Faith Matters: God’s love — with a side of fries

  • Participants of a recent United Church of Bernardston Pub Talk event gather at Hubie’s Tavern in Turners Falls. Contributed photo

  • United Church of Bernadston. Recorder file photo/PAUL FRANZ

Coordinator of Christian Education
Friday, November 03, 2017

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

One day in the spring of 2016, my buddy, Rev. Al Johnson, invited me to a Schuylerville, N.Y., pub where he and some gentlemen from his church would gather to discuss religious matters. I went into United Church of Bernardston the next morning to invite Rev. David Neil. He was ready to make the trek, too! We didn’t make the trip, but this seed was planted in my mind.

Fast forward to September 2016 — a drizzly Friday night. Joyana and I headed to Zeke’s Bar & Grill for the first time. I saw the fire burning over my lovely bride’s shoulder. Tasty sandwiches. There were two other UCB couples enjoying supper. As Joyana and I left, we greeted the other four UCBers. I told them about Al’s outing. “We should do that here,” Bob exclaimed. I agreed, “Yes, we should.”

David and I discussed how this would work. We agreed I was in charge, with David leading the discussion. This one-and-out session would be called “UCB Pub Talk.”

UCB Pub Talk took place at Hubie’s Tavern in Turners Falls on Nov. 9, 2016. We had planned to discuss Jesus’ parable, the Prodigal Son. As this was the evening after the presidential election, there was mention that we should cancel UCB Pub Talk, but I decided that the outing was exactly what was needed. There were just a handful of us. Many references to the Prodigal Son were made. Despair was confronted. Tears shed. Prayers said. Some people drank beer, while others gobbled French fries. More prayers.

I telephoned David later that night. Our conversation:

David: Sir, that was awesome!

Steve: I see your caller ID is working. We need to do this again.

David: When? How often?

Steve: Second Wednesday worked this time. Monthly?

David: Sounds good. Next topic?

Steve: The Good Samaritan?

David: Sounds good.

Anybody who is acquainted with either David or me is aware that we are not known for succinctness — especially when the topic is church — but that’s how the one-and-done became a monthly event.

Christ’s apostles did not sit behind walls; they went out where others could see them practice their faith, hear their words and contemplate what God’s love can do. This is what we do at UCB Pub Talk.

We have discussed parables, Pentecost, other denominations, and the Beatitudes. In October, we discussed the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s genesis of the Protestant Reformation. Many times, questions have brought up other topics, which lead to a topic for a future UCB Pub Talk. With an average of 14 people attending, many questions arise. We stress the point to question what we see and hear around us.

Questioning: That is what we teach our “Socratic Sunday School” students to do. We adults need to be reminded to question — not to be obstinate, but to better understand faith, life and God!

The UCBers are not the only people to participate. We’ve had other diners and bartenders chime in! There have been times when we invite pastors from other churches to share their insights. Rev. Rebecca Mihm (Pastor at Fleming Memorial Presbyterian Church in Fairmont, W.V.) once took part in UCB Pub Talk via mobile phone. As one of the UCB Pub Talk regulars moved to Florida, there has been talk of Skyping!

The success of UCB Pub Talk has brought other UCB food-oriented talks together: UCB Breakfast Club and UCB Ice Cream Sundae School. These are gathered sporadically and do not have a set topic. Although there is no set topic, we always end up discussing Christ and His love for us — over an omelet or an ice cream cone, respectively.

To find out about future UCB Pub Talks, check https://www.facebook.com/ucbernardston or email ucbernardston@gmail.com.

About United Church of Bernardston

United Church of Bernardston is a United Methodist Church/United Church of Christ federation. We are located at 58 Church St. Worship services are Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. We are a Reconciling Ministries Congregation (UMC classification) and Open and Affirming Church (UCC classification) who welcomes all who want to continue in Christian growth. To contact us, call 413-648-9306. We are online at unitedchurchofbernardston.org and on Facebook.