By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
DELAND - The Rev. Karen Curtis-Weakley believes in God ... and good beer.
"I'll have more people at Theology on Tap than at church on Sunday morning," the minister said. "Why not, our model of church is changing. People aren't going to be going to church on Sunday morning in the future."
Theology on Tap is New Hope United Church of Christ's Wednesday meetings mixed with a bit of outreach. Back in January, the pastor took the church's weekly theology discussions out of the proverbial chapel and into a very real pub. About 12 to 15 folks a week meet with the pastor at The Abbey, 117 N. Woodland Blvd., for beer, wine and God. The Rev. Curtis-Weakley said that Theology on Tap attracts New Hope members and others.
"I wanted to go out where the people were, and where they liked to hang out," she said. "Everyone who likes church already has a church. I wanted to go out in the world. I'd love them to come to our church, but that's not happening. So, we're going out in the world. That's what Jesus did."
New Hope member and Theology on Tap attendee Bert Perry said discussing faith and spiritual practice at a pub over beer is educational, enlightening and fun.
"It's a good place to share your ideas - it's very non-threatening," she said. "I think since we're people of different theologies, different backgrounds, different ideas, if we were to meet in a church Sunday school room, it would have a different feel. (A pub is) more casual and welcoming."
The Rev. Curtis-Weakley graduated from Methodist Theological School in Ohio, often called Methesco, in 1997. She headed to Kansas and served as pastor to two rural Methodist churches. Over time, the minister said she increasingly sensed a doctrinal divide between the denomination and her. She left and joined the United Church of Christ, which is more doctrinally libertarian.
The minister said she borrowed the idea of having religious meetings at a pub from others who'd successfully used it to increase their churches' outreach to communities. She said Theology on Tap has attracted conservative Christians, and people from other religions.
"I think people thought I was crazy at first," the Rev. Curtis-Weakley said.
Theology on Tap starts at 6:30 p.m. New Hope's weekly services are at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Allen Summerhill Chapel, 126 E. New York Ave. Additionally, the church has a monthly meeting for inspirational movies at Dublin Station, 105 W. Indiana Ave. That meeting is on the fourth Thursday, and starts at 6:30.