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Published: Tuesday, 8/31/2010

Spirited Christians take debate into a Pemberville pub


PEMBERVILLE, Ohio - Beer bottles were more in evidence than crucifixes, but that didn't stop a group in Cherry's Pub and Grub here from talking serious Christianity last week.

The event was Church at Cherry's, organized by the Pemberville churches, in which area clergy and worshipers gather in the downtown watering hole for a discussion of Christian issues.

In June, the topic was "McChristianity," which dealt with being a Christian in a consumer culture. In July, the subject was "Forgiveness," and why it is so central to Christianity.

Last week, three pastors - a Lutheran, a Methodist, and a Presbyterian - gathered to swap ideas on "Worship: What's the Point?"

The Rev. Peter Johnston, whose church is Pemberville United Methodist, said the venue was Cherry's because "we wanted to do it in a place where you don't usually do this."

To which the Rev. Jim Miller, pastor at First United Presbyterian, replied "I just wanted to be able to drink a beer."

To which Pastor Johnston replied: "I'm a Methodist. Diet Coke is a wild time for me."

Alcohol consumption is nothing new for Christians, Pastor Miller noted.

To prove his point, he retrieved a book from his car with the title Drinking with Calvin and Luther: A History of Alcohol in the Church.

Also joining the panel was the Rev. Matt Musteric, pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. About a dozen participants showed up for the discussion, which lasted a little more than an hour, but they left most of the talking up to the ministers.

They talked about the state of contemporary worship and agreed that the point of prayer was "praise of God."

Reverend Johnston then posed some questions: "Who is worship for? Is it for us as individuals? Or is it for us corporately? Is it for God?"

Replied Reverend Miller, to laughter: "That's a dangerous question."

The conversation progressed to so-called "contemporary" churches that seemed to emphasize music and entertainment.

A participant, Gail Gerwin, said she had attended one.

"I felt I wasn't in a church. I felt I was in a theater," she said.

"I'm old school. I love the old music."

The talk then turned to the proper attitude one should have when entering a church and the notion of private worship.

Reverend Musteric wondered aloud if there really was such a thing as private worship.

"Is it truly possible to worship alone?" he asked.

"Certainly. Prayer," said Mrs. Gerwin.

"Certainly, private prayer," added Mr. Johnston.

As the session ended, Mrs. Gerwin said she found the whole discussion "very uplifting."

Mr. Miller cautioned everyone: "Don't forget to pay your bar tab."

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