Beer and the Bible attendees at Victor's pub. The displaced group is now semi-nomadic following the loss of the Grad House Dalhousie pub. Photo: Colin Nicolle

A pint and a page from the good book

A student group is building its members by moving its discussion of religion to the bar and making the topics more philosophical.

Except for the sound of the stereo the bar is calm and dark. There are only a few other people in the whole room, some eating some drinking.

Not the sort of place you would expect to find a group of people discussing the Bible.

Ron Abarbanel is the mediator and discussion leader at these meetings, aptly named Beer and the Bible.

Abarbanel works for a Christian group called the Navigators. The Colorado-based group focuses on Bible study, community outreach and international aid. Beer and the Bible is a branch of the Navigators.

“The purpose of this is to make the Bible and topic of spirituality more accessible to people,” explains Abarbanel.

Beer and the Bible was started three years ago through the interest of NSCC graduate Jake Boudreau.

“I had a class with Ron, who was involved with Navigators,” he explains, “I saw there was another group doing something similar at the Garrison Brewery and I said to Ron, we have to do this.”

Boudreau saw the group as a possible way to help people spiritually. “I am all about deepening people’s relationship with God. Whatever that God may be.”

He also feels there is a need for this sort of open communication between people, “There’s a need because our culture tends to focus more on what we have and not on spirituality.”

 In the beginning

The initial response wasn’t great. For the first few months the meetings were often just Boudreau, Abarbanel and one or two others.

Today, Beer and the Bible is averaging anywhere from nine to 13 people every week. At one meeting close to 30 people showed up. Abarbanel says size can be a challenge, “You can barely follow the conversation, let alone mediate it with that many people.”

Abarbanel says Beer and the Bible’s strength is that it’s unique and informal.

“This might not work with other groups, they have constituents who might not support a group like us.”

“The discussion can be very philosophical, a lot more than religious,”

The topic on the table tonight is identity and everyone is encouraged to express their own viewpoint.

Abarbanel asks the group about why it is important to not let major events change our identities. The group doesn’t respond. “It’s about hierarchies,” Abarbanel explains, “who influences and defines your identity?”

The group picks one topic per meeting to discuss. In the past they have discussed sex, addiction and dating. Abarbanel leads the discussion and often gives related passages from the Bible for the group to consider

Abarbanel says that the meetings usually have an interesting divide in denomination, “There was one meeting last year with about 15 people and I’d say maybe only half of them were Christian.”

One of the attendees, Carmen says the meetings are a lot different than some of the other discussions and meetings Navigators hosts, “It’s assumed that everyone is coming as a Christian, or is interested at those other meetings, but here there’s a lot more room for debating-type topics.”

“The discussion can be very philosophical, a lot more than religious,” says Amanda, another attendee at Victor’s. “People just say what’s on their mind and dig into a topic whatever way is natural for them.”

Beer and the Bible was originally meeting in the Dalhousie Grad House pub that was torn down this past summer due to campus renovation plans.

The group has since been meeting at Victor’s Pub on Spring Garden Rd but Abarbanel says there are plans to move it into someone’s house.

Boudreau admits he was nervous to initiate the meetings in the beginning, “Nobody has really confronted me about bribing people to join my religion, which I thought I might get initially.”





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