Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jesus and a Beer

As several denominations are increasing their advertising efforts to attract new church attendees (i.e., a $20M rebranding effort from the United Methodist Church), one group is taking a different approach. This group, in Billings, Montana, is meeting at a local brewery for their church services - bar stools instead of pews, beer menus instead of hymnals. Money quote:
"Don't read this the wrong way," said Minister Ryan Tucker before the start of Sunday's Theology on Tap gathering at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company. "There's nothing wrong with church. I just sensed that there was more room at the table for people who aren't into the conventional, traditional church."
The article describes the reasoning behind meeting at a bar:
The decision to hold church services at the brewery was not made to attract a beer-drinking crowd or to repel Christians with a strict churchgoing background.

"We want to be there for people who wouldn't ordinarily come to church - for whatever their reason," Tucker said.

From the start, Tucker and Hall decided they wanted worshipers at The Well to meet in common or public spaces. They believe that by not having a building more resources can be returned to the community.
[...]
"For the old model of church, a building was certainly needed, but our culture is shifting, so it's not as necessary anymore," Tucker said.
How much of this has to do with the fact that drinking a brew can be a meditative practice? Seriously though, expanding the definition of sacred space beyond beyond our traditional understandings (i.e., church and worship buildings) is a good thing, and, to head off any possible objections, drinking beer during spiritual practice should not be viewed as overly problematic; Jesus oftentimes taught over a meal and wine.

6 comments:

Crystal said...

I see value in the church expanding beyond its walls to willing participants. I take issue with the Methodist Church championing this though. Being historically so against alcohol of any kind, it reeks of desperation. You can spin it any way you like, but it still feels like a church changing its ideals to expand a shrinking audience.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Actually, the Catholic Church started "Theology on Tap" and the "Bishop in the Bar" groups for young Catholics in the Washington, DC area several years ago. They have been a great success.

Crystal, I don't want to get into a protracted discussion on why the Methodists were so anti-alcohol - there were historical reasons for it, but it's not really Scriptural. C.S. Lewis once pointed out that teetotaling was not necessarily Christian, but was required by Islam. Alcohol is forbidden in the Koran. It never was in the Bible. Drunkeness was frowned upon, but moderation, not total avoidance, was encouraged by both the ancient Hebrews and the early Church fathers.

Drew said...

Crystal, Not every denomination has the same reaction to alcohol in which you speak (i.e., any high church, Catholic, Episcopal), and there is also vast differences within each denomination over the subject (i.e., Baptists). As AIAW states, there is a more universal rebuke against drunkedness, but not necessarily the consumption of alcohol in moderation. As such, denominations who are okay with a responsible approach to alcohol, wouldn't be "changing their ideals" to meet in this bar. I don't consider this spin at all, just a recognition that there isn't a uniform approach or understanding on the subject (like many theological subjects).

AIAW, I sounded to me like this group started as a "Theology on Tap" but then evolved into a church meeting. I've been to a "Theology on Tap" before, but this sounds more ecclesial and more liturgical ... for example, their future aspirations of communion and baptism.

A Faithful Reader said...

Sipping Saints verus Teetotaling Saints is not the issue here. The issue is at what point is the church's wish to be relevant step over into losing its witness. I know that a long extended discussion on why some denominations preach abstinence is not desired here, but such reasons must not be discounted because some of us are "teetotalers" and others of us are alcohol drinkers. The question is does meeting in a brewery keep people from worship? Are Christians required to curb their tastes and habits in order to preclude weaker brothers and sisters from falling away? The Christian New Testament speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 10:23-32.

The question should also be asked if people are coming for the beer or for the worship? It really does make a difference in how one views this article in context of their faith.

If meeting in bars or breweries bring people closer to God, I say "great." If meeting in bars or breweries cause people not to be comfortable in worship, then the church has traded one wall for another. That is not good news.

A Faithful Reader said...

We forgive me, I need to edit my last with these additional "comments and corrections"

(1) The question is does meeting in a brewery keep people from worship? Does meeting in a brewery bring people to worship that would not come to a traditional church building?(2) Are Christians required to curb their tastes and habits in order to preclude weaker brothers and sisters from falling away? The Christian New Testament does speak of this in 1 Corinthians 10:23-32.

(3) The question should also be asked if people are coming for the beer or for the worship? Will those coming for the beer, find worship as some "theology on tap" groups have found? It really does make a difference in how one views this article in context of their faith and the faith of others.

Thank you for allowing me to add these thoughts to my original writing.

Again Drew, you have a great blog here. I find it refreshing that all topics are open to honest discussion and you remain as unbiased as possible.

dwadkins said...

Drew, I am afraid that this beer issue will lead to further schisms in Christendom. There will be Dark Ale Lutherans who denounce Amber ale Lutherans. Pilsner Presbyterians, Amber Anabaptists, Sout Disciples all vying for their one true brew. Or....maybe if they test each other's creeds enough it will all dissolve into a sloppy chorus of "Blest be the tie."