(Photo: Screen Grab via YouTube/Gregg Brekke)
A small community of churches in the United States are combining worship and beer to attract people to boost their dwindling numbers.
In an NPR report on Sunday featuring a number of the experimental gatherings, supporters of the beer services say their efforts have been successful in attracting people who like the homemade libations they serve with hymns and Christian praise.
And at least one gathering has gotten official approval of its activities from its governing body.
"I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here," said Leah Stanfield, a 28-year-old leasing agent who attends Church-in-a-Pub in Fort Worth, Texas. "I find friends that love God, love craft beer."
About 30 to 40 people congregate at Zio Carlo brewpub every Sunday evening to have a church service sponsored by Pastor Philip Heinze and Calvary Lutheran Church with orders of pizza and pints of beer. They also take communion at the event as well.
According to the report, however, the unconventional service has sometimes left patrons confused.
"I tell 'em, it's a church service," bartender Les Bennett explained. "And they're, like, 'In a pub?' And I'm, like, yeah. Some of 'em stick around for trivia, some of 'em take off, some of 'em will hang out and have another pint or two."
"I'm not interested, frankly, in making more church members," said Pastor Heinze. "I'm interested in having people have significant relationships around Jesus. And if it turns out to be craft beer, fine."
The church's formal name is the Greek word Kyrie and according to its website, the name comes from Kyrie Eleison, which means "Lord have mercy." It is also described as a very old expression used in Christian liturgy.
The church is also described as: "An inclusive, interdenominational gathering that welcomes anyone from any walk of life, sex, race, culture or sexual orientation."
At the First Christian Church in Portland, Ore., a group of mostly younger people gather for one Saturday night every month for Beer & Hymns.
At this event, people drink homemade stout from plastic cups while singing traditional hymns.
At one of the services noted by NPR, a transgendered person identified as Jolie Shempert argued for her beloved and recently dead dog, Gunner. Shempert talked about being raised in a strict church that preached animals have no souls and defied that teaching during a Beer & Hymns service.
"I want to sing this song in defiance of that because Gunner was my friend. And he has emotions and a personality and I had a relationship with him that's as real as any relationship I had with any human being," said Shempert.
Rodney Page, an upbeat 78-year-old, long-time member of First Christian Portland and a recent Beer & Hymns convert praised the event.
"I know that initially there were some people who had some trepidation," explained Page. "This church has had a history and background of being anti-alcohol, so it took some convincing for some people. But eventually people went ahead with it and it's been a great success."