In exploring the confluence between God and beer I have generally focused on finding and/or bringing the divine out into the “secular” world of bars, concerts and beer fests. But I think the Church can learn something from reversing the process as well.
The story begins during a very hot nine days in early July in the city of Indianapolis. I was there attending the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. This once every three year gathering is primarily focused on governance. Ten deputies from each diocese and all the bishops gather to deliberate and legislate. But as with any large convention there is also a hall of vendors looking to sell stuff to the convention goers. It was there I began a conversation with custom vestment broker by the name of Trevor about an idea I had for a stole. For those who are not fluent in church-speak, a stole is a long piece of fabric, usually decorated, that is worn draped around the neck of the clergy person. In theory it represents the “Yoke” of Christ.
In any case I already have a lot of stoles- I have green ones, white ones, red, ones, purple ones and blue ones. I have fancy hand embroidered ones from the 1800’s and I have simple plain polyester ones. So you might well ask what the heck did I need another stole for? Well, the idea first came to me late last summer when I was privileged to officiate at the wedding of Neil and Lindsay Harner. Neil is the co-founder and former co-editor of Philly Beer Scene Magazine. We had met during the Opening Tap of Philly Beer Week 2010. We struck up a conversation and exchanged business cards. Some months later Neil contacted me about officiating at his wedding the next summer.
Now just so you know, I do not run a wedding chapel. If you want me to officiate at your wedding you have to agree to meet with me 4-5 times, not just to plan the service, but so that I can get to know you, learn about your families and your relationship. My goal is to help the couple identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they might enjoy the happiest and healthiest marriage possible. For those of you familiar with the Roman Catholic tradition of pre-marital counseling, think of what I do as a personalized and individual Pre-Cana sessions. Anyway, being a beer oriented couple, the wedding took place at Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA. Neil actually wrote a nice article about it for the magazine which you can read here. And I must say it was really neat to do a service surrounded by taps and brew kettles. Anyway, the beer themed wedding got me to thinking that it would be pretty neat to have some beer themed vestments. But when it comes to sacred imagery Christianity is all about the wine so there are none to be had “off the rack.”
Which brings us back to Indianapolis. I spent about a hour explaining to Trevor what I wanted, which included explaining what hops looked liked, we came up a detailed written design and rough sketch. Several weeks later Trevor sent the me design sketches from the artist in England. After re-working them a bit (I had to impress on the artist that I did not want grape vines at all. Church people always default to wine.) we settled on a final design (which included hop vines, barley and a chalice) and I placed the order. The result can be seen in the pictures below.