Now, I’m not a beer connoisseur. I’ve never made my own beer. And I can’t wax eloquently about “hops” and what kind of a “finish” a certain beer has…but I like beer.
I think one of the first beers that I ever really liked was Moose Drool by Big Sky Brewing. I LOVED that beer. That was in college. Since then I’ve gone back and forth between enjoying Guinness (I don’t like it anymore), black & tans, Alaskan Amber, Fat Tire, Pliny the Elder and more recently, really, really, really hoppy beers. Because I enjoy beer, and the types of conversations that happen in bars and pubs, I started up a Theology Pub in Livermore a few years ago, and more recently, one in Ashland.
It’s really caught on here in Ashland, and we had over 35 people attend our last Theology Pub, which was held at The Playwright (a new pub in downtown Ashland). I’ve gotten to know the owner of The Playwright, and he’s been really supportive of us having our Theology Pub at his place. I’ve started to go there more often throughout the week, and it’s been fun to get to know some of the bartenders and the owner better.
So last Sunday night, while Sarah and Caleb were in New York, and the Giants were about the sweep the World Series, I finished youth group and decided to head to The Playwright to watch the end of the game. I don’t normally go to bars or pubs by myself, but thought I’d give it a shot. I ended up having a couple great conversations, got to know the bartender better who normally serves us while we have Theology Pub there, and got to talk to a couple people about Theology Pub and they seemed really interested in it.
After youth group this past Sunday, I thought I’d continue my 1-week tradition of beer after youth group, and went to The Playwright again. Since there was no baseball game, the place was pretty empty, and so I began to question my decision of sitting in a near-empty pub by myself, but then I had some more good conversations with the bartender, and learned that she was from Ketchum, Idaho (where I spent two summers working at Camp Sawtooth) and that she was traveling to Israel on a birthright trip next month.
Then a few other young people came in, and I had some more great conversations, again about Theology Pub, being a pastor, and ended up meeting a dad of a 14-month old (whose wife and son were also out of town) and he invited me to check out a dad’s group that he belongs to.
Two weeks at a pub. Getting to know the bartenders and owners by name. Meeting people who would never come into our church. Talking about God, life, parenting, sports (well, more like pretending to talk about sports for me), theology, ministry, church and beer.
And this is why pastors should regularly drink in pubs. The community and conversations that happen while sitting at a bar are incredibly opportunities for ministry. I made connections with people whom I never would have otherwise. And I’m supporting local businesses.
And honestly? I really enjoy it when people find out I’m a pastor. I think it’s helpful for people’s perceptions of clergy (and the church as a whole), when they meet pastors (i.e. regular people), out in the community, sitting in a bar on a Sunday night, having some good conversation, and drinking a pint of Smithwick’s.
Disclaimer: Realize the title of this post wasn’t “Why All Pastors Should Regularly Drink in Bars.” If you’re a pastor and are an alcoholic, struggle with alcoholism, have a bad liver…if you know that a bar isn’t the place that you should be…then you’re not going to go. That should go without saying, but…just trying to preempt a few comments that most likely will still be written by folks.