Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Theology on Tap comes to Cambridge

Back home at in Atlanta there’s this unofficial “thing” called Theology on Tap. It was initiated by an Episcopal church sometime in the early 2000s, and has become a mish-mash of small group gatherings, sometimes sponsored or affiliated with a church or other religious organization, but more often of thinking and drinking theologians. I found myself participating in a rather casual, unofficial version of Theology on Tap with my peers at Candler. We couldn’t help but gather around a frosty pint at the Brick Store (a beloved pub around the corner from where I lived that boasted over 300 different beers from around the world!) and chat fervently about theology, ethics, church history and our blossoming love for the Old Testament (thank you Brent Strawn). In many ways, it was these unplanned, ungoverned discussions that shaped and deepened my understanding of what we were studying in the classroom. We weren’t constrained by time limits, or a need to “stay on track.” The discussion could wander and weave as it wished, leading us down rabbit holes that later became serious theological reflection.  It was an opportunity to grow relationships with the Candler community, to connect not just topically with my fellow students who will go on to be my colleagues in ministry once I’m ordained. It was a hearty, honest gathering of people grappling with the various points of theological and religious conversation and owning it, in some ways.

Cambridge is missing this important space. Students don’t (at least not in my context) meet outside of lectures, or institution/denominational commitments to socialize and digest the dense quantity of information they’re being fed. There isn’t a space to let the theological banter roam free, winding around our own predispositions and asking the personal questions which seem inappropriate for the classroom or supervision group. Indeed, discussion in the classroom is a novel irregularity at best (because of the structure of the Cambridge term system). Here, more so even than at Candler, an open space to talk about theology, ethics, church history and how all of these relate practically to our ministries is extremely important. The cross pollinating of theological colleges is important too, since people from the same denomination live and eat together (mostly) and tend to stick together in small, tightly-knit groups. My hope with this first attempt to transplant something from the New World to the Old, is to facilitate talking – about our scholastic work, our personal reflection and across denominational and philosophical lines.

But maybe it’s just me – I mean, y’all that know me, know I like to talk! But I hope that it becomes a regular, useful space for future ministers of Britain to articulate their theologies, to own them, and to enjoy good conversation (and a quality beer) in the process.

So, tomorrow at 8:30pm (that’s 3:30pm Atlanta time) I’ll be “leading” the very first Theology on Tap in Cambridge! Huzzah!

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