When I think of a “church group” or a “faith study,” I usually picture a classroom with a pot of old coffee and maybe a few stale muffins. Personally, I’m not that spiritual, so that thought doesn’t entice me, but even if I was, that setting wouldn’t do it for me.
That’s why the Calvary Lutheran Church in Fort Worth Texas started their “Church-in-a-Pub” program at the local Zio Carlo Brewpub. They wanted to change up the setting – shake people’s misconceptions about church and religion.
That’s right. A church group (and service) in a bar. With beer.
Leah Stanfield, 28, told NPR she’s been going to the program for over a year now. “I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgemental eyes when I come here,” she said. “And I find friends that love God, love craft beer.”
The pastor of the church, Phillip Heinze says he’s perfectly fine with using beer to help the work of the church. “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.”
Patrons who come solely for the beer are often taken aback when they realize they’ve walked into a church service, but some actually stay says one of the brewpub’s bartenders.
The idea, while initially frowned upon, is now gaining traction and recognition from Church leaders. According to the NPR report, the regional council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America named Church-in-a-Pub a Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community. Next year, they even plan to spread the idea to other bars and pubs in the Fort Worth area.
And the Lutherans aren’t the only ones willing to let loose a bit either. The old First Christian Church in Portland, Oregon holds a monthly “Beer & Hymns” event right in the church.
Personally, I think it’s a wonderful idea, further demonstrating that craft beer is a serious social glue, bringing sometimes the most opposing people and activities together. As I said, I’m not exactly spiritual, but I’d certainly be more inclined to give it a go if I were promised a good beer to accompany the good word.