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No twerking. No drinking. No smoking. But plenty of room for Jesus at this Christian nightclub

AP NEWS

The young crowd at a Nashville nightclub was ready to dance under the strobe lights to a throbbing mix of hip-hop, rap and Latin beats. But first they gathered to pray and praise God.

The rules were announced on the dance floor by a mic-carrying emcee to more than 200 clubgoers blanketed by thick smoke machine fog: ”Rule No. 1: No twerking. Second rule: No drinking. And a third rule: No smoking.” The last unspoken rule seemed obvious by then: No secular music — the playlist would be all Christian.

The pop-up, 18-and-up Christian nightclub was launched last year by seven Black Christian men in their 20s — among them an Ivy League-educated financial analyst, musicians and social media experts — who sought to build a thriving community and a welcoming space for young Christians outside houses of worship. The launch comes at a post-pandemic time of dwindling church attendance, especially among Black Protestants that surveys say is unmatched by any other major religious group.

“We ourselves experienced a pain point of not being able to find community outside of our church, not knowing what to do to have fun without feeling bad for doing stuff that’s conflicting to our values,” said Eric Diggs, The Cove’s 24-year-old CEO.

“There wasn’t a space to cultivate that. So, we created it ourselves out of that pain point — the loneliness, the anxiety, depression, COVID, and the long quarantine.

PROVING THAT CHRISTIANS CAN BE COOL — NOT CORNY

Before their first monthly party in November, they set an ambitious goal: get 1,000 followers on social media. “We ended up getting more than 10,000 followers before our first event, which was insane,” said Eric’s brother, Jordan Diggs, 22, who manages the club’s social media presence.

“Christians get a rep for being corny. And we want to show that Christians can be normal, can be cool. And they can have fun.”

A second equally popular event was timed to ring in the New Year. A third was held in February.

For weeks, on its Instagram account — under hashtags like #jesuschrist #nightclubs — club organizers asked people to be ready to dance the worship night away and look their best: “When you pull up, we expect to see you in your Holiest Drip.”

At the mid-February event, many in the racially and ethnically diverse crowd wore a rainbow of vivid colors — fluorescent turquoise, electric orange, neon pink — in their Nike, Adidas and New Balance sneakers. Or hoodies with images of Jesus and varsity jackets with Scripture from the Bible.

“What surprised me the most is the diversity, honestly,” said Aaron Dews, one of the club founders. “With us being seven Black guys, just seeing the expansion of the type of people that we can bring in, and the unification around one idea has been incredibly encouraging.”

Food trucks in the parking lot awaited hungry clubbers. Inside, Benji Shuler sold vintage clothes with religious messages that hung from racks. A white T-shirt with the iconic Pepsi logo read: “Jesus: The Choice of a New Generation,” echoing the soda company’s tagline from decades ago

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