Bridge Beer, Bridge Church

I suppose that one of the things I learned from my almost 4 years as a Starbucks barista was the fun of introducing customers to new things: new coffees, new pairings, new ways to drink tea, etc. (Actually, I have always loved to do this. Even when I was a little kid I liked to experiment with drinks, for example & 7Up — not Sprite — with various fruit juices, and then share my new discoveries with sisters and parents.)

Recently here in Tyler, an area somewhat beer-challenged (though I love many things about Tyler!), I have enjoyed sitting at a bar somewhere, and starting a conversation with a Bud Light drinker (for example).

“Bartender, give him a Fireman’s Four on me, please,” followed by a discussion about the ways this beer is superior to his former go-to.

Another good beer in this situation would be New Belgium Sunshine Wheat, but, alas, I’ve not seen that one (especially on tap) in these parts, east of Dallas.

In other words, Fireman’s Four and Sunshine Wheat are good examples of bridge beers which can help a person transition from beer which, having little redeeming value, can only be called “cheap” to a truly wonderful beer, rich in flavor and full of body.

Another good bridge beer is Shiner Bock. I have seen many a beer drinker enhance their quality of life by moving from cheap beer to robust stouts and porters by way of Shiner. (Shiner Bock to Shiner Black to a good stout is a natural trajectory.)

Now, just as there are bridge beers, so also there are bridge churches. In my journey the PCA was just such a church. I was blessed to get a taste of liturgical and sacramental worship in the PCA in Austin while still retaining the sense that I was rooted in the evangelical world.

But over time (to make a long story short) I needed more. I needed to go deeper. I needed the full experience, the full body, the full depth of layer and subtlety.

Now, as an Episcopal priest, I have the joy and privilege to be forming a new worshiping community of young people in the context of an Episcopal Church (kind of like a church plant but with fewer of the intense challenges that accompany that monumental project).

One of the things going on with the “Epiphany Eucharist” is this idea of bridge worship. What we are trying to do here is to provide access to the liturgy and sacramental life of the church for folks for whom this way of worshiping the Triune God is quite foreign and awkward.

Just as (for Calvin) God “lisps” in the Incarnation, so also we are wanting not to “dumb down” the liturgy, but rather to implement creative ways of making it more accessible, more reachable, more natural.

Just as a Bud Light drinker usually has trouble going straight to Old Rasputin or Young’s Double Chocolate Stout or Dogfish Head Raison d’etre, so also many folks have trouble going straight from secular culture or megachurch culture (which are basically the same thing, I think) to the Rite I Eucharistic Liturgy.

I would love nothing more than if, after a year or two of folks worshiping with us in the Rite III Epiphany Service, they were to come up to me and say, “You know, I have really enjoyed and grown from this Epiphany Eucharist over the last many months, but I think I would like to try that Rite I Service downstairs.”

“Great!” I would respond, thinking to myself all the while, “mission accomplished.”

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I really enjoyed your blog post about the “bridge”. Can’t wait to try one of these beers with my wife or priest. I will share your post with some people I hold dear. Dear Matt,

Hmmm… I am not sure even the richest, deepest stout will have the stuff to effectively bridge one coming from a megachurch — that is, unless you serve them, say, a hoppy Scottish ale hailing from the brewery of McEwans (in which case they might have a wee fighting chance).

…Of course, this all is really contingent upon on how osteenified they’ve been 😉

Blessing and cheers,
Mike

@ Danny. Great to hear from you again brother.

Matt: Great essay, let us not forget our light hearted Brothers, the Ales, of which there are many many delightful examples. Sometime, whene we have a day , we should journey to World Market in Shreveport and buy some new varieties. The one store where you can buy one bottle, “just to try it out”…Peace

I went to the Rite III service and was wondering where the liturgy came from? I went to a similar service in Dallas. I think we will alternate between the Rite 2 and the Rite 3 services. I went to an episcopal church in Cleburne (I think that they became a part of the southern cone though) several years ago and it was really high church (with a confessional, and the holy water fount (stoup) and incense) and they used a different liturgy as well I remember a lot of kneeling and the priest placed the host directly on the tongue of the parishoners. It was really neat though I am sure it would not be for everyone. It was more high church than any catholic mass I have been to.

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