This is an article that Aaron Klinefelter and I wrote after one of our first Beer and Hymns events in 2013. We have done many gatherings since but this gives a good taste of what we love about Beer and Hymns!
What do Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Arthur Guinness have in common? The fruit of their labor was enjoyed at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub in Pleasant Ridge Sunday, January 27th. We gathered to celebrate Beer + Hymns with a pint, or glass of non-alcoholic goodness, in one hand and a hymnal in the other. Over 60 folks from age 5 to 75 gathered from The Church of the Redeemer and other communities to heed John Wesley’s advice, “Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength” (from Select Hymns, 1761). It was a rousing good time full of much laughter, good will, and robust singing.
Beer and Hymns was inspired by a similar event at the Greenbelt Festival, a yearly Christian gathering of almost 20.000 people in the United Kingdom. We first experienced Beer and Hymns in a tent at the Wild Goose Festival, a similar gathering here in the United States. The Wild Goose Festival has been held for the past two years in North Carolina and gathers people around the country looking at the intersection of justice, faith and culture. (This year’s gathering is August 8-11 near Asheville, NC if you are interested in attending!).
But, the tradition of beer and spirituality and religion dates to the Middle Ages, when monasteries would brew beer to help feed their communities and would use income from brewing to fund works of justice and mercy. Some monastic communities even brewed beer especially for Lent so that during a fast they would have all the nutrients of bread to sustain themselves. Like churches, pubs have always been a kind of community gathering place for people to share food, faith, and conversation. “This is a great example of Fresh Expressions,” says the Rev. Jane Gerdsen, “as we walk in the way of Jesus, we hope to go to the real places where people gather and see how we can give glory to God in all kinds of different ways.”
Aaron Klinefelter, who hosted this event adds, “It’s also evangelical, in the best sense of the word. We gather and “sing a song of the saints of God” and a watching world notices when we do so in a non-typical space like a pub. Our waitress was joining in the singing and we had families eating dinner in the pub come and sing with us.” Oh and it is fun – a way that we can enjoy one another in Christian community in a relaxed way! One young adult who attended the event said, “We sang the songs we love and have grown up with in a whole new way…this was a great church day, and I wasn’t in a church building all day! It just felt alive in there.”
We will definitely do this again – we hope you might join us for our next gathering or perhaps be inspired to host your own version! If you want more information, Aaron Klinefelter is happy to share the resources he used to develop it. You can contact Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org.