by Bil Aulenbach

Bible Study in a Bar

Every Tuesday at 4:00 p.m., fifteen to twenty-plus people meet at our church for Bible study. The Reverend Ken Wyant, a fun and funny teacher with a great understanding of the Bible, leads the class. Almost all of us are members of Irvine United Congregational Church, but the group is open to all. After all, IUCC is an Open and Affirming congregation. No matter where you are on your life’s journey, you are welcomed at IUCC. One member of this group is a Roman Catholic who enjoys the thinking/challenging process and the camaraderie of the group. Another very learned member is a retired UCC pastor who brings tremendous discussion material to the conversation. The group is about half men and half women. I bring progressive Christianity into the mix, which can sometimes be disruptive.

It seems like months ago that we started to study the book of Revelation. I have never appreciated this book because it doesn’t make any sense in any way, at least to me. I’ll bet Jesus wouldn’t have liked it either. Revelation is negative and rather violent. To make our discussions even more confusing, we use about half a dozen different translations, which makes the crazy even crazier. Pastor Ken likes the book for its beauty and insights into first-century Christianity, whose members had been expelled from Judaism. The Followers of the Way were in the process of figuring out this new religion. Different schools of thought appeared and tried to lay the foundation stones for the future. One of the schools was St. John’s, which wrote the Gospel of John, the book of Revelation, and three letters or Epistles, 1, 2, and 3 John.

I’ve previously shared with you how I felt that the Gospel of John was a barnacle on the keel of the Church. I usually disliked preaching John and felt it was a waste of time. I don’t know why, but I felt that maybe I needed to look at this Gospel again in a different light. Pastor Ken did just that. I became a convert and even wrote about how “I’m Falling in Love—with John.”

The discussions in this Bible study group are lively, to put it politely. People are free to say, “I don’t agree with you,” and then open up a discussion, no holds barred. But it is so much fun to have that feeling that we respect each other even though we don’t agree—or as some say, we agree to disagree!—and are still friends. Wow! That’s what the “kin-dom on earth” is about.

At 5:30 p.m., we adjourn this segment of the Bible study and go to happy hour at Square One Pizza (a mile away) to resume our discussion at this bar/restaurant. Almost everyone at the Bible study goes to this young mom-and-pop hangout. The very friendly and accommodating staff sets up a reserved table and treats us like royalty. At times, one of the waiters suggests that we are a very “different” church group.

Most of the time, this hospitable environment allows the conversations to continue whether we are talking about church or our lives or whatever’s important to us at that time. The staff are very aware that we want our glasses of wine, beer, water, or soft drink quickly. Then they take our orders. Their menu is extensive, their food is delicious, the prices are right, and the ambiance is special. The conversations are invigorating and Bible study ends at about 7:30 p.m.

This is my idea of the Church in action—living, breathing, talking agape.

Maybe you would be so kind as to share with our readers about your Bible study?

Photo courtesy of stu_spivack (CC BY-SA 2.0)

3 Responses to Bible Study in a Bar

  • We have a group we call “Living the Questions” It too is made up of a variety of people from different denominations. We have one Southern Baptist, three Methodists, One Presbyterian, three Community of Christ, one agnostic and one Muslim.

    We watch a video developed from a group of the Living the Questions progressive Bible Scholars. Then we have our lively discussion. This group meets in the homes and afterward the person serving as host serves dessert. We have met for fourteen years and have lost several members to death. I have about ten of these videos that I have bought over the years as new ones are developed.

  • Thanks for sharing Bil! We love our Tuesdays and look forward to returning to class after our travels. It truly is a great mix of people and ideas and I feel very blessed to be married to the teacher!!

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