Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Beer at Church

I learned about an Anglican/Episcopalian church somewhere in the States that serves beer after church instead of tea and coffee. Not just serves it: they brew their own. So it's, say, St. Paul's Lager, or something like that. No, I don't have the link.

And here's the big surprise: this church has a really high number of young males in its congregation. We could be very cynical and say it's amazing what free beer will do. Or we could be very liberal-minded and say it's amazing what happens when we acknowledge and accept the culture of mainstream people.

Most young males I know don't stand around nursing a tea and making chit-chat. However, they'll do the same holding a beer.

I wonder, as I have in past blogs, how much church/meeting emphasizes women's culture and excludes men's culture. Does the tea-and-coffee mentality alienate young males? Do they feel that they have to pretend to be someone they aren't when they are at a church/meeting?

The whole idea of excluding alcohol from church is a 19th century idea, a result of the temperance movement, which was also the women's movement. Before that, alcohol and church kind of went together (consider the bread and wine thing). Most abbeys and manses had great wine cellars. And many religions use heavy-duty mind-altering substances as part of religious ritual.

I'm not dissing the temperance movement. There was a need. For example, in Canada between 1840 and 1870, everyone was an alcoholic. Life was hard and dull, and whisky was a half-cent a gallon. So temperance was a good thing, and my Canuck Quaker forebears (especially the women) were actively (if a bit sanctimoniously) involved.

But it bears some thinking that modern-day people living in a culture that includes alcohol and accepts it in small, socially acceptable amounts will have some difficulty crossing over into a church culture. Our whole world has a dividing line between the "secular" and the "sacred," and many people consider it a sacrilege if that line gets crossed. But the line is completely artificial: there is no sacred and no secular. There is just one holy world.

I wonder a bit about notions and silly poor gospels.

Breathe is a little home-based, restaurant-based church out in Burnaby BC that holds martini evenings and pub nights. Zac's Place is a church in Wales that is a real pub.

I find these churches kind of refreshing (so to speak).


At 12:40 PM, Blogger Zach A said...

I don't have the link to the church you heard of either - but I did just go to a "Theology on Tap" event hosted by a popular Anglical/Episcopal church in Boston... And a Google search indicates ToT is a widespread concept (reminds me of Stitch & Bitch).

At 6:35 PM, Blogger jez said...

Hmmm, beer after worship? Only if it doesn't have alcohol in it for me!

Coincidence: I blogged on Wednesday about a pub called the Quaker House, in the context of football (soccer to some north Americans).

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Christine said...

Very interesting! Ah, the Anglicans never exclude a chance to partake! However, the point is - involving the men. For a century "going to church" has been a woman's activity. Hence the Cursio movement in the 70's and 80's was an attempt to revitalize the spiritual life of the man in the RC church and more recently the Pathways movement in the Anglican parishes. Now, it's a focus for both sexes but I've noticed more women participate in these now than men. (We spent a few years with the Anglicans before returning to our Meeting.) Great post and thank you!

At 6:19 AM, Blogger david said...

I recall a Quaker tempest in a teapot when a certain Friend wanted to provide wine for guests at her wedding.

While it is a complicated issue -- I think you hit it right when you said it was a cultural thing. Many felt there was nothing wrong with alcohol per se but ddin't want it associated with their meeting. Not exactly an emerging church kind of approach to things.

I hope the Anglican church in question has a designated driver program.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Nancy A said...

Hi Christine

I was part of the Cursio movement when I was Catholic back in the 1970s. Most of the members were female, though, even back then....

Hi David

What an excellent memory you have. As I recall, we did have wine at our wedding, but we ended up moving the marquee a few metres outside the perimeter of the meetinghouse property.

The meeting's ultimate rationale for not permitting wine on the meetinghouse grounds was that the Quaker forebears of the meetinghouse members were temperance people, and so the meeting should remain in the temperance tradition out of respect for them.

Wasn't there also a building for sale in Toronto that had once been a Quaker hall, so there was a stipulation in the contract that no alcohol could ever be served there, regardless who owned it? Toronto meeting was asked by the seller if they could remove that statement from the contract to allow the group to sell the hall to another group for weddings, but Toronto meeting refused to change the contract. They wanted to honour the wishes of the dead.

These decision both struck me at the time as pointless gestures...

At 5:18 PM, Blogger david said...

I'm fuzzy on the Toronto story. I think somehow the Masons were also involved. I think the sale went forward when it was determined the condition was an oral agreement and not written into the deed. But I'm REALLY fuzzy on it.

At 6:52 PM, Blogger QuakerDave said...

I don't know. I guess I'm a tea-totaling stick-in-the-mud, but it seems like if we need to serve beer to get "guys" to stick around - or even show up - at Meeting for Worship, we've got some bigger problems to address.

We serve coffee, tea, and food for hospitality every First Day, and lots of folks tick around for the hour, of both sexes. I don't think it's about the food. Or the drinks. But the coffee is usually pretty good.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger kathz said...

I'd like beer after Meeting, in a way (though not if anyone were offended). Most Quakers I know drink in moderation - and many share my enjoyment of real ale (British thing - very good draft bitter). I once went to a Quaker weekend where all but one of us went to the pub on the Saturday evening but, from some sense of Quaker temperance, sat outside round a long table in the pub garden and enjoyed a half pint each. It was an immensely enjoyable occasion and we enjoyed some good Friendly discussion both at the pub and one the way there and back. We must have looked very odd to the local drinkers.

But what I provide for my tiny Quaker Meeting (more men than women) is a choice of hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, herbal tea, etc - most fairly traded) and a selection of biscuits, usually including plain chocolate digestives. We have one (sort of) rule about only two biscuits each - this is a hangover from the days when we had quite a lot of children who thought it was fun to see how many biscuits they could eat after Meeting!

If we're talking addiction, I'm sometimes dependent on coffee but never on beer.

(fairly inconsequential comments, I'm afraid)

P.S. I'm a disreputable middle-aged female Quaker from England

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Timothy Travis said...

Women's retreats, in my part of the Quaker world, pack along wine. Men's are no alcohol. A high proportion of alcoholics I'm told.

"Church" as a female culture is interesting to me because I am a hard liner on eschewing single-geneder gatherings. Friends can go to them all they want, but I won't. I'm not going to reinforce this idea that there is a "men's" spirituality or a "women's" spirituality that will be tainted or inhibited by the presence of the other.

The "other" is, in my view, the problem.

Yes, in the West men went out and got the job done, whatever had to be done to get the job done. And women stayed home--kirch, kuche, kinder, I believe is how it was expressed in one subculture and that's how "church" got to be "female" "cultured."

But the the fact is that this is all culture--it's all just conditioning. And it's why we're all just a little bit crazy. All the men I know are trying to be "men" and all the women are trying to be "women"--and each group is trying to make the other live up to its own notion of what the "other" is supposed to be.

We all fall short of our conditioning--and disappoint ourselves and disappoint "the other." Not all women are nurturing, not all men are out of touch with their emotions. Not tidy, but true. Culture. Conditioning.

But as George Fox is reputed to have said, "There was but one who could speak to my condition(ing)--Christ Jesus."

At 2:33 AM, Blogger Laurie Kruczek said...

What quakerdave said.

My thoughts are that wine & beer at a meetinghouse/church should be fine for a special occassion or fund-raiser/dinner or something, but not just to attract dudes.

At 7:55 AM, Blogger Nancy A said...

I'd never thought of serving beer at Quaker meetings/gatherings. I guess my mind just couldn't stretch that far. In our meeting, the elders would be apoplectic. Kudos to all those other meetings that have managed to do it.

Although we don't serve beer to attract the "dudes", we do serve cookies to keep the children happy. My question: Is alcohol to adults more "sin" than sugar for kids?

It's against the law (at least here) to send a child to school with two beer and a pack of cigarettes for lunch, but it's not against the law to send same child with sugar-frosted yoohoos, a pack of twinkies, and a coke. Someone might call child services, but nobody's going to jail.

We have these funny divisions in our society, categories of evil.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Laurie Kruczek said...

What about sugar-flavored beer? Or beer-flavored sugar? The options are endless!

At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Matthew Garcia said...

I am trying to learn more about the Cursio Movement and found that there was some discussion of it on this blog. Can anyone suggest further reading? If so, please let me know.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Johnnygo73 said...

I am not totally in favor including beer/wine with main service but good on fellowship meetings and special events. Evangelism and beer would work well maybe. I am a home brewer of beer/wine for over 4 yrs. moderation is the key.


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