In the past few days I have researched the "pub theology" or "theology on tap" events that churches of various backgrounds – but largely Roman Catholic, from what I can tell – have done in recent years. From what I can tell – and from what Beth commented on my previous post – the pub theology events seem to be fairly straight forward:
- Get a pub/bar with a semi-private space conducive to group conversation but open to newcomers
- Get a good speaker to present a topic/issue
- Drink beer and talk about it
What has surprised me is just how simple and straightforward this is. This is essentially a Sunday morning adult forum that takes place in the evening at a bar. Otherwise, the format – an expert sharing thoughts about a particular faith topic, followed by questions – is not very innovative. But moving this discussion to a new location at a new time is more than a gimmick. The move makes this discussion of faith and theology more open to a crowd of folks who might not flock to church on Sunday mornings – a new energy and dynamism is created, new questions are asked, and new community (hopefully!) is formed. In this way it is an evangelism move, but also a move toward new and fresh reflection on life and faith.
Yet these events are largely serial in nature – 4 or 6 weeks in a row, and then nothing for several months. They are expert-driven, and despite the discussion that ensues, it is largely dependent upon a guru to provide the fodder. I'm not sure how much "community" is formed in this kind of setting, though perhaps that is not the goal.
Here at St John's by the Gas Station, we are initiating a "Summer Faith Fellowship" meeting Wednesday evenings in people's homes. It is meant to be a time of loosely structured faith discussion and activity, a place for folks who might be intimidated by traditional Bible study to come, share and learn about faith. Here's the description we've published in the newsletter and bulletin:
Come and share conversation about the stuff of life and wonder what God has to do with any of it. From family and finances, to politics and current events, to American Idol and the internet, we'll discuss what's happening in our lives and what God is going about it. We do not promise to have all the answers to our questions, but we will guarantee good questions and honest conversation about life and faith.
Come and share life. Come and share faith.
Unlike many of the "pub theology" gatherings I saw profiled, our gatherings are not dependent upon a guru or single long-format presentation. Rather, structured conversation and brief times for presentation and group activities will mark our time together. We will also enjoy the hospitality of one of our members, who will offer snacks and drinks.
I'm still working on the format and content for our first gathering (Wednesday evening), but the general outline looks to be something like this:
- Gather for informal conversation and introductions (why are you here?)
- Discuss Hot Topic of the Day with various questions, reflections and (perhaps) activities (first topic likely to be gas prices). If the group is large, we will break into smaller discussion groups. As we get talking, the topic likely splits into several spin-off topics and areas of discussion.
- Part-way through the discussion, ask the God question – what does God have to do with any of this? Introduce passages from the Bible or Christian tradition (quotes from saints, liturgy, etc.) that might have bearing on the issue, generating more conversation and reflection.
- Wrap up with Q&A, prayer, and suggestions for next week's topic.
I'm doing lots of prep work for our first gathering – from strategies for facilitating good conversation (it is too easy to kill a conversation) to content for discussion starters to passages from the Christian tradition that have something to say about the topic.
If you have any thoughts or ideas, please share in the comments below, or by posting something on your blog and sharing the link here!