Sipping beers at Barnaby’s Brewing Company in downtown Juneau, My wife, Samantha, and I weren’t sure what to expect, or, to be more accurate, who to expect.
We moved from Maryland to plant a Vineyard church in Juneau, AK, a city only accessible by sea or air. No roads connect it to the outside world. With a varied population of around 30,000, we weren’t sure if “Pub Theology” would work.
The idea is to gather with a diverse group of people at a pub and to have rich conversations on important topics like faith, ethics, morality, and philosophy.
Pubs are meeting places, and for ages, they have been used as a space to discuss a multitude of subjects from theologies to our country’s revolution.
We invited people we had come in contact with since moving to Juneau. We also created a Facebook event and shared it on local community group pages. We spoke on the local radio station and placed it in the arts and entertainment section of the paper. Many communities have these often free options for getting the word out. Don’t dismiss them because they may seem outmoded in comparison to social media. There are still many who read papers and listen to the radio.
As church planters, we wanted to gather people for two reasons:
- To get to know more people in the city
- To create a safe space and have conversations respectfully
The idea behind Pub Theology isn’t my own. It’s the brainchild of pastor Bryan Berghoef who took cues from Martin Luther and the Inklings, who all met in pubs to discuss theology and philosophical meanderings.
Berghoef’s book and website make it incredibly easy to hop aboard with weekly question prompts. It can be a simple turn-key method for those who may not have much time to prepare. But I’d also recommended peppering in some questions that impact your community directly.
As people began to arrive, we found that we were sharing a table with believers, agnostics, atheists, and even people from the Jewish and Bahá’í faiths.
We laid down ground rules first: no issue was going to be solved that night and everyone would respect one another’s viewpoints. Disagreements and contrarian views were fine but required respect and an explanation.
The most important rule? To listen. The dance of conversation is beginning to be a lost art, often filled with responses that begin as soon as the other person is done speaking. We wanted to ebb away from this mentality.
From that first session to now meeting online on Zoom because of the Coronavirus, it has been an amazing trip of meeting people in our community and learning about the rhythms of our city and how it’s residents think. That truly has been the value of doing Pub Theology.
We approach it as a way to just be around people and try not to go into it with a preconceived notion of what it will be.
Oftentimes, we’re tired from work and moderating on hard topics like racism or cultural appropriation isn’t easy, but the conversations are rewarding. They allow us to view each other as special with a unique voice, viewpoint, and life journey.
Ultimately, I keep thinking about Hebrews 10:24.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
We may not have all the answers to problems and issues, but as long as we are discussing them, we can lean into love and respect for one another. That is truly why we keep forging ahead through the tough subjects to bring that love to the table and to drink good beer.
Engaging a Culture
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About the Author
A buffalo and a sparrow. That’s how some have described Sam and Matt, and with Matt’s bushy beard and long mane, and Sam’s graceful and caring nature, it’s easy to see why. Currently, they are planting in Juneau, Alaska, ancestral home of the Aakʼw Ḵwáan. While Alaska has been a major cultural change for them, they are loving the wide-open spaces, the incredible people they’ve met and of course the Alaskan way of life. Interested in Alaska? They’d love to talk with you about it, and would love for others to partner with them in Juneau!
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