So a nun walks into a bar… Wait a minute, the classic joke always has a priest walking into a bar, right? Nobody expects to see a Sister at the local pub. Yet that is precisely the way the Theology on Tap movement got started — because the unexpected speakers are talking about an unexpected bar topic: religion.
“A lot of the younger generation stopped going to Mass or aren’t involved in the church,” says Fr. Vincent Druding, a priest at the Peekskill Church of the Assumption and one of the group’s organizers. “The idea was to go out where the young people are. And they hang out in bars and pubs.”
The movement originated about 15 years ago in the Midwest and has since spread nationwide; the Peekskill group began last year and meets roughly once every three months. The sessions consist of a priest or nun (once, the visiting Archbishop of Quito, Ecuador showed up) giving a talk on some aspect of Catholic theology — right in the middle of the bar. And these aren’t your typical “Jesus loves you” speeches. “The first topic was called something like ‘Let’s Talk about Sex,’ to grab people’s attention. We then discussed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body [the late Pope’s teaching on human sexuality],” says Fr. Druding of the first local meeting, which took place at the Peekskill Brewery. Other discussions have dissected women’s roles within the church, the use of alcohol in Catholicism, the faith and culture of Latino immigrants, and even exorcisms.
Following the presentation, there is a Q&A period and — of course — time for a few drinks. Fr. Druding estimates that about 50 attendees show up regularly, but the hope is to make an impression on those who just happen to wander in. “We want people who are in the bar hearing the talk to become interested,” he says, “and then have a new interest in the faith.”