NPR reports that while some churches are dealing with the problem of a dwindling congregation, others are trying to create a new kind of Christian community: one dedicated to good beer.
Church-in-a-Pub, as it's being affectionately called, sounds like quite a fun Sunday. "I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here, and I find friends that love God, love craft beer," said one worship leader, 28-year-old leasing agent Leah Stanfield.
Every Sunday, between 30 and 40 people meet at Zio Carlo's brewpub to share pizza, pints, prayer, and communion -- all as part of the regular service. This Ft. Worth, TX outfit of Church-in-a-Pub is sponsored by Pastor Philip Heinze and the Calvary Lutheran Church.
Obviously, some people who go out for Sunday night drinking are a bit surprised when they enter the bar and find a church service taking place. Bartender Les Bennett describes a typical scene: "I tell 'em, it's a church service, and they're, like, 'In a pub?' And I'm, like, yeah. Some of 'em stick around for trivia, some of 'em take off, some of 'em will hang out and have another pint or two."
If people are interested in hanging around, then one of Church-in-a-Pub's goals has already been accomplished; if some random person decides to nurse their beer, they overhear the Gospel of Luke, and see some people line up for bread and wine, they may get curious.
Heinze is well aware of the controversy of the edgy missionary work, but it doesn't seem to bother him. "I'm not interested, frankly, in making more church members," he says. "I'm interested in having people have significant relationships around Jesus. And if it turns out to be craft beer, fine."
Heinze believes the "institutional church now is getting onboard because there's a lot of anxiety frankly about the church's decline and they're trying to think outside of that institutional box."
A similar mission in Oregon holds an aptly titled event named Beer and Hymns once a month at the First Christian Church in Portland; they get about 100 people a night, but chances are your grandmother and her friends won't be seen there. Young people, tasting homemade stout at a two-drink limit, are joyously singing traditional hymns like Be Thou My Vision.
The Christian Church Disciples of Christ, which has deeply felt the membership decline, hopes that Beer and Hymns will keep growing in popularity. One longtime church member, 78-year-old Rodney Page, embraced the change enthusiastically. "I know that initially there were some people who had some trepidation. This church has had a history and background of being anti-alcohol, so it took some convincing for some people. But eventually people went ahead with it and it's been a great success."
Will the beer-drinking Christian congregation become a regular sight? Go here to check out the full NPR piece and find out.[Image via Wikimedia Commons]