The desire to start the weekend early begat "thirsty Thursdays," a fairly typical bar promotion to attract people who want to get a leg up on their drinking.
The Rev. Anthony Everett understood the desire, but wanted to put a spiritual spin on the idea.
"We needed something different for Lexington," Everett says, "something spiritual, not churchy."
And it's a pretty good crowd for an early September night in the courtyard of the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center; maybe not as big as some of the 50- to 100-person crowds they have had, but good for the fall revival of Thirsting Thursdays.
Billed as a "spiritual happy hour," the event combines contemporary R&B music and even an open-mic segment with a bit of a spiritual message. The monthly event, slated for the third Thursday of the month at the Lyric, is part of the ministry of Nia Community of Faith (pronounced knee-ah), a ministry connected to the United Methodist Church that has a number of offshoots, including Thirsting Thursdays.
In fact, greeting people at the Sept. 5 Thirsting Thursday, Everett talked to several people who attend other churches on Lexington's East End but wanted to check out Thirsting Thursday.
As guests file in, Eugene Thomas runs through smooth bass lines while Corey Dunn reads through some of his poems on his iPad.
"I probably wouldn't be here if this was like church," Dunn says.
He likes the format and has high regard for "Brother Everett. He takes it upon himself to step forward and get into action."
Dunn works with East End issues himself as president of COOL (Community Organizers of Lexington), and his poetry speaks to the experiences of people struggling to rise above their circumstances, including an unsettling work about a teen who committed suicide but said he wouldn't have if his parents had ever asked him how his day was.
Before open mic, though, there is a program largely organized by Brent Barnett, a contender for hardest working man in Lexington ministry, at least on this night where he lays down several tunes and then delivers the message and emcees the open mic.
"It's cool, because people come in expecting it's going to be Amazing Grace and that sort of thing, and it's not," Barnett says.
The opening numbers include John Mayer's Waiting on the World to Change, Donny Hathaway's Someday We'll All Be Free and gospel star Marvin Winans' Peace and Love.
"We try to keep things positive and talk about what God's doing in our lives," Barnett says.
In his message, delivered after singing a number of songs with a small band, Barnett talks about renewal, and even invokes the Lyric Theatre, where the event is taking place.
He talks about people's former lives being like the days when the Lyric was in disrepair, "and the marquee was down, and it was an ugly, abandoned building. And look at it now."
After a lot of public lobbying, the Lyric reopened in the fall of 2010. Much of the original structure was not salvageable, but Barnett says the important thing is shows, meetings and even worship services can happen in the space where stars such as Count Basie once played.
And Everett says the revived Lyric has been a key to Nia establishing Sunday services and events like Thirsting Thursdays.
"This has so much rich heritage, and it's crucial," Everett says.
Celebrating one year in ministry, Everett says he is grateful for what has happened, and unlike many ministries and churches, Everett says he is not looking now to build a physical church.
"Our whole focus is community, and you don't have to have a building to have community," Everett says. "We are bringing community using community space."
First up for open mic is Larrecia Williams, who brings poetry, but can't help breaking into song for a few minutes.
After several others have gone, including Dunn — though Barnett's son Shamar, 9, could not be persuaded to share his gifts this night — Williams sings the praises of the event, which she was attending for the first time.
"I'll be back," she says. "It is a really nice setting and message. I really liked it."
It seems on this Thursday, her thirst was satisfied.
If You Go
What: Spiritual happy hour with music, a message and open mic.
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 19, third Thursday of each month.
Where: Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street
Learn more: Nialex.org
Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com