Carsey’s Barber Shop
Don & Steve’s Barber Shop
Smart Barber Shop
Varsity Barber Shop
Chop Shop Barber Shop
Court Street has become an extension of the quintessential college town that is Athens, Ohio. Students of Ohio University have turned this historical street into an avenue for partying. As more bars take the place of old shops and restaurants, the locals have had to establish their “townie” hangouts elsewhere. But, despite the party culture, one business has managed to preserve its historical presence on Court Street and offers a glimpse into the past.
The iconic red and white pole seems to swirl from a distance, and can be spotted from several blocks away on Court Street. When you walk into Carsey’s Barber Shop it’s like walking into the ’50s. Black, brown, white and red hair is scattered on the floor. The sound of electric blades wrestles with chatter about the holidays, the game, and the wife and kids. Old advertisements for Coca-Cola and Marlboro cigarettes plaster the walls. University letter jackets hang next to a businessman’s coat on the rack by the door.
This is a man’s world, and it’s obvious that no matter where the customer has come from, he expects nothing less when he walks through the door.
Four proud barbers line the mirrored wall. On the end, you’ll find Mr. Carsey himself, well his son that is, standing behind a leather seat, meticulously combing his customer’s hair. Max Carsey has been a barber his whole life. His father, Jesse Carsey, who still lives in Athens, started the business in 1942 when Max was just a baby. Max grew up in the shop and watched his dad cut men’s hair until one day, he would be old enough to do the same.
“I had so much fun in there, I decided I wanted to be like him,” Carsey said.
Carsey has seen the transition of Court Street’s businesses from a window shop’s view. He reminisces about “the good old days” when he could take a sack of coins to Woolworth’s Five and Dime and fill his pockets with candy. Now, he says, there is nothing but bars and restaurants.
But Carsey has made a point to maintain a high level of tradition in the shop. There is no music playing, no flat screen televisions lining the walls and no selection of flashy hair products. Carsey’s is the real deal. Men go for a good haircut, not the special treatment.
“I’ve been to several of the barber shops,” said Todd Wilson, owner of Sol restaurant. “They have the best haircuts here.”
The regulars at Carsey’s aren’t just Athens’ locals, they are students as well. Matt Watts, a junior at Ohio University, is a regular at Carsey’s.
“I like the vibe here, it’s quick, cheap and easy,” said Watts.
Carsey’s also prides itself on truly knowing their customers. Alan Trout, barber at Carsey’s for 19 years, has many regulars and he considers them his friends. On the off chance that Trout doesn’t recognize the next guy to walk in, he will make a point to learn their name.
“You just don’t get that kind of interaction anywhere else,” Trout said. “It’s a lot of the reason I have this job.”
All four barbers at Carsey’s are trained to use a straight blade, which is hard to find these days. A straight blade is considered dangerous and technique must be mastered before a barber is qualified to use one. Brian Muschott, barber at Carsey’s for three years, said he wouldn’t shave his customer’s hair any other way.
“I know when I walk in here, I’ll walk out with a good cut,” said Watts.
Carsey’s never has a slow day. Customers are in and out all day long, each one of them leaving satisfied with a clean, new haircut. And it is the combination of good conversation, a good haircut, and a sense of tradition and pride in their work that Carsey’s has managed to overcome the flood of students on Court Street and withstand the test of time amidst the chaos of modern life.
Cassie Kelly is a student journalist at Ohio University. She is working toward a certificate in environmental studies and hopes to pursue a career in science journalism. You can find her hiding out in Village Bakery, typing away on her beloved MacBook.
$ = Meals under $10
$$ = Meals under $20
$$$ = Meals more than $30
Thai Paradise ($-$$)
102 W. Union St.
M-Th: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
F: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sat: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Restaurant Salaam ($$)
21 W. Washington St.
M-F: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Jerusalem Grill ($)
122 W. Union St.
M-F: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sat-Sun: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
33 N. Court St.
M-Th: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 – 9 p.m.
F: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 – 10 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 – 10 p.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 – 9 p.m.
Star of India ($$)
128 W. Union St.
M-Sat: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 4:30 – 9 p.m.
19 S. Court St.
M-W: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Th-Sat: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
9 W. State St.
M-F: 5 p.m. – 4 a.m.
Sat: 12 p.m. – 4 a.m.
Ah, Sunday. We meet again. Halfheartedly welcoming your sleep-disrupting rays of sunshine, I’m reminded that today is the day to be productive. I’ll start (I mean, finish) studying for tomorrow’s exam. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll start the week off right and go to the gym.
Wait, whom am I kidding? I’m not going to the gym.
If I can even leave my apartment before noon, I consider it a great accomplishment. And if I do, it’s only because my roommates have dragged me to Bagel Street Deli to talk about the night before. Silently judging the dog walkers, runners and library-goers passing us, we walk home to begin a two-hour-long Netflix binge.
As you can tell, ambition runs high here in Athens, Ohio.
Aside from random 4 a.m. fires, Sunday mornings in this sleepy town are typically uneventful. Bits and pieces of the night before are strewn about the dark alleyways. Clothing, cell phones and drivers licenses decorate the bricks. All of those treasures belonging to Ohio University students are so easy to lose, but nearly impossible to get back. Oh, the irony.
I call those items treasures because of how valuable they are to the Athens charm. Court Street, the block running throughout downtown — or Uptown, I’ll never know — is the hub and center of all happenings.
To me, Court Street is a melting pot for infinite experiences and priceless stories. It is a special entity that only those who live here can understand. The functional road is used daily for a variety of activities and has a ton of history. Sunday morning crowds combined with the treasures are all distinct ingredients to the melting pot, which is probably why Athens is so cherished. Like a complex soup recipe passed down from a great-grandmother, it is truly one-of-a-kind.
On one particular Sunday morning I decided to fulfill my caffeine-deprivation at Whit’s Frozen Custard. I like to tell myself that I’m not the only one who, upon moving to Athens, was surprised to find that Whit’s serves more than just custard — although it is delicious! I recommend the “grasshopper,” which is custard of your choice served with dark chocolate flakes and mint syrup. For the hefty cost of $3.25, it’s hard to pass up.
Whit’s opens at 8 a.m. on Sundays, and when I got there around 11 I met Brett McGrath, one of the employees. He explained how the Sunday morning crowd consists of “the intellectuals, the early risers and the elderly.” Tables are usually covered with books, newspapers and coffee mugs by 10:30, and anyone who passes through Whit’s before then gets drinks on the go.
The business is a popular homework spot for students and go-to café for regular coffee drinkers. Even though Brett has only been at Whit’s for roughly eight months, he says he has seen just about everything.
“Every Sunday this person comes in here,” says Brett. “They always order something, so we can’t just turn them away, and they’re perfectly nice. But our bathroom gets ruined every time.”
The situation really isn’t that bad, but I’ll spare you the details. Nonetheless, the bizarre routine at Whit’s definitely contributes to the shop’s character.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a “wrong way on Union” sign behind the counter.
“Oh, that’s been around forever. We keep tally of how many cars drive the wrong way down Union…it’s a one-way street. This past summer session we counted 93.”
I ask Brett if he thinks that any of those 93 were students still recovering from the night before. Hangovers aren’t ideal for driving, after all.
Smirking, he says, “absolutely.”
The following Sunday introduced more interesting characters, one of which wasn’t human.
Walking past the BP gas station on Court Street, I met Ellie Mayers, a senior studying retail merchandising and fashion product development. She was ending her night out with friends by meeting a new one.
Squealing with excitement and mild exhaustion, Mayers says, “Hey there little guy!” The “little guy” is actually a praying mantis, and anything but little. She felt the need to approach the majestic creature, because who gets a chance to see a praying mantis that close?
Their interaction is ordinary compared to other things seen on Court Street at 2 a.m.
Since my arrival in Athens as a sophomore, I have watched occurrences that are equally funny as they are disturbing. It’s like a car accident; you don’t want to look, but you can’t pull your eyes away from what’s going on in front of you.
Drunken couples fighting and causing a break up that leads to the inevitable make up are my personal favorite. If I want popcorn to watch the show, Court Street has that too! Here’s looking at you, Crystal.
Visitors have a hard time understanding Athens’ late night (or early morning, to some) allure. They think that students use and abuse the nightlife that takes place on Court Street. I beg to differ, and so do the people whom I’ve spoken to; we love it.
“The third time’s the charm.” Typically I avoid overused phrases, but for Court Street I’ll make an exception. In Athens, anything goes.
It’s 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, and I’m walking toward the intersection of Court Street and Washington Street. I’m biding time to attempt a decent run — yes, a run! Me, working out! There’s that ambition that I knew was inside of me. Much to my surprise, people are already out and about. Here is what I saw in the half hour I sat on the courthouse steps, with commentary.
I have a lot of respect for these people. It is so easy for residents in Athens to get swept up in the college town stigma and get distracted from a routine lifestyle. To the students waking up early and making their Sundays constructive, I truly applaud you. To the non-students, I’m fascinated by you. College students tend to be blinded by the bubble they live in and not really absorb where they live. Athens is amazing, and so are the people who live here. Business owners have had their establishments for decades, passed down from generation to generation. The Union, which unfortunately was destroyed (but not permanently departed!) in the Nov.16 fire, was built in the early 1900s.
Sunday is the day to appreciate such details. The day to tell the tales that started on Court Street the night before. Perhaps it was even the week before. All in all, it doesn’t matter when something significant happened on Court Street, because the stories will forever linger in the bricks that adorn the road.
After my second nap of the day, I force myself to look at the time. 6 p.m. already? I shouldn’t be so stunned. I’ve embraced that Sundays signify the renewal of a week versus a regret from the weekend.
Three years later and five months away from graduating, I can proudly say that Sunday is my favorite day of the week — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jenna Finer is a senior at Ohio University majoring in Strategic Communications at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She is a chai tea aficionado, self-proclaimed bookworm, Netflix enthusiast and dog lover. As an aspiring public relations professional, she plans to move to a big city after graduating to make her mark on the retail, cosmetic and lifestyle industries.
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang released in 2006. It tells stories of American Born Chinese, especially the young generation, using cartoon characters. By telling these stories, Yang discusses his racial struggles and typical stereotypes towards Chinese Americans.
Check out the video to learn more about this novel!
As Lam K. Wong was recalling the old days, a tall, overweight young man walked into Peking Express. Wong stopped talking immediately and proudly introduced his son to everyone present. Although Wong is unhappy about his son sometimes, he could not take his eyes off him when he walked in. But it seemed this young man was not very comfortable being introduced to strangers in this way. He merely nodded and walked into the kitchen with no expression.
There were not many customers in Peking Express at 3 p.m. that Thursday afternoon. Its owner, Wong, had sat in front of a table covered with piles of bills and napkins, doing bookkeeping before his son walked in. Two young employees leaned against the wall and watched a Chinese soap opera on TV.
“I don’t like food there, but the restaurant’s owner is a good guy. He is very funny and looks a lot like the Hong Kong comedian Ng Man Tat,” customer Serenitie Wang said.
Peking Express is a Chinese restaurant at 5 N Court Street, Uptown Athens. Although it is somewhat ordinary, it is still quite popular at Ohio University, which has a large population of Chinese students. Many of them even regard it as another campus cafeteria.
“Price is good. Food is OK. And its owner is nice,” Qing Huang, a regular costumer, commented. Just like Huang, most costumers only have an impression that the restaurant’s owner is a nice, chubby middle-aged guy with gray mustache. But not many people know that in addition to being a businessman, Wong is also an immigrant and a Chinese father of two “American kids.”
Opened in September 2004, Peking Express just celebrated its 10th year. When discussing it, Wong put down his pen and pointed at a framed, yellowed Athens News story on the wall covering its opening.
Wong looked a bit tired because he flew back from New York City the previous night. He owns a house in New York. His daughter, Winnie Wong, lives and works there. She majors in hotel management in college. Wong said she was going to move to Hawaii soon because she wanted to work in a new environment.
Besides a daughter, Wong has a son, Jackque Wong, who is an undergraduate student at OU. When he talked about his son, there was a hint of helplessness in his face.
“He just transferred his major from physical therapy to global studies. Why does he choose non-practical major like this? Americans like war. People get injured. You can easily get a job if you graduate as a physical therapist. I really don’t understand these American kids,” Wong said, shaking his head.
Both of his children were born and spent their childhood in Brooklyn, New York. Instead of calling them by name, Wong always calls his two children “these American kids.”
“So I strongly support his decision to apply for an exchange program to Hong Kong. I do hope he can improve his Mandarin and Cantonese in that good language environment. He should not forget where does he really come from,” Wong said.
In Chinese society, children like the Wongs are called ABC, which means American Born Chinese. Though it is a relatively neutral term, when people talk about ABC, they generally assume the children have completely lost their Chinese heritage.
But in the U.S., it seems Americans regard ABC as Chinese. “I have been stereotyped in many ways in the past. Some stereotypes include my driving, my knowledge on mathematics, and others,” Jackque Wong said.
This is a dilemma many ABCs face. “Like my son, he barely hangs out with his Chinese friends,” Wong said with a sigh. “He said his girlfriend must be an ABC too. Or he does not know how to get along with her. This is too much! People from totally different cultural backgrounds can fall in love and get married. Why can’t he marry a Chinese girl? So ridiculous.”
Running a restaurant is never an easy job. That’s why Wong did not spend much of his time with his children when they were little kids. He sent them to Chinese kindergarten to learn Mandarin. But they forgot much of what they learned because they didn’t have an opportunity to practice it after leaving the Chinese kindergarten and attending an American elementary school.
“I have a good relationship with my parents. There is still a language barrier that exists from time to time because I am so used to speaking English. My parents never have the time to properly teach me Chinese, therefore I speak to them ‘broken-Chinese’ that mainly includes some Cantonese and Fuzhounese added together,” Jackque Wong said.
After a moment of silence, Lam Wong said, “Sometimes I really want to live with these kids together, as traditional Chinese families do. But as you can see, it is impossible. I am getting old and they are working for a better future.”
Lam Wong was born in 1958 in Fujian, a costal province in south China. Fuzhounese is the main dialect in this province. Since ancient times, Fujianese have immigrated to Taiwan, Hong Kong and many other regions and countries of the world to escape famine and poverty. Almost right after he was born, his family immigrated to Hong Kong, which was a British colony at that time. Immigrants from Fujian Province have flooded to the U.S. since the 1980s. Fujianese are still the main population in Chinatowns around the U.S. Wong became one of them and went to the United States in 1980. Just like his own description, he was one of the people who “keep moving and immigrating.”
He spent his first 20 years in America in New York and moved to Ohio in 2001. He was not willing to talk much about how he gained the citizenship. Wong now owns two restaurants. The other one is near OU’s Chillicothe campus, about an hour drive from Athens.
Discussing his retried life, Wong said, “I am going to be a volunteer in a Buddhist temple in New York when I am too old to run a restaurant, though I am not much of a Buddhist. And I will for sure fly back to China every year as I have done for the last decade,” he paused, “because it’s home.”
However, to Jackque Wong, “home” is more like a foreign country. He recalled, “I have been to China once as a very young child, but I cannot remember much because of how long ago it was.”
Guo Zu is a master student studying journalism at Ohio University. She comes from Beijing, China. She speaks and writes in English and Chinese. She is also a graphic designer and travel enthusiast. She wants to be a columnist.
Sometimes you just need something and it’s somewhere you can’t find it. Never fear, here’s where to find all the necessities for living well in Athens.
Alcohol? There are times when you really just need a drink. Do yourself a favor and go to Pawpurr’s. It won’t break the bank and it’s definitely time to try a Dirty Girl Scout. Another great option is Broney’s at the end of Court Street. I recommend a Champagne Slushie…or four.
37 N Court St, Athens, OH 45701 (740) 592-9890
7 W Carpenter St, Athens, OH 45701 (740) 592-5900
Comfort food? Sometimes all you need are some carbs and sugar to turn your day around. There is no better place than Court Street Diner for comfort food. Homemade mac ‘n cheese, chocolate milkshakes, and breakfast food will always make your day a little bit better.
Court Street Diner
18 N Court St, Athens, OH 45701 (740) 594-8700
Quiet place to study? Are your roommates being too loud? Donkey Coffee is right off of Court Street and it is the best place in Athens to grab some coffee and snag a comfy chair to do homework. Maybe you’ll even meet Hipster Prince Charming if you’re lucky.
17 W Washington St, Athens, OH 45701 (740) 594-7353
Retail therapy? It’s scientifically proven that women feel better just holding a shopping bag. Figleaf is fun for super girly necklaces and outfits, but in all honesty, CVS is the best place to stock up on chocolate and nail polish.
57 N Court St, Athens, OH 45701 (740) 594-5959
32 S Court St, Athens, OH (740) 592-6024
Music? Music can heal the soul. The best place in Athens for music is Casa Neuva because they often host live bands. Get out there, meet new people, and enjoy some music and margaritas!
6 W State St, Athens, OH 45701 (740) 592-2016
The bricks of Court Street go a long way toward defining it: dirty, burnt red. It’s both beautiful and ugly, much like my time on Court Street. I’ve had my fiery red nights of happiness, making new friends and falling in love. But I’ve also had my fair share of dingy, depressing poop-brown nights where I’ve lost my best friend or just been a mess.
Through it all though, I’ve become someone quite different than when I arrived here a little over two years ago — just as time has changed those iconic bricks.
Court Street is about more than wild nights. It’s about all the times spent trying to discover who you are as a person, and not just a college student. I’ve had my heart broken on Court Street. I’ve made some of my dearest friends at the bars. I’ve eaten my weight in burritos and wings and then attempted to fit into the tiny dresses at Figleaf. But most of all I have learned what it means to be alive — all on this one little stretch of road in a small town in Ohio.
As I near the middle of my junior year, I’ve realized that now it’s time for me to share my story with new Bobcats so that they make the most of their time on Court Street.
Before I even arrived for my first night as a freshman in Scott Quadrangle, Court Street played a major role in my life. I remember walking down to get chocolate ice cream at Whit’s as a 7-year-0ld with my parents and Brian Wiebe, my older brother, who also attended Ohio University. I was amazed at all Court Street had to offer, and I always wanted to go back whenever we would visit my brother. Court Street was a magical place as a kid, but it eventually would come to disappoint me at times.
However, when it came time to decide where I would go to school, the obvious choice was Ohio University because it was a second home and felt familiar. I still have my very first photo that my mom took of me outside of the gates to the entrance of College Green during freshmen orientation. The gate reads, “So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge, wisdom, and love.” I look happy, confident, and scared.
I had little to no idea what all would happen during my time at OU, but I knew that it was going to be the biggest adventure of my life so far. I learned so much from my time on Court Street — lessons that could not have been taught in a classroom in Bentley or Morton Hall.
My first, most memorable memory was my first HallOUween. I was head-over-heels for this guy I had awkwardly met in my dorm, and I thought he felt the same way. We kept going back and forth on whether or not to date, and eventually decided we were somewhat exclusive but still not dating.
What’s that supposed to mean?
My freshman head did not know. Spoiler alert: We did not work out. Long story short (prepare for a run-on sentence): I kissed another guy, he got mad, he takes me on a date to Pita Pit, I think we’re back on, I invite him to a HallOUween party, he shows up with another girl, I freak and wind up running down Court Street with my best girl friend trying to make out with every boy in sight.
To this day, I still do not know how many boys I actually kissed that night. It is not a pretty story, and quite frankly makes me sound incredibly stupid. But I realized that I didn’t need him to determine my happiness, and I certainly didn’t need uncertainty in a “relationship.” It was my friend who was there for me when I needed someone, and not the random dude from Scott Quad.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t settle for anything less than being and feeling fabulous. Value the people who are there for you, who make sure you make it back to your dorm/apartment/house.
That wasn’t the only time I had my heart broken on Court Street. The second time was a lot harder to deal with because we had been going out for nearly two years.
When you go from love to being told “Let’s just be friends,” life sucks. There’s nothing you can do about it and you just sit around thinking about how things should have gone differently. At least that’s what I did for a little while.
“The Break-up” was unexpected, confusing, and told me that perhaps I should invest in Kleenex and Dove chocolate. This taught me much more than just “don’t make out with everyone.”
Living above Subway on Court Street my junior year has been one of the best and worst parts of my time at OU. A number of my friends from Scott Quad also live in the apartments above Subway, including the boy who broke my heart the second time. There have been several awkward times since “The Break-up” where I’ve run into “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” but far more happy times with some of the best people I’ve ever met.
An uncomfortable run-in in the hallway is not what I’m going to remember about my time above Subway. Rather, I’m going to remember the nights my roommates and I took too many shots and danced on our surprisingly solid coffee table to Taylor Swift. I’m going to remember the summer night when I came down to check out the new apartment and wound up laying in the middle of Court Street at 4 a.m. Don’t ask.
Court Street can’t always be a fairytale. There are a ton of disappointments in life, but I’d much rather remember the times I felt like a whole person and not a sad shell. The thing about breaking up is that you get over it. One day I just woke up and DIDN’T think about it. I stepped out of my apartment on Court Street and it was a damn beautiful day to be 20-something and fearless.
LESSON LEARNED: It’s not easy being alone, but it’s better than wasting your time with someone who doesn’t make you truly happy. Bad things will happen, but they make the good moments all the more sweet.
My final and favorite memory of Court Street was very recent. Anytime I have been upset, I’ve turned to retail therapy. Or alcoholism (kidding). At nearly the same time “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” and I broke up, my roommate and her ex-boyfriend also broke up.
We consider ourselves much like Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation, and we decided it was time to take some advice from two other characters from the series. Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, two bureaucrats from the show, always talk about how you should “Treat Yo’ Self!” So naturally, my roommate and I did just that. A day that perhaps should have been spent doing homework was spent heading out to the bars at 3 p.m. It’s five o’clock somewhere, right? We ordered our favorite beverages and toasted to treating ourselves.
Sometimes the responsibilities can be put on hold for a couple hours. I am a strong believer in being kind to yourself when you’re feeling down or in serious need of a break from working hard. At the same time, though, be kind to your friends. Make them go eat with you if you know they aren’t feeling the greatest about life. Buy them a stupid card and some nail polish to cheer them up about a failed test. Or, just go drink for a bit at Pawpurr’s or the CI.
LESSON LEARNED: Treat yo’ self. Treat yo’ friends. Drink a little and shop a little, but don’t go overboard. Time heals everything, but not your bank account or liver.
Brian, the first person who introduced me to Court Street, said, “There’s a saying I’ve heard that is something to the effect of, ‘There is a time and a place for everything, and it’s college.’ OU gave me an opportunity to experiment and try new things, both academically and socially. So I would tell new Bobcats to experiment and have fun, but also to do so in a way that maintains both self-respect and respect for others.”
Take it from him and me, two Bobcats, to cherish the time you have here because there’s no place like OU. Once your time here is over, it’s really the REAL world. Be appreciative of the precious time you have here and don’t waste it crying over someone or something that isn’t what is right for you.
Life is far from simple, and it only seems to get more complicated the more time goes by. However, the time spent at OU teaches people more about life than they realize. I am still learning as a junior, and I’ll be sad to leave in a little over a year. Court Street has been the epicenter of my learning experience and taught me a lot about the difference between being an adult and a kid, though I still act like a kid from time to time.
I’m not the same person I was in that picture right before I came to OU, but I’m definitely still happy, confident, and somewhat scared. Just like those bricks on Court that I’ve lain on, I may not be wild and fiery red on the outside, but I’m more solid and secure in who I am than I used to be.
Diana Canada Jean Wiebe is a junior studying journalism and political science at Ohio University. She is the Editor-in-Chief of FANGLE Magazine, a member of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-law Fraternity, and an account associate for ImPRessions. Her dream job is to become a litigator on the West Coast.
Like it or not, Athens, Ohio, has earned the reputation as a metropolis of bars, parties and good times.
However, it’s safe to say that thousands of Ohio alumni do not return to Athens on homecoming to relive old memories from their favorite places of prayer and repentance.
Yet, keeping the faith carries on, even in the midst of an environment of free-thinking and a natural tendency to deviate from one’s embedded ideals. Spreading the word of God requires a new approach when playing to a college crowd.
First Presbyterian Church, located smack-dab in the middle of Uptown Athens at the corner of Court and Washington, reaches out to students from their first days on campus through handing out literature at the university’s involvement fair. The church also offers complimentary lunches to students each Wednesday afternoon.
December 7 – Second Sunday in Advent: ALL are Welcome!Sunday School – see times on website.10:30 – Worship>Scr… http://t.co/GfFrzXQy82
— Robert Stewart (@athensfpc) December 2, 2014
Being located within such a close proximity to campus allows the church’s administration to reach out to a new crop of freshmen every year. Its location, however, also comes with some disadvantages.
“When I try to describe where we’re located, (people) immediately think we’re the Pita Pit or a bar,” FPC Pastor Rob Martin said.
It hasn’t always been that way. As a matter of fact, the church predates any Athens watering hole or gyro hub by several decades.
The church first opened its doors in 1809 and played a “vital role in the development of the city and university,” according to the church’s website. Seems likely, considering the university’s first president, Jacob Lindley, also served as the church’s pastor. Three of Lindley’s four presidential successors also assumed the role of FPC pastor.
The widely beloved town and university were built upon religious ideals. The marker near the university’s Alumni Gateway reads, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, school and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
[metaslider id=785]Two Latin phrases are engraved on the 99-year old arches of the gateway. They read, “So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge wisdom and love,” and “So depart that daily thou mayest better serve thy fellowmen thy country and thy God.”
The university’s motto “Religio, Doctrina, Civilitas, Prae, Ombinius, Virtus” translates to “Religion, Learning, Civility, and above all, virtue.”
Though religion has its roots in Ohio University lore, Martin admitted that a shift towards secularism means the church no longer assumes a central role in society, even if his church is in the middle of the action.
Martin’s assertion is not necessarily supported by statistics. The Pew Research center conducted a study in 2012 in which over 2,500 censuses from more than 230 countries were analyzed. The results: 84 percent of the world associated themselves with a religion, with 31.5% of the world following Christianity. Any shift Martin may have noticed could stem from how deeply involved people are in religious activities. The study did not address how frequently people attended religious services.
To combat a lessening demand for the religious part of the church, Martin placed an emphasis on serving the community, especially with the economic hardships faced by many residents of Southeastern Ohio. The church works hand-in-hand with other churches and religious organizations to assist the community, despite a popular trend of churches slipping into survival mode and rationing resources with regard to community support.
“They had a saying here: ‘A heart for the heart of the city,’” Martin said with a chuckle.
That heart shows affection for a diverse community, regardless of background.
The Presbyterian Church has been open to homosexuals since the mid-’80s, Martin estimated, and it is evidenced by a small gay pride decal on the glass of the building’s welcome sign.
“It’s nice to not have that be an issue,” Martin said. “We keep a flag there as a signal to anybody that if you feel, if you have an alternative lifestyle and you want to be part of a church, this would certainly be a church that would welcome you and not judge you.”
The Presbyterian Church is right at home in what senior video production major Joel Hafner described as a progressive community.
“A lot of churches are afraid to discuss the issue or talk about it because they don’t want to be ridiculed,” he said. “It’s really following the Bible. Jesus says that the greatest commandment of all is to love your neighbor and to love each other.”
The sexual orientation of a potential church-goer should play no role in deciding an individual’s acceptance into a church, in Hafner’s opinion. Well, his opinion is based off of what he read in the Bible, a piece of literature by which he has led his entire life.
The word of God knows no discrimination: If somebody wants to hear it, the church should open its doors and guide whoever strolls in the nearest pew, in Hafner’s eyes. For him, getting an individual to want to listen to the good word is victory enough.
Hafner does not identify himself as a Presbyterian. He attends Central Avenue United Methodist Church, but his beliefs line up with the motto of the Presbyterian Church: Seffer Reformanda – always reforming. Tradition is important, but so is maintaining a connection to the modern world.
It’s what do we have to say for the time that we’re in right now, because it’s the only time we’re given,” Martin said.
Holding on to tradition can prove to be difficult within a world of “sinful” actions. The church sits only 20 yards from the bank wall where two intoxicated students engaged in sexual acts, eventually resulting in a sexual assault investigation. Martin wouldn’t support something of this nature, but he understands the nature of the town’s most colorful street.
“I’m all for a good time,” Martin said, followed by a grin.”Within limits.”
Within the Bible, there is nothing that strictly forbids Christians from consuming, but as Martin stated, there are limits.
Ephesians 5:18 reads, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with spirit.”
The problem with a college town: many drink to get blasted, inebriated, drunk, whatever the choice word may be. Martin can’t condone drunkenness, but accepts that students will drink. He just prays for their safety.
“That’s what it means to be a student,” he said. “A chance to get your mistakes out of the way.”
Before attending Ohio, Hafner knew he wanted to maintain his faith, but acknowledged the difficulty of staying on that path with an environment which encourages self-discovery and change. To do so, he sought out a Christian community, joining Campus Crusaders right away.
“If you’re a big video game person, you’ll seek out a community of gamers who you can relate to,” Hafner said. “I think it takes a certain mindset to pursue it yourself.”
That community is continuously looking to expand. Campus Crusaders for Christ, commonly known as “CRU,” continues to recruit new students and will send out student representatives to talk religion, school and life with anybody who shows interest. The organization seeks to build faith through weekly Bible studies and extracurricular community gatherings, such as camp-outs, intramural sports and attending concerts.
For Hafner, the best way to spread the word of God is associating with people who do not share similar beliefs. Christians should love chronic party-goers just as much as they would love somebody in their Bible study group, according to Hafner.
“Through that, if you’re interested in getting to know what you believe and hear more, I’d love to tell them about it,” he stated,” I’m not going to avoid people who are Christians because they go party. That’s not right.”
It’s a good thing that the partying is tolerated because it’s safe to say Athens’ bar culture is here to stay. Martin and Hafner agree that everyone is a child of God, regardless of how many church services they have attended or their blood-alcohol concentration levels.
It’s about rising above differences and “loving thy neighbor,” just as the Ten Commandments states. As for Hafner’s favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 28:1. It lines up perfectly with what he believes.
“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
Brad Friedman is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. He is a student employee with the Ohio University athletics department, working in video production and media relations, in addition to writing about the Blue Jackets for “The Hockey Writers.” In this past, Brad has worked with WOUB Public Media and the Columbus Blue Jackets digital media team.