If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier worldJ.R.R. Tolkien
There is not much strife in this world that cannot be overcome if people sit down, share a meal and a drink together, and listen to one another’s stories. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein and their fellows at Oxford understood this when they set out to form The Inklings, a loose gathering of writers, thinkers, and men of faith that began in meeting together regularly at The Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford, England in the late 1930s. Together, they would discuss all things literary, religious, spiritual, and other in a space that was inviting, informal, and open to all.
My first encounter with something like Pub Theology was on a visit to San Francisco about ten years ago. I was just beginning my process of discerning a call to ministry, and was spending a weekend on retreat at a Seminary. Every Friday afternoon, several students and one Theology professor at the school would meet for what they called “Beer and Theology”. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the gathering that Friday afternoon was the space: A third-floor room filled with couches, and oversized cushions, where one entire wall was a window overlooking the wooded campus. A cooler of various beverages sat in the middle of the circle. As people entered, some sat on the floor, others settled in to couches or chairs, and the professor sat cross-legged on the floor, adult beverage in hand. I thought to myself, “If this is Seminary, sign me up!” As the gathering went on, the conversation moved in turns from eschatology – a word I’d never heard before – to the function of apocalypse and prophecy in the Bible, to life after death and what we thought it might look like.
What I love about Pub Theology is that it is an open and honest conversation about big questions. It’s a table at which all perspectives are welcome. The format is simple: beverages, conversation, and God. As we begin this new time of reflection and fellowship together, I hope that people will come, bring their questions, bring a friend, and pull up a chair. We may take our faith seriously, but talking about faith does not always have to be serious. I welcome the chance to gather with people of varying religious traditions, philosophies, and life experiences. I look forward to learning from everyone, and to sharing our stories.
~ Melanie Marsh Baum