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New Catholic ministry to host young adults in bar setting

Published Jul. 23, 2014

SPRING HILL — With the goal of providing spiritual support for young adult Christians, a committee from two local Catholic churches is launching a new ministry Aug. 6 at Rookies Sports Bar and Grill.

Theology on Tap, designed for men and women in their 20s and 30s, began in the 1980s as a ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

According to the program's website, Renew International and the Office of Young Adult Ministry of the Archdioceses of Chicago partnered in 2003 to create a "loving community that comes together to pray, laugh, support each other, serve those less fortunate, and talk about key issues relating to faith and our lives."

The initial two-hour program in Hernando, organized by members of St. Theresa and St. Frances Cabrini Catholic churches, will include a speaker, discussion, and a question and answer session. Guests who wish to purchase food or drinks should arrive at 6:30 p.m. The talk begins at 7.

The first speaker will be local author Arleen Spenceley, who will talk about the relationship between sex and marriage, based in part on her forthcoming book, Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin.

The Rev. Bruce King, pastor at St. Theresa Catholic Church, was involved with Theology on Tap several years ago while serving as Newman chaplain in the Diocese of Peoria, Ill.

He said he was favorably impressed with the program, he said.

"We had talks on stewardship, on vocations, on icons, on biomedical ethics, on social justice. In some other Theology on Tap groups, the bishop would come and we had a 'Stump the Bishop Night.' "

Last fall, King talked with Ryan Phelan, the director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, about starting Theology on Tap in Hernando County.

"We really need to reach out in a way that touches young people where they are," King said. "Theology on Tap covers that middle spectrum of people in their 20s through their 30s, married and unmarried, college or not college, working or not. The program makes the faith available and alive and explainable to them in their daily lives."

By spring, a committee from the two local churches had formed and planning began.

King will give general guidance to the group, he said.

"The young people themselves take responsibility for coming up with topics, getting speakers, organizing, publicizing it," he said.

The program will be on the first Wednesday of the month for three consecutive months to see if there is interest. Howard Glicksman, a Bible scholar who converted from Judaism, will be the speaker for September. In October, the Rev. John Lipscomb, who is stationed at Bethany Center in Lutz, will talk about prayer.

Jason Carter, director of youth ministry at St. Frances Cabrini, will be the emcee for the three programs.

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"My wife, Nicki, and I were both asked to help plan and develop Theology on Tap," Carter said. "At Cabrini, we have a growing young adult ministry that will be taking part, along with young adults from the other Catholic churches in the county."

It's important to note that Theology on Tap is open to all young adults, no matter their faith or involvement in church, Carter said.

"My hope is that Theology on Tap will be an event for young adults, both Catholic and non-Catholic, with a comfortable environment in which they can learn more about the faith and what the Catholic church teaches and why, but, above all, provide a chance for fellowship and fun with other young adults of the county in a relaxed atmosphere," he said.

The program has the full support of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, according to Phelan, who said his office is "fully available to help this community in any way that they need."

Like Carter and King, Phelan hopes having a restaurant setting will encourage those who might not normally feel comfortable entering into a faith dialogue to participate.

"We also hope that Theology on Tap is only the beginning of such dialogue and community," he said. "We hope that through ongoing programming and relational ministry, young adults come to see how God is calling them to be the church for a world in need."

King hopes the group will also appeal to those who have fallen away from the church and said the group is open to people who consider themselves agnostic or atheists.

"It's open to everybody," he said. "It's a venue in which they can understand how the church reaches out to young people. They can talk and ask questions about the faith and have the possibility of seeing the practical Catholic understanding of how the faith is lived on a daily basis."