For the first time, a public night of worship was held in a bar on Cumberland Avenue.
Jon Lawler, key founder of Christian organization Cumberland Worship, held the group's latest worship service on the balcony of The Outlook.
It was the first time the group met on campus, Lawler said, "and definitely the first time there's been a public night of worship on Cumberland Avenue..."
With the help of Rick Coleman, director of Knoxville Fellows, and Colton Thomas, Cumberland Worship was born. Despite skepticism, Lawler saw The Outlook was the ideal place to hold a religious event.
"A better question is: Why not a bar?" Lawler said. "We want to worship God in all we do, whether it's through our work, our relationships or our actual praise and worship. If anything, places like this bar, which is regularly consumed by darkness, are the places that desperately need God more than ever, and those are the places we followers of Jesus choose to be.
"Also, the bar is a neutral zone. It's a place where anyone can come, and as we desire to see the lost-hearted people step into a heart relationship with God. I believe this location – a bar – to actually be a prime location for such an event."
Owner of the building that houses Stefano's Chicago Style Pizza and The Outlook, Coleman permitted the group to use the space for free.
"It is the first time Cumberland Worship has been held on campus and definitely the first time there's been a public night of worship on Cumberland Avenue," Lawler said. "We felt it to be absolutely imperative that we be outside, on a balcony over the Cumberland strip. Despite the cold, our hearts' desire was that we would be able to stand above the UT Cumberland strip and freely proclaim the goodness and the glory of God for all of UT to hear."
Alex Robinson, a sophomore in religious studies, agreed.
"This kind of stuff is right up my ally," Robinson said. "I love going to church, and worshiping is my favorite part, so a full night of worship is everything I could ask for."
Cumberland Worship partnered with Sweet Aroma Coffee, a nonprofit organization that provided coffee and hot chocolate at the event and let students pay as little or as much as they wanted. The money earned will go toward non-profit organizations.
"I think it did good for anybody that was there with an open heart to experience everything that was going on," Robinson said. "I think anybody who walked by was impacted by it. I watched a stranger get invited and then come and experience it all.
"For all I know, this could have been the first time this guy ever heard about Jesus."
Heidi Wurster, sophomore in public relations, enjoyed the night's unique approach to spirituality.
"I've gone to things similar, but this had a little bit of a different feel," Wurster said. "I would definitely do it again. I am not a super religious person, but I am extremely open-minded and love to experience things like worship."