But there are some who are now moving to introduce beer as a regular part of their worship service and evening hymn sings. NPR ran a story recently about how a a few churches are trying to stave off decline by holding services accompanied by craft beers. Here are some excerpts from the story.
With mainline religious congregations dwindling across America, a scattering of churches is trying to attract new members by creating a different sort of Christian community. They are gathering around craft beer.
Some church groups are brewing it themselves, while others are bring the Holy Mysteries to a taproom. The result is not sloshed congregants; rather, it's an exploratory approach to do church differently.
Leah Stanfield stands at a microphone across the room from the beer taps and reads this evening's gospel message. She's a 28-year-old leasing agent who's been coming to here in Fort Worth, Tex., for a year, and occasionally leads worship. "I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here," she says. "And I find friends that love God, love craft beer."
In downtown Portland, Ore., at the stately old First Christian Church, one Saturday night a month they open the parish hall for an event called Beer and Hymns.
There must be 100 people here tonight, most of them young, the kind you rarely see in church on Sunday morning. They're swigging homemade stout from plastic cups — with a two-beer limit. They're singing traditional hymns from a projection screen like And they're having way too much fun.
Like the crowd at Church-in-a-pub, a lot of folks at Beer & Hymns appear to be refugees from traditional churches.
As much as I love both beer and theology, I do wonder to what end this sort of worship experience will lead. I am not sure if the ultimate reason they are gathering is so that they can focus together on the worship of God and the good news of the gospel or so that they can down a few beers. While meeting people who "love God and craft beer" does appeal to me, I do think, however, the church is about more than finding people who have things in common with us. Certainly that will be the case in many or our worship experiences, but I am not sure that should be what attracts us to one another. Moreover, while I am certainly not one to insist that all worship of God most take place in a church, I do wonder if moving the church into the bar will help attendees focus more on God or their beer.
Proponents of this move call it a transitional experiment. They are waiting to see how this new church model will develop. I am wondering, however, to what degree do the attendees have any connection with the long history of the church. Do they have any sense of the sacred? Or has it been diluted along with the beer they drink while belting out hymns?
Somehow I am not convinced this is a viable long term strategy. Perhaps someday I will have an opportunity to visit such a meeting.
What are you thoughts?
Here is the story n NPR.