17 October 2012
How To Host Your Own Beer and Hymns Night
There is something very cool about singing Beautiful Savior, Amazing Grace, and A Mighty Fortress in a pub.
Sure, its partly the novelty of it, but it also worshipful, spiritual, intimate, fun, great outreach, and an affirmation of God's presence in our daily lives - in all the places we gather, including pubs.
I've helped to host four Beer and Hymns events. They've each been a little different but they have been great experiences. The singing is beautiful, the environment is relaxed, it takes us into the community, and it opens something up for people spiritually.
Beer and Hymns has been popularized in Lutheran circles by Nadia Bolz-Weber and House for All Sinners and Saints. Jodi Bjornstad Houge and Humble Walk Church also regularly host Beer and Hymns. Jodi writes about their experience here. I've included several links at the bottom of this post with examples of how people have done Beer and Hymns and what it means to them.
Here's my version of how to host your own Beer and Hymns event:
1. Find Beer
Find a local pub that has space to hold your group. Be clear with the manager about what you are doing - that there will be hymn singing accompanied by keyboard. I've helped host four Beer and Hymns and they've all been in different spaces - a function room that we paid for upstairs in an Irish pub (we received a free will offering to underwrite the cost), off in a corner of a large brew pub, in a hotel lounge during a synod conference, and upstairs in a restuarant/brewery. These all worked in their own way.
I prefer a space that has some connection and flow with the rest of the establishment. Part of the idea of Beer and Hymns to be church in a public way - to be obvious, but not obnoxious. At our last event at Forest and Main we were upstairs, but the hymns flowed out the windows and downstairs to the bar and restaurant. People in the bar enjoyed hearing it. It was out in the open, but not in your face. There's no need to pay for space. You can usually find someone to give you the space. After all, you are bringing in a lot of customers.
When possible, I like to hold these at locally owned businesses. It's great to support the local economy and build relationships in the neighborhood.
Try to use a place that some of your people already gather, so its not like you are going somewhere else for this special event. The idea is to enter more deeply into people's daily lives, not pull them out of it. Ask around and see where people go.
2. Get Hymns
Create a packet of hymns or music appropriate for your group. Number the pages so people can call out hymn numbers by page. It works best to have someone on keyboard to accompany the singing. Some churches have a small band that plays. Music selection depends on your group. The main thing is to pick songs that are singable. This may not be a good time to teach new songs - unless your keyboardist or musician is good at that kind of thing. At one of our events, the keyboardist taught us to sing the old Luther League Hymn. That was fun. In the future, I hope to incorporate paperless singing from Music That Makes Community.
3. Hosting and format
The great thing about Beer and Hymns is that its simple to host. The event itself is the hook, so you don't have to overthink it. At the beginning, welcome everybody, say a few words about why we have gathered - for me, the cool part of Beer and Hymns is that it reminds us that God is everywhere, can be praised everywhere, not just in our church buildings. It's a reminder that, as we go about our daily lives and gather in places like pubs, coffee shops, etc., God is right there in the midst of it all. Maybe offer a prayer.
Then, ask people to call out hymn requests, which the keyboardist can field. We typically sing a handful of songs, take a break, wet our whistles, chat and move around, and then come back and sing some more. The pace depends on the keyboardist, the group, and the space.
The night goes for 60-90 minutes. There is only so long you can sing hymns for, even for church folk. So, don't overdo it and leave time for fellowship afterward and encourage people to hang out.
Have you hosted a Beer and Hymns before? What advice would you give on hosting one?