On a Church Wine Group

WineToastPeople are generally surprised when I mention that our church has a wine tasting group. Interestingly, the group is not only successful, but it also is one of the longest-running groups at the church.

I’m not sure when the group actually started, but being one of the founding organizers and prime movers, my best guess is 12-15 years ago. We are a fun and fellowship group that uses wine as the vehicle to drive the event.

The following are the basics for our group:

  • Meet 3-5 times per year
  • Volunteers offer to host the event
  • Organizers set the theme, which may be countries, regions, wine types (varietals), or something quirky as numbers, animals, or colors – and something to accommodate red and white wines
  • Attendees sign up in advance, bring a bottle of wine (per couple) within the theme and an appetizer to share

Like any organization, he had growing pains. On the other hand, because we pioneers wanted to be an official church group, we quickly adjusted. Here are some of the finer points that I have learned.

  • We went to the pastors first with our idea to get their permission
  • As attendees arrive, the host provides inexpensive starter wines
  • Using nametags is important
  • Incorporate a “program” within the event – we include a welcome, thanks to the hosts, introducing first-time attendees, a prayer, something informative about the wines/theme, and reminders about the group’s purpose
  • After the program, the remaining time is for fun and fellowship

Additional tips

  • Have a set of wine glasses for the group (they don’t have to be fancy)
  • If the wine runs out, so be it – thus the host does not supplement
  • Know the communication guidelines within the church as newsletter and weekly bulletin submission requirements and deadlines
  • Remind attendees not to fill the glass so everyone gets a chance to taste

Given our longevity, our group has been successful. During our years, I have no doubt that 400 different people attended our functions … thus I wonder how many people would I not know if it wasn’t for our church wine group.

By the way, in this past post, here’s a prayer I put together about wine, The Spirit of Wine. Plus, enjoy some of our home decor done with corks.

On Evolution and Education

Although some anti-evolutionists are knowledgeable about evolution, many, probably the majority, are not. Gallup and Pew Research polls show that people do not know much about evolution and they hold many misconceptions. So, why are there so many anti-evolutionists when so many do not know much about it? In other words, how can one be against something they do not know?

The two main distribution points of information about science and theology, especially evolution, are schools and churches. There are three groups of biology teachers: those avoiding evolution, those teaching it poorly, and those teaching it well. Through my experiences, there is no question in my mind that the first two groups are the overwhelming majority. Besides, ample research exists about the public’s limited knowledge of science.

Churches also play a role with both children and adults. Children coming from school may want to talk about the evolution issue with their parents, thus parents need to be informed about both the science and the theology. Church is a one place where both children and parents can learn about the important connections between science and theology. Simply put, the issue of God, theology, faith, and science is for the church, not for the public schools.

There is no doubt that the anti-evolution churches are teaching their members about the choice they must make. The five congregations in my history have not addressed this topic. A friend recently told me that neither has any of the 14 churches in his history.

I simply wonder why so many congregations in the traditions of Roman Catholicism, Episcopalian, ELCA Lutheran, Presbyterian (USA), United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal-Methodist, and other evolution-supporting denominations continue to promote ignorance to their membership by ignoring the evolution and theology topic with their members. Your thoughts?

On an Adult Christian Education Model

Sometime in spring 2009, one of my pastors and I were discussing adult education within the church. We initially came to this church because of our previous congregation did not meet our growing desire for adult education.

Within a few years after our arrival, the adult education hour took a hit as the church added an additional service to accommodate overcrowding – thus we lost the reason why we came. Adult education efforts have since renewed and seemingly growing. Because of that spring conversation, I have leaped into leading the adult education committee – well, I gave committed for one year.

Since seeing the big picture and making connections is one of my strengths, I developed a course-planning model for our committee. Although I recognize that Bible study is an important educational component, it is far from the only.

The planning model consists of four sectors: Biblical Studies, Theological Teaching, Life Applications, and Issues. These areas guide the committee to offer courses across the Christian education spectrum.

Realistically, each sector overlaps with one, two, or three other sectors as illustrated by the Venn diagram. Nonetheless, focusing on these broad sectors allows us to offer a variety of courses to meet the needs of more people, thus something for decision makers at any church to consider in the future.

On Reformation Weekend

As a movement that began to reform the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation is one of the most influential events in human history. Reformers as Charles Wesley, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and others led the way to changes that have anchored roots in many churches today. Yet one’s perspective continues to drive understanding of the times; for instance did the Church of England leave the Roman Catholics or did they get kicked out?

Although many of the issues that drove the reformers and society have been resolved, issues today still divide denominations – both within and between. As many Christians strive to find common ground as opposed to emphasizing differences, modern-day riffs still exist and churches seemingly adjust to societal response. For example, just this week the Roman Catholics placed a new welcome for Anglicans. Of course the driving force behind this action is subject to debate.

This weekend the sounds of Luther’s A Mighty Fortress will fill many churches. Our Lutheran church is no different as our handbells will have a role. Since YouTube doesn’t have the version we’re playing, handbell enthusiasts will have to listen to this audio.

Meanwhile, here’s an energetic version of A Mighty Fortress from the St. Olaf College Handbell Choir.