Beer & Hymns is a fun and spirited way to gather as God’s people in community places. Typically we meet in a local pub or bar (with their permission of course!). We gather for a pint, or glass of non-alcoholic goodness, in one hand and a hymnal in the other. It is always 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 five years in North Carolina and gathers people around the country looking at the intersection of justice, faith and culture.
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.
For us, Beer and Hymns, is an experiment…a way to practice our faith outside the walls of a church building. 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.
If you want help hosting a Beer and Hymns gathering in your community we would love to help! You can contact Jane or check out some of the links below for more information.
A reflection on our first Beer and Hymns.
A piece from NPR on Beer and Hymns.
A story from Episcopal News Service about Beer and Hymns in Portland.
Some Helpful Tools for Planning Your Own Beer & Hymns
You will need:
A sample Song List (Beer + Hymns – 1982 Hymnal Only) and some Hymnals. We typically bring copies of this list to get people started and a box or two of hymnals so people can call out favorite hymns. Our rule of thumb is just 2 or 3 verses of each hymn unless the crowd insists on more. We know of other Beer and Hymn gatherings that rely on songbooks that they have developed or even digital ebooks. We tend to just bring the real deal and let people flip through to find the hymns they love.
Musicians! A great piano player and other musicians if you have them. We typically bring our own keyboard and equipment. A keyboard player who can play most hymns that get called out is essential. Your other musicians need to be able to play along as well. This really is like a hymn sing – so people just call out favorites. You can plan which hymns you will sing and then make sure your musicians are prepared but we prefer the spontaneity of just calling out favorites! You also need either a musician or a leader who is good in front of a crowd, likes to have fun and is willing to keep everyone together and keep the energy up. This person sets the tone for the evening – they need to be loud and enjoy a bit of chaos.
A favorite pub Our advice is to get to know your local establishment. Probably best not to try to have Beer and Hymns for the first time on a Friday or Saturday night. Pick a slow night – we like Sundays but you should know what happens at your local pub! Is there quiz night or favorite local band? Don’t try to compete, find a night that adds value for everyone. Be a friend and a good patron. Go and have a conversation with the owner or manager. Tell them what you want to do – recognize that they may look at you like you have two heads. Do it anyway! Promise that you will bring a big group of people with you (and do) and that you will buy drinks and food to make it worth their time to host you! This is not a boring church group using their space, you will be fun, relaxed, and good stewards of the space. Tell them you will advertise but they are welcome to invite others to join. This is not a private party but open to the public. The goal is to invite new people to come find out what is going on!
That’s it – a pub, some hymnals, and some musicians. You can do this too!
If you want advice about advertising/marketing, or other more general information about how to organize an event like this, feel free to get in touch with us. Check out our Praxis Facebook page for upcoming events.