By Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv.
As a pastor of a local mainstream Christian church, I will share with you where I go when I want to learn more about and experience hospitality, generosity, and love. I find these three beautiful and divine gifts when I read the Bible. I find all three also in our congregation. I experience them in our church’s outreach ministries. And, I also I find these three divine gifts at the gay bars in Wilton Manors: radical hospitality, generosity, and love! Yes, hospitality, generosity, and love in a gay bar! The gay bars in our community set the example from which most churches throughout our world could learn!
One of the most memorable examples came out of the COVID-19 crisis. Once a week, in the parking lot in front of Hunters Nightclub, boxes of food were given out to those who were hungry. Everyone from the community was welcome. There was no discrimination according to sexual orientation and hospitality was extended to all. No judgment was made. Everyone who attended received a generous, full box of food in abundant supply. And the best part of all, each person who attended were received and treated with compassion and love. If only churches could be so generous. If grace could only flow so freely through all churches and communities of faith. Our world would be a better place!
Another “church of a different kind” on Wilton Drive is The Pub Wilton Manors. They host many of the events of the Imperial Sun Court of All Florida (ISCOAF) which is a non-profit whose mission is to help LGBTQ+ youth, women, animal rights/rescue organizations, and others. Each year in the past, The Pub has hosted an annual Thanksgiving meal where everyone is welcome and there is no cost for the meal. It is a way to ensure that everyone receives a holiday meal and an event for the bar owners and staff to express their gratitude and love for our community. Before COVID-19, The Pub was known for their monthly Gospel Jubilee drag shows and would be standing room only for the monthly Sunday night church(ish) service! I loved going there and singing my favorite hymns and look forward to the Gospel Jubiliee’s return. And even after the pandemic struck our nation and so many places were limited to opening, The Pub donated a significant portion of their restaurant revenue to financially support their dedicated staff and employees. Again, a place filled with hospitality, generosity, and love.
Scandals Saloon has also been known in the past for their complimentary Thanksgiving meal. Many people who I know would annually go to their biological relatives homes for the obligatory Thanksgiving meal, but then would venture to Scandals immediately afterwards because there they would experience with no judgment the gifts of hospitality, generosity, and love. The gay bar is a place where they could be and feel comfortable, be themselves, relax, and have a great time!
Every year, Smarty Pants Bar donates 10-12 turkeys to our church’s Ruth Ministry program, which provides meals for people who are hungry. Even in this time of COVID-19, after their bar had been closed for months (and finally reopened) they continued their commitment to those in our community who are less fortunate. What an incredible example of loving your neighbor!
I am grateful for our gay bars in Wilton Manors. They are places that continue to teach me the importance of what church should be. Happy Holidays to you and may your life be FILLED with hospitality, generosity, and LOVE!
Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv. – Community Activist and Senior Pastor at
United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale.