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Accepted at Refuse

click to enlarge BRUCE ELLIOTT

"Shut your cakeholes and worship."

Dave Weatherby (pictured left) holds his acoustic guitar in front of his navy blue janitor's T-shirt. His congregation, half a dozen hipster kids and a couple graying men, grow silent as the preacher prepares to play. The words of a familiar hymn appear on the computer monitors adjacent to Weatherby's microphone stand.

"Well, I guess if you're going to worship," he says, "you need to open your cakeholes again."

Weatherby is the preacher for The Refuse, a self-described "nontraditional" church that meets Saturday evenings in the rose-colored basement of the Harvest Downtown Church. Formed in September 2004, The Refuse provides a 90-minute Christian prayer service "for the left out and the right-brained," in Weatherby's words.

The congregation is made up of Christians who say they are fed up with the megachurches of their youth. The Refuse is a small antidote to the politics and the "hollowness," as one member says, that pervade so many of Colorado Springs' houses of worship. Pastor John Hopkins' sermons which often draw Goths, punks and the homeless remain, simply, about the love of Christ. The evening includes a potluck dinner, after which Weatherby passes a KFC container around the crowd for donations. An indie rock record plays in the background.

Weatherby modeled The Refuse on Denver's Scum of the Earth Church, a similar, 150-member congregation that seeks to facilitate worship in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. On his first visit to Scum, a fight broke out in the sanctuary.

"I thought, "This is the church I want to go to,'" he says. "These are real people with real problems, and they don't have to hide anything to come to church. It seemed more honest."

The two churches are named for a phrase in Corinthians: "Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world."

It's a reminder, says Weatherby, that Christians, too, are persecuted.

"How much damage has been done by the church because people were too loving?" he asks. "And how much damage has been done because people were too judgmental?"

  • Accepted at Refuse

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