It’s often called “Theology on Tap.” For my congregation, it’s an open invitation to join the pastors on Monday evening for a beer and conversation at a neighborhood pub. Usually, the topic relates to yesterday’s sermon. One Monday in August, twenty-five of us showed up, scooted tables together, and began what became a two-hour discussion about gun violence in Chicago and how our congregation should respond.
In different words, many expressed the same concern: “We still need to learn more about the problem. We can’t just show up in the neighborhoods where shootings are happening and act like we have all the answers.” Rightly so, we wanted to avoid being the naive outsiders who have noble intentions but cause more harm than good.
All the while, one of our pastors sat toward the end of the table, occasionally interjecting with these words: “We have already been invited, many times.” She said this because she received multiple invitations every week from clergy and organizers asking for congregations (like ours) to attend marches and vigils and volunteer at events for the families of victims. She knew that many organizations and churches are already deeply involved in the problems of gun violence and actively engaged in the neighborhoods where it occurs. She knew that no one expected us to bring answers. She knew that we would not be seen as naïve and no one would criticize our ignorance because no one expected us to know anything. She knew that the invitation was not to solve a problem but to bear witness to it by showing up with the people and in the places where it occurs. She knew that this is a good way for Christians to find their calling in difficult situations.
Eventually, we heard her message. By the end of that Monday evening, we agreed that our first step would be to notice the invitations. Our pastor would post them on our congregation’s Facebook page, and those of us who could show up, would show up. A few weeks in, that’s what we’re doing. It’s just a start. And it started sooner because we realized the invitation was ours to accept.
Emma Crossen is director for stewardship and development.