UPDATE: The episode will air the weekend of Feb 20-22.
This weekend, the PBS show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly will feature a segment on groups gathering in pubs to talk about God and faith. One group highlighted will be Kyrie Pub Church, a community in Fort Worth Texas that has worship services in a pub. The other featured group will be a Pub Theology gathering I facilitated in Washington, DC. The story, as I understand it, is about people seeking non-traditional forms of community and faith outside the church walls—at the bar.
It was a fun interview, and we had a great conversation that evening, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. If it’s terrible, I’ll be sure to delete this post and any reference to it.
Now, the two groups featured offer two different sort of events—one involves worship, prayer, and a speaker; one has no prayer, no worship, no preaching, just dialogue—yet both reflect a widening desire by many to seek new forms of community, new forms of spirituality, new forms of church. While the Pub Church is explicitly seeking to be a gathering place for Christians, or those seeking to know more about Jesus; Pub Theology gatherings tend to be open spaces for people of all religious traditions, as well as non-religious folks like agnostics, atheists, and humanists.
My own experience involves both of these types of gatherings, though the bulk of my experience with pub gatherings is of the dialogue-only sort. We briefly had a community that met in a pub in DC for worship on Sunday mornings, and I really liked the vibe, the setting, and the potential it had to become something really unique. Unfortunately, for a variety of circumstances, we were not able to continue that effort.
But we never confused a worship service at the bar with a pub theology gathering. Pub Theology, in my experience (and preference!), is a place to explore, a place to challenge, a place to learn, a place where various perspectives are invited to have the floor and where the goal is not for us all to arrive in the same place at the end of the evening. The reason it works so well is because it isn’t pretending to be church. A Southern Baptist man can tell us about his faith in Jesus and what that looks like for part of the session, while a Muslim woman might tell us about her own tradition, and what that means for her own life and spiritual journey. And somewhere in the middle, an atheist might say, why are you all spending so much energy on a mystery such as God, which may or may not be real, when there are real world issues we should be addressing? And a Buddhist might add: “C’mon guys, we’re all one. Let’s focus on unity here.”
And each of those perspectives would be welcome, even if it wasn’t the predominant view around the table.
So what is this episode on PBS going to look like? We’ll find out! But definitely check out local listings to see when it airs near you. It will also be posted online in case you miss the television broadcast. I’ll add a link here once it is posted.
More Pub News
In the meantime, check out this new resource I’ve been developing: PubTheology.com » a place to find a pub group, pub conversation, or pub church near you! There are groups like Bible and a Beer, The Thirsty Skeptics, Theology Pub, and Scripture and Scotch. Whatever your flavor, there’s like a conversation happening near you that is waiting for your voice at the table. Read my announcement about the site.
All this talk of the pub is making me thirsty, but it’s a bit early. So until the next gathering at the pub: keep seeking connections, hearing new opinions, and growing in your own pursuit of truth, divine or otherwise. Cheers!
Bryan Berghoef is a pastor, writer, and author of the book, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation and God. He insists that good things happen when we sit around the table together and talk about things that matter, and what better setting than at the pub, over a pint. Bryan has been hosting pub conversations since 2008.