On God Pub: No Dogma, No Drama

Pub Theology 1 from Episcopal Diocese of Oregon on Vimeo. (The video is no longer available unfortunately)

In 2010, my good friend Shelly Fayette, priest at Good Shepherd Episcopal, and I started a joint venture we call God Pub. It’s not often that Quakers and Episcopals join forces to create a space where folks could come together to discuss questions about God and faith in a setting that encourages listening and dialogue. Rarely is there a division between the group, yet it’s always interesting to hear people say things like, “Well, Episcopals thing/do…” or “As a Quaker, I…” A joint venture like this really adds to the texture of the conversation when we draw from our different backgrounds and experiences.

This video above is about how this all got started, some of the ideas behind it, and some of the stories we have from doing it. It was filmed in my office last year and we’re grateful for the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon for putting it together.

At first, God Pub started off mainly as a word of mouth thing. We invited people who we identified as folks who might not feel like they don’t fit into the standard Sunday morning church crowd. Or maybe folks who like to ask questions, and consider challenging ideas. Or maybe people who enjoy a beer and that’s enough to get them to visit a “church thing” just this once.

Overtime it became more public as people got more comfortable with the idea. People invited friends and it continues to grow and change regularly. In the process it has become a really exciting gathering point for people of faith, seekers, and even folks who do not profess any faith at all. For some, it is their favorite “religious” thing to do all month. For others it is a helpful practice in dialogue. And still others, it is one of the few places where they can ask questions and they’ll be taken seriously and not judged for them.

The goal is to create a space where people can talk about their faith in a way where no one expects you to have the “right” answers. We get to hear many different ideas, and we watch as people’s walls come down and share from their hearts. I am always impressed by how well the group does at listening to one another. Even when we take up half the pub with 30 people, or tackled difficult issues – gender, privilege, racism, prayer, the bible – the dialogue almost always remains really respectful.

Often we open God Pub with a question or two. For instance, “prayer does…” & “prayer does not do…” are typed out on small slips of paper and we’ll hand a couple to each person. They’ll finish the sentence and then throw their responses in a bag. This creates anonymity and helps to break the ice. It gets people’s feelings out into the open and then we take it from there. Shelly might interject, “So why don’t we hear these kinds of responses when we are at Church?” Or another might delve into a the story behind why they wrote what they wrote on the slip of paper. Still a third might say, “I’ve never thought about it like that!”

God Pub, while in an odd setting for some, has turned very tender many times as the group works through difficult questions of faith. It has been an experience far greater than simply talking about God, it has been about meeting God there, and encountering the depth of God’s beauty through others. I am really glad to be a part of it.

Oh, and you might like to know our two rules for God Pub:

  1. The main rule is: “No Dogma, No Drama.”
  2. And the second is: “Be awesome to our server and tip really well.”