A program that seeks to blend engaging topics, theology and beer is approaching its one-year anniversary.
Rev. Mark Michael, of Christ Episcopal Church in Cooperstown and his wife, Rev. Allison Michael of Zion St. John’s Luthern Church in Seward, started “Theology On Tap” in November of last year as a way to connect with people who don’t normally go to church.
“We’re in an increasingly secular part of the world,” said Mark, saying that the events draw a mixture of churchgoing and non-churchgoing participants.
“Theology on Tap” takes place on the second Friday of every month starting at 8 p.m. at the Council Rock Brewery in Cooperstown. Each session is centered around a question or topic that participants use as a jumping off point.
“Different topics speak to different groups of people,” said Allison. “We never know going in if we’re going to have three people or 20.”
This month’s topic was “The greatest person I ever knew.”
“We actually had so many people that we broke up into two groups,” said Mark, who said that 13 people showed up for the event, and that the two groups came back together at the end of the discussion.
Allison said that attendance at “Theology on Tap” was strongest this and last fall, with participation trailing off a bit in the summer. She says that the sessions typically draw 10 to 15 people.
“The beer kind of breaks down some of the barriers,” said Mark. “Its led to some really good, stimulating conversation.”
Mark said that one of the purposes of “Theology on Tap” was to demonstrate what a respectful, engaging conversation looks like, while Allison said that the prominence that scripture plays in the program depended on the session and its topic.
“We try to let that (discussions of theology) happen out of the context of that discussion,” said Mark, a former teacher. “I look at this as a way of teaching moral theology to adults.”
When asked what it was like to be married to someone from another denomination, Allison said that because the Lutheran and Episcopal churches are both first generation reformed churches, their theologies are quite similar.
“We have a deep respect for the others theological convictions.”
She also said that they have taught classes and led retreats at each other’s churches.
Allison and Mark have lived in Cooperstown for over four years, coming to the area after Mark became the pastor for Christ Episcopal Church.
“I think the response has been positive,” said Allison, when asked how “Theology on Tap” had been received in the community.
While neither Allison or Mark said that the program had noticeably increased attendance at their respective churches, Mark said that it was important to engage with the community outside of church, and that such engagement often has a ripple effect that is not readily apparent.
Allison also praised Council Rock Brewery, saying the bar/restaurant has been an amazing host for “Theology on Tap.”
Next month’s topic will be “Why play? How sports shape us.” The discussion will take place on Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. at the Council Rock Brewery.