So again, it sounds like a joke right? I can imagine that some might feel that their clergy could drive them to drink, but this was different… on a beautiful Saturday afternoon more than 60 people filled the upstairs room at Fergie’s to come and listen to what these three clergy had to say about beer and how it fit into a spiritual world.
What makes this number significant was not just the fact that it was the capacity for the room, it is also very close to the average Sunday attendance in The Episcopal Church.
So what does it say when about as many people are willing to come to a bar to listen to clergy talk about beer as will come to church on a Sunday? They came from all over the Philadelphia area, some travelling for as much as an hour. A few even came from DC.
Also of note was the fact that we had many folks from the beer industry including Suzanne Woods from Allagash, Doug Marchakitus from Manayunk, Patrick and Tracy Mullin from Sly Fox and Luke Bowen from Evil Genius.
For them to take time during the 12 hour work days that are the reality of Beer Week is a significant statement. During those few moments when they can break away from their grueling schedules they either try to rest or drop in at an event that is boasting a rock star from the beer world or a really rare beers. Although the draft selection was wonderful we could not claim such a draw. But, they came anyway. One told me that when he was looking over the list of dozens of events scheduled for that afternoon and came across ours, he knew right away that there was nowhere else he’d rather be.
But on to the event itself. After a brief introduction Bryan started us off with an explanation of his Pub Theology model and how it is helping to redefine what it means to be a church and how we go about connecting with the community.
Eli was next and took the crowd through references to beer and brewing in the Talmud, including passages from a Rabbi who was himself a brewer.
But it was the Q&A that followed that proved to be the highlight of the day. For more than a hour we were asked about matters both theological and practical such as, “How does hosting this at your congregation affect members who might be struggling with addiction?” “What are the implications for pot or other drugs?” and “How can I sell this idea to my church board?”
In the weeks and days that led up to the event the worries gnawed at confidence. What if the we have hecklers? What if we fall flat? Or worst of all, what if no one shows up? But thanks be to G-D the day exceeded our wildest expectations. Because on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when there were lots of other wonderful things to do, a packed barroom showed us that the world is full of people who love G-D and love good beer and are thirsting for a way to connect the two.
My thanks to Eli, Bryan for helping me concoct this notion, to Fergie for offering the space without a moment’s hesitation, to Luke and Evil Genius for the beer, to all the good people from St Tim’s who came out to support it and to everyone who encouraged us along the way- we couldn’t have done it without you.
Here’s to doing it again next year!