UPDATE: NPR Executive Producers have pushed the Beer and Hymns story to next Sunday, November 2nd.
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Portland is pleased to announce that National Public Radio’s Religion Correspondent, John Burnett, has produced a story called “God and Beer” which features both FCC’s monthly “Beer and Hymns” event, as well as a Lutheran congregation from Fort Worth, TX, that holds their worship services in a local pub.
The story will air on Sunday morning,
October 27th November 2nd during the NPR Weekend Edition Sunday program, hosted by Rachel Martin.
The concept for Beer and hymns originated in England with the annual Greenbelt Christian Festival, with the intent of offering a “pub style” sing-along experience beneath the community beer tent. Attendees of Greenbelt brought the idea back to the states, offering a similar event at the annual Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina, led by Todd and Angie Fadel.
“It was such a remarkable thing to witness,” says Christian Piatt, Director of Growth and Development at FCC Portland. “Participating in Beer and Hymns at Wild Goose brought tears to my eyes. There was so much joy in that space; I hadn’t felt that close to God in a long time.”
When Christian and his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt (Senior Pastor at FCC Portland) learned that the Fadels were based in Portland, plans began to emerge for a similar event in the Pacific Northwest.
“If you invite people to a hymn sing,” says Amy, “you’ll get a handful of die-hard church people to come. But by adding beer to the experience, you tell people before they even get there to expect something completely different.”
The monthly events, which are held in the large community space in FCC’s multipurpose room, draw between 50 and 125 people a month. There is no cost to attendees, though a $5 donation is suggested, which is given to the ministry of the “Food Church” in north Portland where the Fadels serve together. Drinks are dispensed by a state licensed server, and there is a standing two-drink maximum.
“No one is served if they come already intoxicated,” says Amy, “but we’ve never had a single incident in the year since we started Beer and Hymns.” The hymn sings are family-oriented, with crafts and instruments to involve children. Volunteers from the church also provide snacks and non-alcoholic beverage options.
“Some folks who come love these old songs,” says Christian, “while others have some old baggage to unpack when it comes to what these songs bring up for them. We want to create a safe space where everyone can come together to laugh, cry and explore what it means to be a non-traditional community of faith together.
The event also includes “20-Second Stories,” which is an invitation to participants to share a short memory they have related to the song being offered. It is both an opportunity for personal expression and sometimes catharsis, while also creating a stronger community bond through shared story.
FCC’s next Beer and Hymns event will be held on Friday, November 1st, 2013 at 6 PM. To learn more about FCC’s Beer and Hymns events, contact Christian Piatt, or visit the Beer and Hymns page on Facebook or watch a video about the program below: