Connor Janney

How Beer and Hymns Brings Light to the Darkness

A glimmer, a sheen, a glow, a flicker, a blinding burst of glory, a flame, a hum, a vision, a touch, a warmth, a revelation, a presence, a blaze, a radiance, a brilliance, an awe.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” – John 1:1-5

Hope, life, and love are found in Jesus Christ. He shines in the darkness and yet the darkness has not overcome it. Christ is shining throughout this world, and in Jacksonville, Jesus is shining at a Veterans United Craft Brewery, through the fresh expression of church that meets there.

Jesus is shining at a Veterans United Craft Brewery, through the fresh expression of church that meets there. Click To Tweet

Bibles and Brews

It all started in April 2016, when Bill Barkoskie heard from his wife about a small group that held a Bible study called, “Bible’s and Brews.” It immediately caught his attention.

Bill worked as an operations manager at a local brewery and had been a fan of craft beer for a long time. His father also had a background in the trade. Bill Wold, Associate Pastor of Mandarin United Methodist Church, had just the experience to launch a similar endeavor.

The first night it was a packed house, and they began meeting monthly. Meetings are kicked off with some music that people might recognize, (not specifically christian music) and then the music team takes hymn requests.

Three fellow members from Bill’s church have come alongside him to lead worship. Bill said they are very intentional to “try to get to know the folks in the community.” The regulars are starting to reach out to others in the restaurant. They share bowls of popcorn and start up a conversation. “We’re trying to get to know that community and figure out how we can plug in,” Bill says.

It’s not uncommon for Beer and Hymns to be subject to skepticism, but Bill is confident that this is where God is calling Him and others.

“You get people that think, ‘Why would you promote something with beer?’ But alcohol was prevalent throughout the entire Bible. I don’t think it’s alcohol itself that’s the issue, but it’s what you do with it. The problem is more with overindulgence.” At Beer and Hymns there is a healthy respect for alcohol and emphasis on drinking responsibly.

Who is Beer and Hymns For?

Beer and Hymns is accessible to a broad audience. Bill observed that, “It’s less intimidating to have songs, some of which people recognize, versus a Bible study which is intimidating for someone’s who’s not at that point in their walk.”

It’s not uncommon for people to be present at Beer and Hymns who have no faith or background in Christianity at all. People openly confess agnosticism, but in Bill’s words, “That’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t matter where you are in your walk, it’s getting out there to meet people just as Jesus did. He didn’t wait for them to come to Him, He went to them.”

He continued, “And where else are you going to find people at various stages of walks or people who aren’t walking at all. You may find them at a place like a brewery.”

Bill and his team reach out to both the customers and the employees there at the Veterans United Craft Brewery. “We’re not waiting for them to walk within the four walls of a church, because they may never do it. It’s taking the church out to them, and that’s exactly what Jesus did. When I think about the Great Commission, that’s what I’m tasked to do, not to build a big church and wait for people to come to it, but to go out and make disciples.” Bill’s approach is simple, “You meet people where they’re at. You get to know them.”

Beer and Hymns is accessible to a broad audience. Bill observed that, 'It’s less intimidating to have songs, some of which people recognize, versus a Bible study which is intimidating for someone’s who’s not at that point in their… Click To Tweet

A Beer and Hymns Movement?

Beer and Hymns is a burgeoning form of church that has sprouted ministries and churches across the US. Beer and Hymns traces its roots to the Wild Goose Festival, and annual gathering that started in Warm Springs, TN. “As the story goes, one evening after all festival the programs had died down, a few people gathered around a campfire with coolers of beer and guitars and started singing hymns that most everyone would know.

“The singing and general rowdiness drew others out of their tents and into the unruly chorus until nearly 100 folks had gathered together in unplanned, imperfect worship. Between songs, one of the leaders of the conference piped up and said something like, ‘this should be happening all over the place. When you go back home, start beer & hymns gatherings.’” So the people present, did just that, and one such meeting was used to call Bill into this ministry.

A Light in the Darkness

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lamp stand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

Bill and others are going to places of darkness, places where the light is absent, and shinning the light of Christ into those places. One of Bill’s friends at Beer and Hymns is an agnostic mortician, and Bill’s willingness to be a friend and to listen to this man’s story is opening the door for the Gospel.

The beauty of following Christ into darkness, is that He is the light that shines through us! We don’t go into darkness, but we go to be conduits for the love and life of Jesus Christ! Bill said one of encouraging things someone said to him was that, “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Jesus isn’t calling the people who are healthy, He calls and qualifies the sick, and that’s something you can do through beer and hymns.”

Looking forward, there is much work to be done, but Bill has already seen God moving and rewarding their faithfulness and efforts. Bill said, “I’d like to see beer and hymns become a church for people. This may be church for people who don’t go to a traditional church. We want to create an environment where people feel welcome, part of a community, and have the freedom to develop relationships. You can’t know what needs are out there until you develop relationships.”

Bill wants beer and hymns to be, “A place where people can experience what Jesus defined as a church, and it’s not defined as a building, but as a community of believers. Curiosity and the desire to understand opens the door for Jesus to come into people’s hearts. It’s all about building that trust and sense of community.”

Curiosity and the desire to understand opens the door for Jesus to come into people’s hearts. Click To Tweet

Bill is faithfully tilling the soil with prayer and a willing heart.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8

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Connor Janney

Connor Janney

Connor Janney was a Communications Intern for Fresh Expressions the summer of 2017. He is a Senior at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and expects to graduate in May of 2018.

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