A Religious Experience

We wanted to know: What do Coloradans believe?

April 2012

Pastor of the Pub

Jerry Herships, Methodist reverend, AfterHours Denver, afterhoursdenver.org

Jerry Herships is funny. Really funny. He’s so amusing, in fact, that his first career was as a stand-up comic—for 28 years. He did a good bit of his funnyman years in Los Angeles, but when the mudslides and earthquakes got old, he and his wife moved to Florida. She got a job with Disney; he worked as an entertainment manager for a nightclub. “It was a pastor friend in Florida who asked me if I’d ever thought about going into the ministry,” Herships says. He reminded his buddy that with his history of late-night frivolity he probably wasn’t the right guy for the job. “But he looked at me and said, ‘Maybe that makes you just the right guy.’ He essentially told me I didn’t have to be perfect to be a good pastor.”

Herships considered the idea—and then began searching for a way to make it happen. Denver’s Iliff School of Theology, which offered a progressive seminary program, was the answer. After completing a master’s of divinity degree and becoming ordained, he was hired as an associate pastor at a large Methodist church in Highlands Ranch. However, Herships was interested in exploring nontraditional ways of worship. “Church is intimidating,” he says. “That’s where the idea for AfterHours came from.”

AfterHours Denver is an alternative church’s kind of alternative church. With slogans like “God Doesn’t Suck” and mantras such as “We believe in doing good—and God—differently,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Herships’ flock doesn’t meet in a sanctuary. “My services are doled out over wings and pitchers of beer in local bars,” he says. Herships brings God to more places than bars, though. Six days a week, Herships and his small alterna-church serve lunch—as well as give communion to—Denver’s homeless population in Civic Center Park. In less than three years, AfterHours has fed more than 15,000 people for whom a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich is a godsend. “We talk about the gospel once or twice a month over beers,” he says, “but we live it daily.”

The types of people who gravitate toward AfterHours struggle with religion’s rules and dogma, Herships says. His parishioners, of which he counts about 70 at each “service,” want something different from church or have left church altogether. “Mainline churches want people to come to them to learn about God,” he says. “We take God to where people already are—and like to be.”