For the last eight months, we have gathered one Monday night a month at our local Irish bar for an event we call Beer and Hymns. It is exactly that–a hymn sing in a bar. We tend to draw between 80-130 folks of all ages.
First timers arrive nervous and excited…wanting the shelter of a chair and table and a glass of liquid to hold. (We aren’t fussy about what sort of liquid. And yes, we have a good amount of folks in recovery in this community. Let’s be clear about that straight away). What folks often find is that the room is full (sometimes an hour before we begin.) And there are not chairs and they have to hover/stand along the back wall. Our server (s) work their tails off–trying to get folks what they need. And then finally, we start singing and everyone settles down and in for wildly robust impromptu choir. (Many cry because it’s so powerful. Others go home hoarse because they can’t help themselves from singing so boldly.)
On Monday, we had a good-sized crowd well before our start time. Monday nights are usually quiet throughout the rest of the bar, but because of the holiday and the new draw of Monday bingo…every table was full. So, we had fewer tables and chairs than normal. Oh well. We are used to working with what we have available and making it work. It is a rare day when Humble Walk has the luxury of our physical setting being anything less than unpredictable and slightly wonky. This is the way life is when you are always at the mercy of others…at the receiving end of hospitality (insert 100 life lessons here). It’s always, always humbling and a tiny bit out of our control (insert 100 more life lessons here).
Because of the packed house, some folks had to wait to get menus. Others were grumpy and impatient about waiting for orders. To this I say,”Settle down. It’s going to be okay.” It’s not that I’m callous or indifferent to your presence. I actually want very much for you to be there and enjoy yourself. But your place as a consumer takes a backseat to what we are really doing in that room: being church. Yes, we all buy food and drinks. Yes, we consume. Yes, it’s social. But all those things are layers under the heart of this event. We are being church in the world. And when Beer and Hymn folks are wondering why we stick around Shamrock’s when we are clearly out of room…or wondering why we sometimes have to contend with an understaffed event–the answer will always be the same. It’s not about getting your consumer needs met. This is about being light and joy and love here in the West End.
Lucky us that we get to be the place where people (and their friends and their friends and their friends) come to experience that sort of community. Lucky us to get to host this transformation. Lucky us to be continually transformed.