For many, church time is a sobering time. But for a growing number of American Christians, it's the best time to crack open a beer.
Just ask the so-called "Church-in-a-pub" gathering in Fort Worth, Texas, which worships at the Zio Carlo brewpub and toasts with craft beer. These Sunday evening services are meant to offer "salvation and everlasting life with really good beer," according to a recent broadcast by NPR. The creative approach appears to be working: The event attracts about 30-40 congregants weekly, and the group is looking to expand to more locations.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently deemed Church-in-a-pub a Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community.
Religious leaders behind the trend defend this unique brand of worship. Among them is Pastor Matt Bistayi, who organizes Allendale, Mich., church meetings known as "What Would Jesus Brew?"
"Drunkenness is a sin, ... but beer or alcohol in moderation can be a gift from God's creation," he tells his congregants, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Back in 1981, Catholic organization RENEW International pioneered a grassroots lecture program called "Theology-on-Tap" as a way for young adults to talk about their faith in a low-pressure, enjoyable environment. The group now hosts meetings across the U.S., in locales including Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Boston and New York.
"Theology-on-Tap is in perfect alignment with the Pope!" the organization claims. "The Holy Father tells us to bring the gospel of Christ into the streets and to speak it from the housetops, and to go to where people are."
Ultimately, these gatherings are about much more than just beer.
Susan Sparks, senior pastor at New York City's Madison Avenue Baptist Church who also pioneered a monthly "Beer and Bible" gathering to appeal to younger members of her congregation, told The Huffington Post that "we aren't trying to encourage drinking." Rather, she said, "we are trying to encourage honest, intimate gatherings where food and drink (alcohol or not) are enjoyed. It's about finding family. That's all we are trying to do."
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This post has been updated.