"Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from the fat of grain: that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race, and grant through the invocation of thy holy name; that, whoever shall drink it, may gain health in body and peace in soul." - Roman Catholic prayer
All heads bowed in prayer, while from the next room the sounds of the "creature" floated in.
Clinking glasses. Lively conversation. Good fellowship.
This was no Sunday Mass in a high-ceilinged chapel, with its rigid wooden benches and acoustics that turn every cough into a cacophony.
This was a Tuesday night at a brewery, Monument's Pikes Peak Brewing Co., where for nearly a year large crowds have been gathering for monthly talks about faith in a casual setting, called Tapping Into Theology.
"It's a nice, relaxed and fun atmosphere. No pressure," said Stephanie Kemp, who founded the program through Saint Peter Catholic Church in Monument. "We wanted to take our faith out of the church and make it available to the community for anyone who has questions."
It's not just Catholics embracing beer as a way to bring people into their church. This summer, Chapel of Our Saviour Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs hosted a beer festival at the church, the Feast of Saint Arnold.
Many religions around the world and some sects of Christianity forbid the use of alcohol or consider it a sin. You won't find such notions here.
Said regular attendee Bill Blazi, "You have to remind them, Jesus's first miracle was turning water into wine." "From man's sweat and God's love, beer came into the world." - St. Arnold of Metz
Made from monks
In the beginning, monks created beer.
"The monks needed something safe and healthy to drink, because until recently, water was not a reliable beverage. It was contaminated with bacteria," said Jared Staudt, a professor of theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, the speaker at the Oct. 8 Tapping Into Theology.
In fact, some experts say the word "beer" comes from monks' word "biber," simply "the drink." They mastered the art of brewing, drank the beer and sold it to support the monasteries.
"Beer has been a part of the Catholic tradition for quite some time," said Staudt, whose name, incidentally, sounds like "stout," a type of beer.
Saint Arnold of Metz is the best-known of the several saints often associated with beer. The Austrian monk was revered for bringing beer to the people, and when he was buried in 641 A.D., it is said a single mug of beer never ran dry.
Some of the world's top-rated beers are still brewed at European monasteries. In the U.S., some monasteries have also begun to revive the ancient art.
"Give strong drink to those who are perishing, and wine to those who are in bitter distress. Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more." - Proverbs 31:6-7
Benefits of beer
During his speech, Staudt talked about the benefits of beer, helping people cope with problems and improving health - in moderation. Research has shown a small amount of beer or wine each day is healthy.
"If you think of just the kind of sadness and brokenness that we all experience in our lives, beer is a remedy to that. In the Bible, it talks ... more about wine. It says wine is given by God to gladden our hearts," he said. "That's the kind of remedy that beer is supposed to be, something to bring health and cheer to us. So it's really something beautiful."
Of course, too much beer can lead to poor health, rowdiness and drunken-driving. But there was no sign of overindulgence on this night at Pikes Peak Brewing Co.
Rather, among the dozens in attendance, there was a spirit of relaxation and intellectual curiosity.
Bill Maggio rarely misses Tapping Into Theology.
"It's just fun to be with other people that want to listen. The different topics have been very good, everything from beer to faith," said Maggio. "It's mostly faith-filled and it's good to hear and to be in an informal setting and hear about your faith and be able to ask questions."
Along with easing peoples' woes, Staudt sees a role for beer, especially locally brewed craft beer, in trying to change a "Bud Light culture, mass-produced, with little taste, little distinctiveness."
"People lose a palette for what's really distinctive," he said. "It's really important we're at a place like this, where there really is a local tradition of brewing on a small scale, that's really a craft. People are pouring themselves into it to make something that's important and distinct."
Maybe if more people appreciated the subtleties of craft beer, he said, they might start to look at the finer points of literature, art and religion.
"It's important that beer culture is also making a comeback right now. It's one little sign of a general cultural renewal, and one we should support and appreciate," he said.
"It's one little way of trying to overcome the general cultural impoverishment that we see, and therefore can be a stimulus toward a renewal of culture and also Catholic culture."
"I'd like to give a lake of beer to God, I'd love the Heavenly Host to be tippling there, for all eternity .... I'd sit with the men, the women of God, there by the lake of beer, we'd be drinking good health forever, and every drop would be a prayer." - St. Brigid's Prayer
TAPPING INTO THEOLOGY
The group meets the second Tuesday of each month. The next event in the discussion series will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at Pikes Peak Brewing Co, 1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive in Monument. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 481-4355.