I had previously run a meeting in a large suburban pub in A previous circuit. Named St Arnold’s after St Arnold of Metz, the patron Saint of brewing and hop growers, it’s aim was to be a place where those on the edges of our churches might feel more comfortable to come and speak to their minister. Those who attended regularly were some of the younger people associated with the church and a number of the husbands and partners of ladies who came to church. People who sometimes struggled with a church service but were happy to chat life and faith over a pint.
After a year in Bradford it seemed a good idea to see if anyone here would value the same kind of experience and, with the new life in the city centre, a venue in the heart of the city seemed appropriate. So using the @StArnolds Twitter account I had set up I put out a message saying that we were a ‘pub church’ looking for a new city centre venue in which to meet and that venue must have ‘a good atmosphere and good beer!’. Within 10 minutes a message had arrived from an account belonging to the Bradford Brewery saying that if we could hang on a while, they would have ‘the perfect venue’ for us. So after a few more ‘tweets’ we set up a meeting at The Sparrow, a bar on North Parade.
As soon as I met Matthew I was impressed by his desire to see Bradford grow and prosper. We talked together about community and the importance of building social capital, agreeing that both pubs and churches should be safe places to meet at the heart of their communities. As we continued to meet together every few weeks I was able to hear how work was progressing at the Brewery celebrating the mini triumphs and supporting Matthew in the many difficulties of opening a large city centre venue. Regularly meeting for a pint or a coffee meant that Matthew and I had begun a working relationship that meant we weren’t just going to be a church group using a venue but rather we had an opportunity to be become a part of the fabric of a new and exciting city centre project.
Beer and hymns
It was that relationship which allowed us to stage the first Beer & Hymns event in The Brewfactory, the main taproom of the Brewery. Meeting on Easter Sunday evening The Brewery handled all the publicity, having their graphic designer produce posters that they put up all around the city and getting their PR company to arrange and manage press interviews in local and national papers and BBC radio. Originally when I had pitched the idea to Matthew for a night of ‘retro’ hymn singing I had promised him I could get between 25-30 people there. A promise, I was desperately hoping I could fulfil. I shouldn’t have been worried at all. There were closer to 200 people packed into the bar that night. People from churches in the circuit, the district and other Bradford churches made up a good proportion of the the ‘congregation’ but there were others too who had seen the publicity on social media and wanted to part of something different. So we had people of Christian faith, Sikhs, and many more for whom the journey of faith was yet to begin, all singing praise to God and listening to the gospel being proclaimed. In June we held our 2nd Beer and Hymns event with a congregation of 40 and in The coming weeks we are looking forward to Beer and Hymns at the Great Bradford Brewery Beach party complete with a giant sandpit and swimming pool!
The Vicar’s Inn
Beer & Hymns helped to launch The Vicar’s Inn, a weekly opportunity for people to see a minister sitting in the bar at The Brewery. Each week I go on a Monday evening, in my clerical collar and sit with a pint waiting to talk to anyone who wants to chat with me. It’s still very early days but already some of those conversations have been very, very deep. There is a real sense for me of being able to embody the church as a safe place for difficult conversations in an environment that is comfortable for those I am meeting with.
One thought on “@StArnolds”
I wonder what made you think of a place where a pint is to be had AND the opportunity to talk faith. Well done that man. 🙂