One of the best things about living on Tybee Island is the sheer volume of establishments providing incredible live music, most if which also comes with no cover charge. Tybee Island Social Club is one of my favorite places to catch a show. It’s only half a block from our apartment, has $2 PBR tallboys and a kickin’ open mic nite on Tuesdays, where I’ve been rediscovering my love for performing. It’s where I first heard a couple of guys (who have now become good friends) from Brooklyn, stopping through on their way to SXSW. One of the very first people we met within a few days of moving here, Stan, was there accompanying the host of “Blues and Bingo”, a brilliant game in which bingo prizes are booze. We left well after midnight. Due to the fact that one of the owners, Kurtis, is also a musician, spontaneous jam sessions will quite often spring up with little or no notice. These nights are not to be missed.
Back in January, I think it was a Friday night, Wen and I wandered up the street to grab a beer and see who was out and about. Being a destination location, our year round population of 3,000 truly enjoys the winter months when 30,000 of our closest friends have gone home for another year. It’s kinda like Mayberry, with a beach. The band listed on the sign was The Smith Brothers and we’d never heard them. It was just two guys, Isaac and Ethan, two guitars, amazing harmonies… and something I couldn’t put my finger on. They were good. Most of the music on Tybee is good, but these guys were really good! I remember Wen commenting “I could listen to these guys all night.” So we did. We found out that this was only two members of the band, which normally included another guy, James, who I had met a few months earlier. During the evening, Kurtis stopped by and mentioned that the next open mic nite was actually James’ birthday and that there was gonna be a jam, to which James wanted to make sure I knew I was invited. Cool.
Tuesday rolled around and the full Smith Brothers band was crankin’ as I walked in, mandolin in hand. The place was peppered with players from various area bands, who slipped in and played with the band, kinda like a musical Chinese fire drill. There was a lot of talent hanging out that night, and I knew it was going to be a good time. During one of the swaps, Isaac traded his guitar for a violin. I turned to Wen and asked rhetorically, “Is there anything this guy can’t do?”
The band took a break and I jumped up on stage to toss a couple of rusty Irish tunes I was learning on my newfound instrument, into the mix, finishing up with a super weird bluegrass version of Lorde’s Royals that I stole from some guys I ran across on Youtube. I pretty much have to play it every time now, but that’s okay, because I love it.
Early the next morning, we exchanged hugs and handshakes with our wonderfully disfunctional family and wandered back home. Wen crashed out, but I was still wide awake, and there was still something that I couldn’t define. It was like a familiar taste that was completely out of place and it was driving me crazy. (my pop often reminds me that crazy is only a putt for me) I figured that as a new musician hoping to get more opportunities to play, it wouldn’t hurt to add a few of the folks I met earlier to my Facebook friends list. I pulled up Isaac and listed on his page as occupation was worship leader at Tapestry.
I am a third generation P.K. That’s Pastor’s Kid for those of you who’ve never been one. My lifelong association with “church” has been overwhelmingly positive, despite being a P.K. Apparently I never got the widely circulated memo that as such, I was supposed to be bad. I am truly blessed to say that my parents presented a view of Christ that never gave me any reason to question it’s merit. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved in church. I’ve been a worship leader, a youth pastor, and eventually started a church in my living room with my Pop and a handful of friends. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve soured on all of the inevitable drama that comes along with church. I have no problem with the claims of Jesus, it’s just all of the rest of the junk that had ultimately caused me to stop attending any sort of organized ceremony on a regular basis. As our younger kids grew up without going to church, Wen and I had many conversations about how to expose them to the positive aspects of faith. We tried a couple of churches in the area, one of which had a youth group that one of our daughters still attends, but nothing seemed to fit what I knew in my heart had to exist… somewhere.
And there it was, like an old friend, back along the fringes of my new life. God’s got a funny sense of humor like that. I leaned out over the rail of my deck, looked into the sky and said out loud “Oh, so it’s gonna be like that, huh? Nice move.” Not to worry, lots of people on Tybee talk to themselves at that hour of the night, so I didn’t really stand out. The next morning over a cup of coffee, I excitedly shared with Wen what I had discovered. She immediately began to do some research on Tapestry. When she mentioned later in the week that she was thinking about checking it out the following Sunday, I told her “yeah, me too.” Her only response was a stunned, “really?”
There is a disease, common only to the residents of Tybee, which is known as Tybee-itis. The primary symptom is an intense dislike of leaving the Island for any reason. I contracted an advanced form of this disease within weeks of relocating here. I’m a stage four, which means that I even complain about having to go all the way to the other end of the island to go to the post office. My daughter just shakes her head and says “it’s a mile and a half, dad.” I’m glad she understands. Now here I was, seriously contemplating not only leaving the island, but driving nearly 2o miles to go to church! Something big had just happened.
We pulled into the parking lot of the Habersham YMCA on Sunday morning. Having attended many churches with no actual permanent location, I was intimately familiar with intricacies of setting up and tearing down places of worship in living rooms, schools and even a YMCA. Another link in an increasingly familiar chain. We were warmly greeted at the door by Andy Blair, the pastor of Tapestry. Isaac and Ethan were standing directly behind him and were pleasantly surprised to see our family of four breeze through the entrance. We chatted about the show earlier that week, grabbed a cup of coffee and a Krispy Kreme donut, and took a seat. The music, as expected, was excellent, but as Andy delivered a very casually simple yet profound message, Wen and I found ourselves silently elbowing each other and exchanging glances as something deep inside each of us began to slowly reawaken.
That was nearly seven months ago, and we’ve only missed a few Sundays since, due to travel or business obligations. We even look forward to the mid week “small group” meetings, currently split into the women’s group, which includes fabulous meals, and the men’s group, which has actually met in a barbeque joint, complete with frosty bottles of beer. These intimate gatherings have provided us the opportunity to begin to develop meaningful relationships with a wildly diverse group of people, devoted to exploring the reality of the love of God. I haven’t been able to say that for far too long. I am careful not to say that I’ve “found a new church home,” simply because of the fact that if I’m completely honest, I wasn’t actually looking for it. It found me. I truly do feel at home with my new family of faith and I am thrilled about being part of it and seeing what the future holds for all of us.
As I write this, Wen is preparing a delicious smelling meal for Isaac and his wife Tatiana. I’ve got some really good beer in the fridge and I’m excited at the prospect of spending the evening getting to know them. I should probably go see if I can help her with anything.
If you’re not looking for a church, but have nothing on your schedule for Sunday morning, maybe you should drive out to the Habersham YMCA and hang out with us. Feel free to blame me for whatever comes next. At the very least, you should swing by and check out Isaac and Ethan’s new band, Magnolia Bloom. These guys are good.