How St. Dorothy’s lost its chapel and found a home in a bar
Independent Catholic church community now calls St. Matthews Tavern on Mills Avenue home
Published: January 15, 2014
The patron came in a month later and started talking religion with Fassl in a language he felt he could understand.
Soon after, Fassl found himself at a St. Dorothy’s service in Winter Park, and he liked what he heard. One of the last things he heard was about the pending relocation.
“I found out that they were having to move, and I just mentioned that I have a bar,” he says.
Fassl’s intentions weren’t overtly divine. He insists that the naming of the bar – and the seeming sainting of himself – was mostly the church’s idea, and that “most of the bars around here have somebody’s name on them.”
He says his opening last month clearly benefited from the church-in-a-bar curiosity drummed up by local media, but he’s actually trying to operate the business independently of the church. In building out the historic watering hole, Fassl has recycled and repurposed many of the old bar and patio materials, and has gone the extra mile himself in trying to create an industrial “steampunk” vibe with carpet glue and glitter on the floor. (If you sniff real hard, you can almost still smell the poppers in the air, though maybe it’s just the glue.) So far, he says, business has been brisk, and he hopes to soon complete the promised beer garden in addition to opening up the front to a patio facing Mills Avenue. Fassl attends Mass at work most Sundays.
Father Jim insists that the move into St. Matthews was born of democracy within the congregation. (“Something else you won’t see in a Roman Catholic church,” he jokes.)
“When we knew we had to leave, I had a subcommittee go out searching for places. Then we had a general meeting of the congregation. I said, this is what we have to offer: We have a church in Winter Park, but we would have to do Mass later, because we couldn’t do it at 11. We could use a storefront. It would cost a lot to use a storefront. We could go down the street to the community center, which would cost us $100 a week. Then we have Matthew’s tavern that he’s offering to us. We discussed, a vote was taken and it was a unanimous vote to go to Matt’s tavern.”
He says the same democratic ideal will be used when and if the Winter Park chapel reopens. It isn’t about the building, he says. It’s about something more spiritual. The four members we spoke with – none of whom wanted to use their full names – seemed to concur; most of them followed the church from Winter Park. “If you think about it, the Last Supper was a bar,” said one.
So far, St. Dorothy’s biggest attendance was on Christmas Eve at midnight, when, Father Jim says, the group had to pull out bar seating to accommodate the 60-70 worshipers. (“Actually, for Christmas Eve, I am a typical queen; I did not use wine, I used champagne!” he laughs.) And though most of the Sunday Masses are only drawing upward of 20 people, he hopes that their presence that night helped to “plant a seed” that the church was there, was inclusive and, yes, was in a bar.
“If Christ were here today, this is what he’d be doing,” he says. “He wouldn’t be at Margaret Mary’s with all the fur coats and everything. That’s the neat part.”
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