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Pub Theology attracts young Grand Rapids residents


Caroline MacGregor
November 18, 2013 | WGVU   "where prohibition kind of jumped in"

That was local pastor, Mike Bartlett who started an off-shoot of Pub Theology in Grand Rapids. Originally the vision of Traverse City-native Bryan Bergoef, pub theology aims to reunite alcohol and religion beyond the common practice of using wine for communion. Bartlett’s version of this relationship is Theology on Tap, which is nearing the end of its fall series on “God and Culture.”

 "feel pressured"

While intriguing to some; shocking to others, Bartlett says the mix of alcohol and religion is not an entirely unheard of practice; in fact, its roots can be found in European Christian history.

"new phenomenon, at all"  

While the consumption of beer is a taboo to many religious people in the past and present, trends like Theology on Tap appear to be shifting the norm in major cities across the US. Even Catholics are getting in on the act, meeting upon occasion at Grand Rapid’s Derby Station. And, the group, Skeptics in the Pub, gathers at Founders Brewing to,“have fun while promoting science and rationality.” 

Pew Research shows in 2012, a third of adults under 30 considered themselves religiously unaffiliated. Grand Rapids is known for its strong religious identity but many young people leave the church. Bartlett believes this is because of the strict, legalistic atmosphere they grew up in. With Theology on Tap, he hopes to reach those who wish to reconnect with the church in a new way - gathering in a vibrant area of the downtown that appeals to the city’s younger generation.

  "has really cool beers"

Bartlett says the micro-brew culture of Grand Rapids has paved the way for civil conversation. While no formal “pint-limit” exists, no one gets out of hand and the conversation remains respectful. Moving forward he hopes for added diversity to spark meaningful and deeper discussion.  

"where people are at"

The goal of Theology on Tap is exactly that: to move people past distrust and tradition to come together despite their differences.

 "lasting relationships"

This evening, the final meeting of their fall series takes place at Harmony Brewing at 8pm. Grand Rapids can look forward to more series in the future - Bartlett ensures that neither the conversations, nor the beer, will be watered down.     

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