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Rock music and pipe organs don’t generally go hand in hand. But at South Bend (Ind.) Christian Reformed Church they do. For more than two years, the church has served as a part-time indie rock concert venue known as Subkirke.

Frontier Ruckus in concert at South Bend CRC’s Subkirke.

Photo by David Banga

Six to 12 times a year, bands including the BowerBirds, Chris Bathgate, and Frontier Ruckus jam in the sanctuary against a backdrop of liturgical art. Musicians love the space for its acoustics, lack of typical venue distractions like televisions, and built-in instrument.

“The musicians almost always spend a lot of time playing our 130-year-old pipe organ,” said David Banga, worship and arts director for the church, as well as artistic director of Subkirke. “Many of them even include it in their shows.”

In a town with five colleges, the ministry provides a way for South Bend CRC to build friendly relationships with college students and others in the community. The concerts serve as a “side door” entry to those who have lost touch with the church.

Through word of mouth, Subkirke is becoming an increasingly popular place for bands to visit between tour performances in bigger cities.

“[An] exciting side of this is that we’re really ministering in many ways to the musicians themselves, not just the audience. The majority of the musicians who come through have some church background, but have stopped attending,” Banga said. “We’re showing them that there are churches that are interested in what they do, and we’re happy to host them.”

Many members of South Bend CRC have attended at least one of the concerts—even some of those skeptical about such an atypical ministry.

“Without exception, those who come and see the audience interacting with various members of our church, or reading the literature on why we have the concerts, or simply hanging out in our sanctuary, see the value of what we are doing,” said Banga. “It is a very different approach to ministry, and I applaud our congregation for being so supportive.”

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