building up from the grass roots, using language and images that related, without compromising the message and growng into a community of people wanting to follow Jesus and serve others. It would be fair to say that many encouraged the venture, but it was not without it’s critics and to some extent, that remains.
Live music and the natural communal atmosphere of a bar helped us create a forum for building relationships with the many and varied folk that came. Sean’s punchy and topical talks, based on the bible, managed to connect with some of of the most hard nosed cynics.
Over a seven year period, pretty much every Sunday night, using four* different bars in Swansea city centre, a mixed bag of bikers, musicians, students, rough sleepers, walking wounded spiritual refugees and truth seekers gathered. People found Jesus in community, in the brokeness of fragile lives, where the common ground was level ground; poverty of spirit. Some folk were encouraged in their recovery from addictions and we worked alongside local and national agencies, others whose faith had been battered by negative church experience had their wounds tended whilst others found a level of communication they could relate and respond to to see their christian faith develop. Some people are still around, for some it was an important staging post others were travellers passing through.
It was also a time of immense creativity, so much so we worked with HTV Wales on a mini series of 5 programmes featuring live music, poetry, interviews and reflection from Sean. We ran stages of live music, by invitation of promoters, in Swansea city centre and also at a festival in Singleton Park and have occasionally taken Zac’s Place out on the road for events.
Eventually we had a dilemna. Many of those attracted to us had significant issues of addiction that they were wrestling with. The pub, whilst the best place to meet people is not the best place for everything. The search began for a sacred space of our own.
In 2003 we bought an old Gospel Hall, in Swansea city centre, which had shut it’s doors the previous year. Over the next few years Zac’s Place became known as “A Church For Ragamuffins” continuing on the same principles that it started with; an open door and a warm welcome to all. Bible teaching, discipleship and serving the poor and vulnerable continue to be the main stays of activity. It continues to be a mission church very much at home on the margins.
“Of all the places I have performed around the world in the last decade or so, Zac’s Place stands out as one of the most unique and effective outreaches into the community I’ve seen. It is unpretentious and non-exclusive, two traits I believe characterized the early church. Moreover, it has proven to be a refuge for both believer and those still seeking, the strong and the weary, young and old, rich and poor. This, to me, is true church.”
Rick Elias – Singer / Songwriter / Producer
* You may have found us hanging out in smokey bars at at the Subteranea Bar, The Green Dragon, Ellington’s at the Duke of York and The Office