Last night we hosted our first Beers and Hymns at Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City. This was by no means an original idea as other churches and bodies have done this in various places across the country and even the world. In Lutheran circles, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado and Pastor Jodi Hogue at Humble Walk in St. Paul have been doing it for a while with others popping up here and there. However for our community it was the first of its kind. I was intrigued as I read other stories of this kind of gathering and upon some conversation decided I wanted to try to make it happen. I approached the owner of Right Brain and pitched it and immediately he was down. As the planning unfolded it was clear that there was some concern that it not be too over the top “churchy”, (people handing out tracks for conversion, altar calls, and the like) and that it not offend the average pub visitor who did not want to sing. To that end we made clear that our mission was simple; drink beer, sing hymns, nothing churchy. Interesting that as that tag-line found its way onto our posters and facebook pages that some in the church struggled with the nothing-churchy line! However those that were not part of a church community loved it and even said that made them feel it was a safe place to come and be. So we did it. We launched it last night and the evening was nothing short of amazing.
What happened was community of all ages forming, re-forming, and being. There was an infant and many other children present and there was woman that proudly proclaimed to me, “I am in my eighties and I love this!”. And every age in between. Men, women, Lutheran, Reformed, non-denominational, non-churched and the like came together so drink beer, sing hymns, and that was it. Well, that was really not it. Community came together and some relationships were strengthened while new relationships were formed. The church was public in a very non-churchy kind of way. People that were at the pub just to be started singing with us and participating in the life of the evening. To me the biggest thing that needs to happen more in our world is for people to come together to be…to be community that can support one another through ups and downs and last night that happened because of some beer and some hymns. Now, quickly, it should be noted that beer is optional as we have folks in our community who are recovering and want to respect that very much. But some of them came to, and they, like the rest of us, loved the community, the singing and their own drink of choice. It was more than I could have ever imagined it would be and am so thankful that Right Brain allowed us to do it and more thankful that people came out. We will do it again for sure and hope to see some of you there!