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Thoughts on Theology Beer Camp from a non-beer drinker, non-podcaster perspective...

When Pastor Will shared about a year ago about Holy Trinity being the host for his friend, Tripp Fuller’s Theology Beer Camp this October, I thought “O.K., that sounds a little weird, but I’m glad you are excited about it.” Being a non-Beer drinker and not one for enjoying listening to podcasts, I figured that won’t be my thing, but hope you have fun! It was advertised on Tripp’s Homebrewed Christianity site as “Come Thirsty, Get Nerdy.” I wasn’t sure what that even meant, I figured “these aren’t my people,” but I’m glad we are able to make space for them.

As we led up to the event and all the whirling details of hosting 200 people from all over the country, plus Canada, I realized this event was a very big deal! As the beer started being delivered – keg after keg—and the hosts and podcasters started arriving on Thursday, I was still a bit skeptical. I was envisioning damage to our building with all these folks getting rowdy, drinking beer and having a free for all. I was viewing things from a detail minded, overly responsible, youth minister perspective—“it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”

I offered to pick up some of the speakers and podcast guests from the airport on Thursday. I had wonderful conversations with Dr. Adam Clark, a Theology Professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and Dr. Myron Penner, a Philosophy Professor at Trinity Western University in Canada. I began to think, this event might not be what I had judged it to be, instead this could be very interesting…

On Thursday evening, I assisted with welcoming folks in the parking lot and helping them to find places to park. People started arriving with license plates that showed they were from all over the country. Ubers and taxis were dropping people off. There were folks of all different ages, genders, sexual orientation, and races—and all extremely friendly and grateful for our church hosting such an event. I heard numerous comments that they couldn’t believe a church would host a “beer camp.” The Reception Hall was packed with people enjoying beer (served by Kevin Schneider and Pastor Mark) and reuniting or making new connections.

My mind started to be transformed about this event—this was super cool! I hadn’t seen this many people in our Reception Hall in years! And everyone was so enthusiastic and friendly (sure, a little beer might have helped that along!).

On Friday morning, I attended the key-note addresses in the Worship Center. It was packed—barely any seats left. I sat there amazed and wishing it looked like this on Sunday mornings. The speakers were thought provoking and insightful. I learned a new term, to me, Exvangelical. Exvangelical is a term coined by those who were raised in Evangelical (not ELCA Evangelicals, but Christian Right Evangelicals) churches that had harmed them in their view of God and of themselves. For some of these folks, this is the first time they had stepped inside a church in years. Our church, HTLC, was a welcoming embrace to people who have been outside the Church for many years.

When I thought “these aren’t my people” initially—I was right. I was fortunate to be raised in a church of grace and love. My only touch with fundamentalism was a semester in college where I attended Campus Crusade for Christ and felt judged and misunderstood. Fortunately, I was raised in a church that taught me that Jesus wasn’t all about judgment, but love. ELCA Pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber says “Maybe the opposite of religious fundamentalism isn’t strident atheism or liberalism. Maybe the opposite of fundamentalism is…humility.”

I am humbled to serve in a church that welcomes ALL people, teaches the message that we are ALL loved by God, that embraces science, and invites questions. I realized that I often take that for granted, maybe you do, too? Pastor Will tells me that several people said they wished there was a church like ours where they lived. It made me all the more grateful for our community at Holy Trinity. I long for the day when our Worship Center is that full again.

By Deacon Holly Shipley



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