A pub is not necessarily the first place you’d expect to find a Southern Baptist pastor and a Presbyterian minister leading a conversation about faith and spirituality.
But every Thursday night in Bellaire, Mich., you’ll find the Revs. Corey Lecureux of First Baptist Church and Andrew Pomerville of the (Presbyterian) Church in the Hills convening just such a group at Short’s Brewing Company.
UnTapped, as it is called, began two years ago when Pomerville and Lecureux were both relatively new in town and in their respective churches. Being members of ‘the same trade,’ Pomerville and Lecureux gravitated toward one another.
“We disagreed on so many theological points that might be important to both our denominations and also to our own theologies, but it wasn’t enough to keep us apart from following Christ,” Pomerville said.
These points of difference became the subject of lively discussion, and the pastors so enjoyed their conversations that they invited others to join them.
“We started talking about beer one time and how his denomination is less comfortable than mine with it,” Pomerville said. “We wondered, what would it be like to have this conversation in a pub?
“People in the church are always talking about wanting to attract people to the church. Yet we assume that people will just show up on our doorsteps instead of going out to them,” he said.
Not only has unTapped gone out to them, but it has been invited by the community. The local brewery where they meet, Short’s Brewing Company, has welcomed them by giving them space and free advertising.
“They talk about wanting to be a pub, not a bar — a place where people can bring their kids, where they can have those conversations,” Pomerville said.
The format is simple: Each week there is a particular question to be discussed — monetary obligations, the afterlife and epiphanies have been recent topics — that is posted on unTapped’s blog and sent out via email. The question then begins the formal part of the conversation — from 7-8 p.m. — and from there it is, as Pomerville described it, a free for all.
“The point is the conversation, not to convince anyone or to necessarily come to any realization at the end,” Pomerville said.
Though perhaps trite, it is also true that it is the journey itself that is important. Though the discussion is officially over at 8 p.m., it often goes for an hour or two more.
“The people who keep coming — it is because they are challenged by the conversation,” Pomerville said. “We have noticed that people not part of a church, or those part of a church but frustrated by it — for those folks this has, in a sense, become its own little church.”
One week there had been a fire in the community and those who had gathered wanted to help somehow. So they took up an offering, one person volunteered to knit some items and the group set about doing the work of the church, just without the mission committee.
So the church focuses on getting more people into the congregation or to join the church while forgetting the reasons behind it, Pomerville said. In so doing, we miss the spiritual component behind it all.
“Our session thinks what’s most important is to invite people to a life with Christ — if it happens in our building, great, but if it happens in the pub or another church, it’s all part of the same body,” Pomerville said. “We need to give up our own ego as a denomination and as a local congregation and realize it is about being a part of the greater church.
“The flip side, and it’s a funny by-product, is that the church then actually becomes more attractive to people who are turned off by the notion of joining something or conforming to certain doctrines before getting the chance to think about it,” he said. “Why don’t we instead all learn together, based on what it means to be people of faith?”
Pomerville knows that the idea of meeting a pub is not a new one and is happening in other places too. But in the small town of Bellaire, it still gets quite a reaction from those who hear about it.
“We need to be willing to meet people where they are and speak their language — not just as lip service and not with an agenda of what we think has to happen,” Pomerville said.
Erin Dunigan is a freelance writer, photographer, and pastor who lives in a small coastal community in Baja California, Mexico when she is not following her wanderlust out into the world.