Update: Neumos' management has decided to cut ties with the Mosaic Community Church, effective immediately. Read more about the decision on Slog.
It's still before noon on a Sunday in November, but a crowd has gathered in the middle of the dance floor at Neumos, a club on Capitol Hill that just a few hours earlier hosted Bassnectar, a self-described "underground electronic-music freak show." In typical Seattle fashion, the crowd of twentysomethings stands around awkwardly, hands in their pockets, staring up at the band onstage and mumbling along. The seven-member band's lead singer plays an acoustic guitar and howls into the microphone about Jesus.
No, it's not a secret Creed reunion tour. Neumos, which hosted acts like Devin the Dude and the Eagles of Death Metal earlier this month, has become the newest home for the Seattle chapter of the Mosaic Community Church (MCC), which has been renting space at the club since September.
The MCC—a "seed church" of the Antioch Community Church, based in Waco, Texas—is the latest church to forcefully insert itself into a godless Seattle neighborhood. In October 2007, Mars Hill Church bought the Tabella Restaurant and Lounge in Belltown in an attempt to draw in a young, urban Saturday-night party crowd on Sunday mornings.
It's not completely unheard of for churches to move into the middle of a nightlife hub. But Mosaic's teachings—literal interpretation of the Bible, warning churchgoers about witchcraft and the Rapture—seems a strange fit for a club in the middle of Capitol Hill.
As the band wraps up an interminable 20-minute set, lead singer Jady Griffin sets down his guitar and approaches the edge of the stage.
Griffin—a white, 27-year-old Houston native and Mosaic's pastor—launches into a sermon on the importance of faithfulness in Christian marriages. "Our society has made faithfulness a seasonal thing," says Griffin, who routinely injects phrases like "straight up" and "kickin' it wit dat" into his sermon. He tells the hundred or so mostly white congregants to "quit trying to be LL Cool J and be yourself." The crowd laughs, claps, and erupts with spontaneous bursts of "Praise Jesus."
Griffin continues, plugging the power of prayer. He claims that prayer has healed MCC members' jaw disease and head colds, although he adds later, "We haven't seen anybody cured of cancer or anything like that."
While Griffin doesn't spout the kind of fire-and-brimstone, misogynistic rhetoric that churches like Mars Hill are known for, Antioch has undoubtedly planted its "seed church" in Capitol Hill—just a few blocks from the Cuff and Neighbours—with an eye toward converting the heathens and saving them from eternal damnation.
When pressed about Mosaic's stance on gays, Griffin talks in circles: "Everyone is welcome at the church," he says, although he adds, "I do pray people will get a picture of Jesus that is true and right and Biblical." One member of the church also told The Stranger that gay men and lesbians would "probably not be fully accepted" at the church.
While Griffin dances around the gay issue, Antioch is a bit more blunt about its beliefs. Literature from MCC's Antioch "mother" church describes a group of church planners moving to Portland, Oregon, only to find themselves "surrounded by a city rampant with homosexuality, drug addiction, poverty, pornography, and people unaware of their need for God." Indeed, when asked why MCC moved to Capitol Hill, Griffin notes that the area "needs the love of God."
Steven Severin, co-owner of Neumos, says he asked church leaders "point-blank... if they were homophobic or antigay. They said they weren't." After hearing statements taken from Antioch's website that indicate the church may not be very accepting, Severin said he'd need to speak with the church and "do more research" before deciding whether to take any action.
According to Griffin, MCC has drawn around 50 new members in the last few months—mostly students from the University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University.
A staff member at one Capitol Hill gay bar, who did not wish to be named, says, "People in the community should not go to Neumos. They made the decision to host a church that conflicts with a big chunk of the community, and they need to understand that doesn't come without a cost."