SPOTLIGHT - Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh and Beer?

SPOTLIGHT - Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh and Beer?

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Andover Church Offers Carols and Ministry at Local Brewery


Editor’s Note: The Christmas season is a great time to be creative about how your church can engage with your neighbors. As you look back at last month's Advent preparation and services, and are deciding what worked, what didn't, and what you will do next year, take a look at this successful, unusual, Advent program offered by South Church in Andover, MA.

Despite the event happening in a brewery, Beer and Carols is an event for all ages
The night began by singing “Joy to the World” and ended with “Silent Night.“  Attendees greeted one another with smiles and hugs. The mood was festive and joyful. And there was lots of beer. 
 
No, this wasn’t a Christmas or Advent worship service, it was the 3rd annual Beer and Carols held last month at Oak and Iron Brewery, sponsored by South Church in Andover, MA. What began as a one-night-only event in 2017, is now a two-night, sold out mainstay of the Christmas season in Andover. 
 
“I had a hunch this would meet a need in the community, but I had no idea it would be as popular as it is,” said Alex Shea Will, Associate Pastor for South Church. “The interest was so huge the first year, we had to institute a ticketing system for the second year to make sure we weren’t violating the fire code of the brewery.” Despite adding an additional night and charging $5 a ticket, both nights sold out in 2018 and 2019 in about three days. 
 
The format is rather simple. Working with a team of musicians from South Church, Shea Will leads the singing throughout the night, inviting attendees to shout out song suggestions using the songbooks made by the church. Songs are a mix of religious and secular favorites. During breaks in the singing, carolers buy another round of beer and socialize.
 
“The first year, I was jumping up on a table and shouting over the crowd, like something you might imagine in a German beer hall,” said Shea Will. Now in its third year, the set-up is slightly more sophisticated, but still reliant on the same energy and enthusiasm of the first year. “You’d be surprised how loudly adults will sing Frosty the Snowman if you just give them permission and create the space.” 
 

andover brewery carolsShea Will came up with the idea for Beer and Carols during an afternoon at Oak and Iron, shortly after the brewery opened half a mile from South Church. “As I sat in the packed taproom listening to the conversation, I realized that I was sitting in the new de facto community center in Andover. I had to find a way to bring our ministry into this space.” While the event is popular among members of South Church, Shea Will tries to maintain an attendance balance between church and community members. 
 
Carolann Hynes, a three-year attendee and Andover resident, is one of the first people to get her tickets each year. “Each and every year I look forward to [Beer and Carols!] It’s such a fun night, singing, sharing some laughs with some old and new friends, celebrating the Christmas season with the community!”

Shea Will regularly meets people from other congregations in town, and many more who won’t attend a church at all this Christmas season. “For some of these folks, this is their church experience every December. It’s the closest thing they’ll do to a worship service. It’s 2020; we have a responsibility to bring the Church to where people are, not wait for them to show up.” 
 
Despite the event happening in a brewery, Beer and Carols is an event for all ages. Those who choose not to drink, and kids who are too young to drink, can be found among those sharing a pint of beer or two.

“It’s important to us that this is an all ages event, because it’s not about the drinking,” said Shea Will. “It just so happens that in Andover, a brewery is the new gathering spot for people in town. In your town it might be someplace else. The point is to figure out where that is, and build community there.” 
 
Editor’s Notes: 

For more information, reach out to Alex@southchurch.com or check out the Facebook event: https://facebook.com/events/s/beer-and-carols-2019/891384594596570/?ti=icl

For more creative ideas about how your church can live the love and justice of Jesus, sign up for Super Saturday, March 14, 2020, Minnechaug Regional High School, Wilbraham, MA.



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Source: Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ
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