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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Opinion

Texas church makes strides by blending pulpit and pub


Next time you stop by your local watering hole, don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending an evening eating bread and wine in lieu of knocking back a few Shiners.

Calvary Lutheran Church, located in Fort Worth, has started hosting an evening tradition called Church-in-a-Pub, and yes, it’s just what it sounds like. The church has begun holding Sunday night services in Zio Carlo, a fully functioning bar that’s to remain open during the evening’s gospel readings and message.

Expectedly, the mixture of craft beer and Holy Communion has elicited some mixed responses. Les Bennett, a bartender at Zio Carlo, has found himself faced with confused patrons expecting Zio Carlo’s Trivia Night on nights that Calvary opens up shop.

“I tell ’em, it’s a church service,” Bennett said, “And they’re like, ‘In a pub?’ And I’m like, yeah. Some of ’em stick around for trivia, some of ’em take off, some of ’em will hang out and have another pint or two.”

According to John Burnett of NPR, that’s exactly what those at Calvary are hoping for — to have the paths of those with and without faith to intersect, if only for a moment.

“That’s one of the objectives: A guy sits at the bar nursing a beer, he overhears the Gospel of Luke, he sees people line up to take bread and wine, he gets curious,” Burnett said.

It’s an edgy mission, sure, but that’s precisely what makes it so incredibly awesome, refreshing and vital to the survival of the church.

“I’m not interested, frankly, in making more church members,” said Phil Heinze of Calvary Lutheran Church. “I’m interested in having people have significant relationships around Jesus. And if it turns out to be (over) beer, fine.”

It’s no secret that the church is in decline — according to The Huffington Post, less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend church. As reported by The Examiner, the average age of someone who regularly attends church is over 60 — in other words, our nation’s evangelicals are growing older, and they’re struggling to sow the seeds of a younger generation hopped up on spirituality.

So, you’ve got a rapidly declining religion and a slew of young people just waiting for you to reach them. You could approach them as you always have — passing out booklets or pamphlets or Psalms on a laminated index card.

But here’s the thing about our generation — we’re cynics, and it’s going to take a lot to grab our attention when we’ve got our noses shoved down the ever-refreshing stream of information that is our Twitter feed. We’re used to being bombarded with new ideas and information, and we’ve grown to develop an incredibly short attention span for things that can’t be verified by CNN or NPR.

If something doesn’t strike us an inherently true, interesting or hip, it just isn’t something we have time for. We’ve grown accustomed to receiving hard facts, stats and truths a mile a minute through our smartphones. For the uninterested nonreligious, there’s already too much denouncing faith to begin with. Grappling with the intricacies of eternity is much too cumbersome a task when we’ve already got a queue of BuzzFeed lists to scroll through.

It’s also no secret that today’s media hasn’t depicted the church kindly. With the pervasiveness of the gay marriage and contraceptive debates, Christianity seems to have absorbed the blow of being at the heart of the nation’s close-mindedness and intolerance because of a few radical outliers speaking in, and incriminating, the entire name of the church.

Thanks to the pervasiveness of social media, most of our generation is all-too familiar with the church’s infamy in the media, and it’s turned off an enormous amount of people.

So, the Calvary Lutheran Church was faced with a problem — there’s a huge mass of people that they want to reach, and an even bigger barrier dividing the two.

Might as well speak the language of those they’re trying to attract.

Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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