Breaking: Local church in Georgetown, TX spends their third consecutive Sunday meeting outside in blazing summer heat following their shady eviction. Temperatures climb to 102 degrees while members huddle under the shade of a few small trees in town square.
“Right now, we’re meeting outside on the lawn of the historic courthouse, which is in the center of the square,” said Bradley Helgerson, pastor of The Church on the Square.
“It’s hot… and I’ve been told that we’re not permitted to put up tents for shade. Most of our members sit under a large tree,” said Helgerson.
Recently, The Church on the Square was evicted from Georgetown Palace Theatre, where their services have taken place for a year-and-a-half. Helgerson and many of his members believe this eviction was retaliation for their criticism of a new publicly funded mural, which was painted by middle school students and depicts LGBTQ pride month flags.
Helgerson and two church members spoke against the mural at a city council meeting. Within a few days, Helgerson received harassing phone calls. A week-and-a-half later, his church was evicted from the theater via an email which said they could no longer offer their facilities to The Church on the Square, vaguely citing “resource management issues.”
Georgetown is a suburb of Austin, which is a highly progressive city. However, the overarching political climate in Georgetown is fairly conservative. The town, with a population of slightly over 67 thousand, is considered by some as the last conservative (northern) suburb of the Central Texas region.
“Our city council is quite conservative as are most of the people who live here. But there is a real movement to change that,” Helgerson said.
“The old unofficial slogan of Georgetown was to ‘keep Georgetown normal,’ because Austin’s slogan was to ‘keep Austin weird. Our new slogan should be, ‘quit Austining my Georgetown,’” Helgerson quipped.
The Church on the Square, which was founded in May 2020 during the peak of the COVID pandemic, was strategically located in the heart of Georgetown with intent to theologically, politically and culturally fight for its suburb.
“When we launched the church, we said ‘we’re going to stick the flag in the ground here, that ‘we’re going to fight for this town.’ The progressive element [here] is small, but they’re very active in government,” Helgerson said.
“There is a battle going on for the heart of this town. And a lot of it is taking place on the square. On weekends, people are down here rallying for BLM and abortion rights. It’s kind of a hotbed for political conflict.”
“My sense is that… this progressive movement is quite small in Georgetown. It tends to be made up of more sophisticated people who work in the government, or own coffee shops, etc. But when they need muscle, they have to recruit more surely types from Austin. After all, they don’t want to scuff their seven-hundred-dollar Ferragamos.”
The contract between The Church on the Square and Georgetown Palace Theatre looked like an adapted version of a contract the venue might use to rent the theater for one night. It contained no clause about a 30-day contract termination notice, Helgerson said.
While the theater was within their legal rights to evict the church, due to the ambiguity of the reason and the immediacy of their removal, the pastor and many of his members were highly suspicious, Helgerson said.
Prior to that Friday, The Church on the Square believed that they had a close and mutually beneficial relationship with the theater. The church began renting space during the COVID pandemic lockdowns, when the theater was no longer hosting shows.
Additionally, the church held a fundraising event called Faith and Film, where they screened a movie and donated all of the proceeds to Georgetown Palace Theatre, which is a non-profit organization.
Yet Ron Watson, the executive artistic director of the theater, ignored multiple attempts by Helgerson to seek clarification about the eviction.
A reporter from The Federalist found that one of the people on the arts and culture board, which organized the controversial ‘Be Your Own Person’ mural, was also on the board of Georgetown Palace Theatre.
The purpose of Pastor Helgerson’s church is captured in its name: The Church on the Square. Their motto is the ‘Three Rs’: Revive the church, Reach the city, and Renew the culture.
“We really want to affect culture, to bring renewal to the city of Georgetown through the gospel,” Helgerson said.
In congruence with the church’s mission, when local children at Forbes Middle School worked with the city’s art and culture board to paint a publicly located mural showcasing a field of poppies, various LGBTQ pride flags and the tagline ‘Be Your Own Person,’ Pastor Helgerson and two of his church members expressed their concerns at workshop hosted before a city council meeting.
At the nine minute mark of this episode of Deprogrammed with Keri Smith, a YouTube series hosted by a member of The Church on the Square, readers can view Helgerson’s full speech to the city council. The full transcript can be read below.
Here is a direct link to Helgerson’s remarks.
“My remarks aim to provide some theological context to the ideology lurking behind this expression, so that the council will not be deceived into thinking that it is merely an attempt to protect a few individuals, as it is often framed, but as I see it, which is what it really is, which is an attempt to fundamentally reorder society.
“But it wasn’t long ago that we were a primarily agrarian people, meaning that our survival was totally dependent upon nature’s mercy. And as a result, the authority of the created order was inescapable. The world was the way that it was, and if you refused to conform yourself to it, the consequences would be catastrophic. So, if you sowed too late or reaped too early, calamity would come upon you like a whirlwind.
“But wealth and its technology have allowed us to suppress that plain truth by often shielding us from the immediate consequences of our actions. The result of which is a cultural hubris which is only emboldened with time and that now seems to liberate itself it seems from all restraints.
“Not only those which are agricultural, but those which are physiological, casting doubt upon creational distinctions which have stabilized western civilization for millennia, like the important difference between men and women. A flouting of the natural order which cannot be done with immunity.
“Deny gravity by jumping off a high-rise building and the consequences are immediate, but if you deny biological gender, the consequences may be delayed, but they will be no less tragic.
“Which brings us to the Forbes mural and the Arts and Culture Board which sponsored it. The purpose of culture is to transliterate the sacred order into the societal order. To give us the language, symbols and practices necessary to not only understand the sacred, but to aid in our conformity to it.
“This is what art in its highest form is intended to do, to be a threshold to the transcendent so that we might be conformed to its image. And thus, what every cultural institution is about, and what every piece of art is about, whether the artist knows it or not, is the project of conforming society to a particular vision of ultimate reality. Establishing if you will, God’s will on earth, as it is in Heaven.
“But the imminent threat we face as a society at the moment is not that we have competing religious visions clamoring for our attention, but rather that there is a rebellion rising that seeks to destroy the sacred itself.
“An abolitionist movement which is driven by resentment, by what Herbert Marcuza called ‘the great refusal,’ a description that he finds from Dante’s Inferno. It’s a kind of resentment, a kind of resentful hyper individualism that will conform to nothing, which views in other words negation as an intrinsic good, which finds catharsis in bringing chaos out of order.
“Dante, as an aside, pictures these disgruntled deconstructionists as marching around the shores of Acheron waving blank banners, for they protest merely for the sake of protesting, and therefore they belong neither in Hell nor Heaven.
“Now many have been fooled into thinking that such a rebellion against reality is an act of liberation, that when we tear down every norm we will be left with a freer society, that true freedom comes when the shackles of the sacred are removed.
“But the work of the LGBTQ movement is not the work of liberation, but of liberationists, whose desire is to destroy the societal order itself, precisely because of its demand for conformity. In other words, it’s not a matter of open-mindedness, but of close heartedness to right judgment that is the problem.
“Therefore, their goal is to remove all judgments, all boundaries, as is testified to by the endless number of genders and sexual orientations they affirm. It’s a kind of self-loathing that finds momentary acceptance in destroying anything that might invite comparisons, anything that is true, good and beautiful, like the beautiful conformity of red poppies.
“Now I know this sounds extreme in the context of one mural, but it’s not just a mural. It’s a piece of propaganda for an ideology that seeks to destroy western civilization and to use our children as its foot soldiers.
“And so, it’s not culture that we’re talking about, but it’s anti-culture, and to refuse to push back against it now will mean the substantial loss of real liberty for our children in the future.
“There’s two ways to go about it. One, we can try to slow the process down and try to remain neutral as much as we can, but all that we’ll do is push the problem off to our children and grandchildren. What I suggest is that we put an end to it, and whenever it rears its ugly head, we put it down. Thank you,” said Helgerson.
Helgerson’s words are excellently articulated and sound more of a sermon than a traditional comment panel at a city council meeting. Moreover, Helgerson marks an important distinction between art and political propaganda, defining the ‘Be Your Own Person’ as the latter.
In essence, allowing a single LGBTQ mural to slide will eventually reap sinister ramifications for his town, which has remained conservative despite an extreme far-left movement to fundamentally reorder society itself. Helgerson distinguishes this movement as anti-culture rather than culture, with the aim to command society to abandon all innate senses of natural versus unnatural, under the guise of social liberation and inclusivity.
“I think it went over the heads of some people. I think the city council was just expecting anybody who spoke to sort of get up there and be like ‘we don’t like the gays.’ And [Pastor Helgerson] is talking about culture and the purpose of art and what is anti-culture,” church member and Youtuber Keri Smith said.
“I was happy [my pastor] got to speak, and I wanted to say… that’s what all of his sermons are like… He’s so thoughtful, he’s talking about Herbert Marcuza, and he brings in different writers and thinkers and philosophy, and he connects everything to what is currently unfolding in the world.”
This particular mural, Helgerson said, was organized by Forbes Middle School of Georgetown ISD and the town’s arts and culture board. This board was formed by the city, and is responsible for creating and maintaining public art.
“They commission the artists and they’re in control of the aesthetic development of the city. One of the things they’ve been doing lately is painting murals on the side of a lot of buildings… throughout the town,” Helgerson said.
The ‘Be Your Own Person’ mural, which depicts a field of poppy flowers, including flowers painted in the colors of various LGBTQ pride flags, was the second of a collection which features Georgetown ISD student designs. It was painted on the back of Tejas Meat Supply, which is in the town square.
This Sunday, Georgetown weather forecasters anticipate blistering temperatures of up to 106 degrees.
The Church on the Square, which typically has between 70 to 75 people in attendance, including children, intends to meet outside yet again. Pastor Helgerson and his members are facing blatant retaliation for speaking in defense of their Christian beliefs.
“We don’t want to leave the square, because we feel like that’s exactly what our opponents want. They want us to hide in a bunker somewhere so that no one hears what we’ve got to say. And the whole point of our church is to engage in public theology,” Helgerson said.
“Right now, our immediate need is to find a location that we can be in, in and around the square, at least temporarily. Then, we can reassess and see what we’re going to do.”
The Church on the Square is unique in a crucial way; rather than passively confining their beliefs to Sunday services, this Georgetown worship center actively engages in their community and strives to renew their town’s spirit. Cancel culture punishes the loud and the fearless, but Pastor Helgerson and his members intend to fight until the end.
If you would like to donate to The Church on the Square’s cause, visit one of the links below.