Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Theology on Tap' Brings Church to a Bar; It's Not a Service and It's Not about Drinking; It's Religious Education in a Relaxed Setting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Theology on Tap' Brings Church to a Bar; It's Not a Service and It's Not about Drinking; It's Religious Education in a Relaxed Setting

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

To his delight, the Rev. Tom Willis' audience of young adults remained fully engaged during his two-hour PowerPoint presentation about upcoming changes to the Roman Catholic missal.

In part, Willis' engaging speaking style and ability to translate obtuse theological concepts into everyday language helped listeners stay focused. But so did the setting: A Jacksonville sports bar where they could wash down deep theological concepts with beer, soda, dinner and appetizers.

The program is called "Theology on Tap," a national effort that began in 1981 and locally is sponsored by the Diocese of St. Augustine. Its goal is to expose young Catholics - especially those who don't attend church or who haven't settled into a parish - to religious education programs they otherwise may avoid, organizers say.

"It's a non-threatening way to teach about Christianity to college students in an environment - the Mudville Grille on Beach Boulevard - that they would feel comfortable in," said Erin McGeever, director of Christian formation for the Jacksonville-based diocese.

The ages usually range from 21 to 39, but McGeever said no one is checking IDs - except to make sure participants are of drinking age. Each session features a different topic by a different speaker, and, despite the program's name, it's not about the booze for the 30 or so that usually attend the gatherings.

"It's meant to be a casual environment," McGeever said. "It's not meant to be a drink-and-drown sort of thing."

In fact beverages of all sorts - from bottles of Heineken and Corona to glasses of Miller Lite were closely matched by the waters and sodas the waitress shuttled to patrons during Willis' presentation. There were also plenty of plates of sandwiches, wraps, salads and appetizers being consumed.

Regular Kenny Risberg said he's been attending the sessions for a couple years as a way to keep up with developments in the Catholic Church. The program also has a definite social benefit, he said.

"This is a way I can meet people from other parishes in our area," the 24-year-old Christ the King parishioner said.

What they got last week was an early look at much-anticipated changes to the Catholic missal, which includes the directions for worship and Scripture readings used in the Mass. …

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