The Day I Went To Church in a Strip Club

By Patricia Paddey

I’d never been to a strip club before. And so I admit that even as I forced myself to put on my fearless journalist’s hat (for the sake of my husband and daughter who accompanied me) my heart was Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.09.43 AMbeating just a little bit faster as I walked through the doors of The Manor strip club in Guelph, Ont.

I remember wondering, for a fleeting moment, how my 98-year-old mother-in-law would react if she knew I had invited her son and 18-year-old granddaughter to accompany me on a work-related assignment to a so-called “gentleman’s club.”

But this was church, after all. And reporting on the Church at the Manor would not only offer the novel opportunity to get my first ever glimpse of the kind of space where women disrobe for men’s entertainment, but it would allow my husband and I to worship with our youngest child – who had moved away from home and into residence at the University of Guelph a few weeks earlier. Even if that worship would happen in a dark, windowless room adorned with mirrored walls and glass “bubble pipes.”

My daughter was already well acquainted with the couple who hold weekly church services in the unusual surroundings; their son is a long time camp friend. And she seemed relatively unfazed. So an hour before the service began, I parked her with my husband at a tiny round café table not far from the main stage, and set off to begin my interviews.

Pastor Jack Ninaber told me Church at the Manor is for folks who would never cross the threshold of a traditional church building, who aren’t good at concealing their pain. As I spoke to people hungry for Jesus and not ashamed to say so, people who are finding Jesus in that most unlikely of places, I felt humbled at the irony: I had never crossed the threshold of a strip club before, but I’d become pretty good at hiding my own heartache and grief.

Before I visited Church at the Manor, Faith Today editor Karen Stiller had sent me a link to an online debate titled, “Would Jesus Hang Out In A Strip Club?” It didn’t take long that Sunday in September for me to realize it’s a moot question. Jesus already is.

Read senior writer Patricia Paddey’s story: “Ministry in strip club opens doors” in the Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today. Subscribe until the end of February for Faith Today‘s best price ever.

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