Ecclesia, the church I pastor, has started a Bible study in a brewery, creatively titled (credit to my daughter, Trellace) “Imbible.” This is a format that has been suggested repeatedly and it seemed like the right time to try it. At our first gathering, we had a good turnout with a number of additional folks who have expressed interest in attending future sessions. It promises to be a good opportunity for study and fellowship with all kinds of folks.
But not everyone is excited about this business of a Bible study in a brewery.
In fact, I received a scathing email from someone who was alarmed by the location, feeling we were creating a breeding ground for alcohol abuse and all its fallout. I imagine the writer bravely expressed what others may be thinking in private. My response, edited here for public discourse, might allay such fears.
A bit from my own story
My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic. I was raised with the understanding that addiction to alcohol puts lives in danger. Abuse of alcohol or any drug damages families and loved ones in innumerable ways. My father always taught us to take alcohol very seriously. This is one reason–among several–that I do not offer wine for communion: because a sip of wine could be devastating to a recovering alcoholic.
Secondly, my brother, when he was 19, was hit head-on by a drunk driver. It could have been an unparalleled tragedy in our lives; we are grateful he recovered. The drunk driver, a man in his 50s, died at the scene. Still, my brother has had multiple surgeries on his sinuses as a result of the wreck, and had shattered glass imbedded in his arms and legs. For years, tiny slivers of glass would work its way out of his skin. It was a deadly serious wreck.
So, let me assure you that not only would I not allow someone in my party who had had too much to drink get behind the wheel of a car, I’ve been known to make those demands of absolute strangers. I’m not known for my subtlety in such situations. Plus other people in attendance would be just as intent on stopping an inebriated driver from getting behind the wheel.
Consumption does not equal abuse
I do believe that people can drink responsibly. Denominations that have been around much longer than Baptists–Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and more–typically have a much less volatile response to alcohol consumption. For example, we were Presbyterians for a minute or two. Wine and beer were typically offered at church gatherings. Though folks imbibed, they did not over-indulge. I found that fascinating as a lifelong Baptist. Personally, I’m more interested in chewing calories than drinking them, so I tend to forego Merlot so I can enjoy my queso. But that’s just me.
Before the study began, I communicated one on one with a number of Ecclesia people who have reason to be leery of alcohol consumption. Each one supported the idea whole-heartedly. When the idea was mentioned at the church business meeting, it was met with immediate affirmation.
Church: location varies
Additionally, I believe the church has too often expected people to show up at its door, never stepping outside the confines of its building. ImBible is Ecclesia’s effort to meet people where they are, to be in the world, but not of the world, to be models of responsible behavior in the midst of a little bit of crazy.
I’m grateful for the email though. This kind of conflict is a gift and an opportunity. If you have concerns about this Bible study or anything else we do, please reach out and let’s have a conversation. Open communication strengthens our community. It’s worth the investment of time and energy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on ImBible: A Bible Study in a Brewery. Good idea? Slippery slope? Let me know in the comments, or hey! Join us in person! (Details in the accompanying graphic.)