Washington DC

Social Media: Living a Virtually Real Life

Social Media: Living a Virtually Real Life

Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag. ― Jeremy Glass

Is social media “real life”? When we post photos of our kids playing the snow—is that real life? When we follow the Oscars via Twitter—is that real life? When we engage in heated discussions about politics on Facebook—is that real life? This was the topic at a couple of Pub Theology gatherings I attended this past week.
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I haven’t posted much here the last few months. A lot of transition has been happening. My family and I moved from Washington DC to Holland, Michigan in July. We were unable to continue our efforts of building community with Roots DC for a variety of factors, and it was a sad farewell. We had an amazing time in the almost two years we were there, and I’ve resisted writing about it because it is still something I am processing and a bit hard to put into words. Continue Reading..

Pub Theology Live-Tweet


TONIGHT at our regular Pub Theology DC gathering, we’ll be LIVE TWEETING – you can join us in person, at the Bier Baron at 1523 22nd St NW – just a few blocks west of the Dupont Circle Metro stop, or you can jump in on the conversation via Twitter using #pubtheology. Be sure to follow me (@bryberg) and (@pubtheology). Here are the topics we’ll be discussing:

  1. If you could name the street you live on what would you call it?

  1. If you received an extra burrito when ordering at your local shop would you say something?

  1. True or false: We should be wary of any efforts to improve human nature.

  2. Did you march on Saturday? Are you marching tomorrow? Does marching lead to justice?

  1. Did Jesus pay for our sins? In what way?

  1. Is hell a just punishment for sinful people?

WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!  Come on down and join us for a pint, or grab your smart phone, a craft-brewed pint, and hit the Twitters! Starting at 7pm.

A Philly Priest Visits Pub Theology DC

kirkb2Guest post by Fr. Kirk Berlenbach, rector of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia. He has been facilitating the parish beer club (The Franklin Club) since 2007. Originally posted at So This Priest Walks Into a Bar.

WASHINGTON DC – One of the great things about the internet is that, no matter how obscure your interest or hobby, the net allows you the chance to seek out and connect with other people who are just as off kilter.  When I began to take this whole faith and beer thing more seriously one of the first things I tried to do was see who else out there might be doing it too.  I was pleased to find I was not alone in the universe.  I came across and have since corresponded with a couple of kindred souls.

Among them are guys like Michael Camp, author of Confessions of a Bible Thumper: My Homebrewed Quest for a Reasoned Faith, which is next up on my reading list.  Another book on the subject is Diary of a Part Time Monk by J. Wilson which I just finished reading.  I referenced J’s quest to emulate the monks of old in this post.  In short, he attempted to follow the Lenten discipline of monks who fasted existing only on their dopplebock.  The book is his account of this remarkable experience.

Then there is Bryan Berghoef.  When I finished reading his book, Pub Theology, I knew we had to at least correspond.  We hit it off and found we had a lot in common, not just in terms of our love of beer but also in terms of our approach to ministry and the Church’s need to find new ways to connect with the ever increasing “spiritual but not religious” population.  We discussed the idea of a visit but never got around to making specific plans.

Then, a few months ago I got the bright idea to do an event on the whole “beer-faith connection” as part of this year’s Philly Beer Week.  (more on this in next week’s post).  Anyway, when I was thinking through other clergy who could work with me on this event, Bryan was on the short list.  I contacted him and he was very excited at the possibility.  But I thought it was important to meet the man I was going to work with.  Moreover, I wanted to see an example of one of his “Pub Theology” sessions up close and personal.

So last week I took the train down to DC.  Bryan met me at the station and we headed off to the pub where that night’s conversation would take place.  The whole concept of Pub Theology is “Beer, Conversation, God.”  The gathering is open to anyone who wishes to attend and the topics are sent out a few days ahead of time.  On the heels of the massive Oklahoma tornado the topic included God’s role in natural disasters, as well as more abstract topics like, “Was there a time before time?” and “Scientists say dark matter is inferred, not seen.  Can you call that faith?”

We talked over burgers and beers and then made our way to the back part of the bar to wait and see who would show up.   Over time the group grew to a very respectable 15 people.  Many were members of Bryan’s new church planting project, Roots DC.   Others were visitors and one was a local clergy colleague.  People’s perspectives varied,  greatly (and thanks to the presence of a young woman from South Sudan, also went beyond just an American lens) and at least one person was by openly an atheist.

As the conversation progressed and folks ordered their 2nd or third beer, people definitely became more vocal.   Yet a no time was there a hint of disrespect or even frustration.

What Bryan has built here is no small accomplishment.  To create an environment where people, many of whom are strangers, can speak openly and honestly about the deeper issues of life is quite extraordinary.  As I have reflected on this I began to see the genius of Bryan’s concept.  While such a group could take place over coffee or in a park, the setting of the bar is really critical to its success.

Where else but in a bar can friends, acquaintances and strangers all engage impassioned debate yet still remain not just civil but even jovial?   Now it is true that often times those debates are about how the manager is mishandling the bullpen and not dark matter.  But there are many times I have heard focused discussion about politics, God and the meaning of life coming from the other end of the bar or the next table.

It seems to me that if the bar is indeed the new Forum, then Bryan has indeed hit upon a valuable insight into how the Church can connect with the world outside its walls.  The key lies first in a willingness to go out to where the people are rather than insisting that they come to us.  But just as important is the setting.  In order to get people talking about what they really believe about God and what  truly matters in life, then you can’t do much better than your local pub.  And, at least in my opinion, the best way to start any meaningful conversation is over a good pint.

So here’s to Bryan and Pub Theology and the rediscovery of a great way to talk about God and all things that matter most.

You can read Kirk’s latest thoughts at So This Priest Walks Into a Bar: Beer, Music, and a Thirst for God, or find him enjoying a craft beer somewhere in Philadelphia.

Transition: DC

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.
~Thomas Paine

My wife and I are facing the daunting task of moving the family to Washington D.C. for the uncertain project of starting a new ministry.

Some needed caffeine on the train

I took the train out here a week ago with the goal of finding somewhere to live.  We are blessed to have friends who live in the beltway just outside of the city, so I had somewhere to sleep while looking at housing options. They have a wonderful home, a great dog, and more importantly, are wonderful people. And as a bonus: they appreciate good beer.

This has allowed me to not feel too far away from home, as we’ve had great conversation with wonderful people, and inevitably a good brew in hand.

From hanging out with environmental types to non-profit leaders to lawyers to bar tenders, interns, and others, it’s been fun to get a taste of life in the District.  It is good to know that there are a bunch of great pubs and gathering places, and that they are filled with people who are seeking conversation and community.  I think I’ll survive.

One place we hit was The Big Board, which has an ongoing screen that tallies whatever beer is the most popular on a given night.  The more popular the beer is that night, the lower the price for a pint is.  So it was fun to see what was on the board, and how things were shaking out.  I believe it was an Allaghash White at the top of the board, with the usual top contender, New Belgium’s Ranger IPA (Ft Collins, CO) a bit lower down.  I tried a local brew: Chocolate City Brewery’s Nitro Copper.

To new friends!

We also hit a German Biergarten, which had a delightful patio straight out of Munich.

Another spot that served delicious Belgium brews was Granville Moore’s, a dingy, hole-in-the-wallish place (but a great vibe) on H Street with a limited menu of mussels and frites but a first-rate beer selection.  I tried some heavy-hitters: The Allaghash Curieux and the Gaverhopke Extra.  Also tasted a Gueuze Tilquin and my host’s favorite: the Oude Gueuze by Hansenns from Dworp, Belgium.  There we had delightful conversation with the pastor of a local historic Lutheran congregation, and we enjoyed talking about ministry, transition, and life in the city.

Last night we had a ‘farm night’ in the neighborhood I’m staying in, in which various friends from the neighborhood and across the city gathered to eat food they’ve prepared, from ingredients either grown locally or purchased at a local farmer’s market.  There were even some venison steaks from Michigan involved!  Delightful conversation happened around the dining room table and in the wooded yard, and it was great to learn about what people here care about and are doing with their lives.

Much as we may wish to make a new beginning, some part of us resists doing so as though we were making the first step toward disaster.

~William Bridges

Small kitchens are very common!

I’ve also spent most of my days getting to know the subway system (the Metro), walking neighborhoods, viewing houses and apartments for rent, and wondering how it’s all going to work out!

I’ve visited the NW, NE, SE, and SW parts of the city, and bits of Maryland and Virginia.  The common theme, even in the more depressed areas is: it’s expensive!  I really don’t know how anyone affords to live here.  I think often it is a matter of finding housemates who can help share the cost.  In any case, the city is an exciting place where a lot is happening, and many people from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses all live and work together.  We have sensed a calling to create a new faith community within this bustling, dynamic, and broken place.

To keep me busy (and help pay the bills), I’ve also applied for some writing/editing jobs, as well as a teaching position at Marymount University, to be an adjunct in Religious Studies.

I’ve ridden the Metro, driven through rush hour, walked long blocks and various alleys, visited tiny 2 BR apartments that were labeled “4 BR”, and found some genuinely workable options.  The challenge in all of it is that we are still in the process of fundraising (one-third of the way there!) and seeking out additional work options—so things are somewhat “to be determined,” which means we’re not quite ready to sign a lease that is going to run about triple what rental costs were in Traverse City.

When I think about my week, it runs from exhausting (lots of walking on pavement in late August heat) to exhilarating (meeting people from all walks of life and seeing the possibilities for a new faith community), and from frightening (why are we doing this again?) to fascinating (the diversity of people, places, and experiences here are endless).

Help us get to DC!

If you’d like to learn more about our ministry – visit Roots DC’s website.  To help us make the move and afford to live here, we are inviting people to partner with us – if you’d like to be a financial supporter, simply click the ‘donate’ button to make a tax-deductible gift!  (We’re looking for about 65 more people to join us who are willing to give $100/month, or $25/week). We also appreciate prayers for our family in this somewhat stressful time of transition.

I’ve seen a couple of good possibilities for a home for the family, but it looks like we need to get some more funding in place before we can sign a lease.  We’ll get out here soon, and even sooner with your help!

So here’s to new beginnings, life changes, good conversations, and, of course, good beer!

A Spoonful of Sugar

“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, helps the medicine go down…”

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Tonight we watched Mary Poppins with the kids.

Hadn’t seen it in ages – it’s still a classic.

The storyline is that Mary shows up, dropping out of the sky, as a nanny for two sad and unruly British children, and she is simply magical.

They have adventures you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t seem them (I recommend another viewing if you haven’t seen it lately).

Great things happen in their lives, and things change for the better.

But the wind changes, too soon it seems, and Mary must go.

The children, sad as they are, realize her time with them is up.

It’s a delightful story, with a hint of sadness at the end because their magical times together are at an end.

Yet the real magic is that she can leave, and that those she touched are now different, and she, too, is different for having been touched in return.

This morning I announced to our community that the wind has changed.

We are being blown east.  Heading from TC to DC.  (more on this later)

It was not an easy thing to share, as the times we’ve had have been magical, and if I hadn’t been here, I’m not sure I would believe it.

I had never expected to compare myself to Mary Poppins, and so I won’t.  The truth is, we were the unruly children, and those in our community were as Poppins to us.  They touched us, and we have been changed.  We hope that in some small way, the touch was returned.

The winds are blowing…  Soon enough we shall head off in another direction.

But the real magic is that we can leave, and, in leaving, know that we all are different for having had the time together, even as new adventures await.

Anyone have some sugar?