I am organizing a Pub Theology group in the Alexandria/Kingstowne/Lorton area. We currently meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at Forge Brew Works in Lorton. So far the group has been comprised of people from our congregation, Wesley students, and folks who frequent Forge.
I am often asked, “why pub theology?” by people who have never heard of or think that the last place Christians should be hanging out is in a bar, pub, or brewery.
Take this exchange for example:
Mike: What’s the inspiration for this? Some people have problems putting beer and Bibles in the same room (or the same life!), but I think there’s room to walk.
Me: Conversations we have over beer and food are different from those we have sitting in a class room or in a conference room at a church. The idea here is to stimulate conversation about topics most people may not think about having (or are taboo) to have while sharing a beer.
While I would argue that I adequately answered Mike’s question, I have to say that each time I am asked this question I shake my head a bit. If this was “Church-Classroom Theology” instead of “Pub Theology” no one would bat an eyelash. But because we are gathering in a place where beer is served (and made for that matter) there are some people who don’t understand.
I think that pub theology has it place within the theological arena. By gathering outside of the church two things are happening: we are taking the mission of the church outside the walls of the church, and meeting people on their turf.
Karl Barth, I think, said it best, “Conversation takes place when one party has something new and interesting to say to the other. Only then is conversation an event. One must say something engaging and original, something with the element of mystery. The Church must sound strange to the world if it is not to be dull…”
If we want to continue to be dull or irrelevant in the community let’s continue to ignore the conversations people want to have and instead spoon-feed them what we think they want to hear. Pub theology is exactly what Barth is talking about. A conversation, where each party has and is expected to add something interesting to the event. Whether you are a seminary student, seasoned pastor, or Joe-blow off the street you have something to add to our conversation.