By Mark Ambrogi
A handful of Zionsville Christian Church members had heard about the concept of Pub Theology emerging in other church communities.
So Bart Archer did some research and helped formed a group about a year ago to discuss philosophical issues in a no-judgment setting.
Rob Berger, a church member and Zionsville resident, has been participating for several months.
“It’s uplifting to meet with people we don’t meet with regularly and thought-provoking because we hear different ideas we don’t hear every day,” Berger said. “It’s very relaxed. I like the atmosphere where anyone can say anything they want and no one is critical. We hope to see it grow.”
Berger, 63, said attendees come from a diverse age group.
“My wife (Paulette) and I are in the mid-60s so we’re the old people in the group,” Berger said.
Archer, 44, said the group was assisted at the start by their Disciples of Christ church’s former minister, Mark Condrey, who has since moved to another church in Richmond, Ky.
Archer creates postcards with three or four topics on it. The group discusses one topic at each monthly meeting, lasting an hour to 90 minutes. The group will meet at 8 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Carolina Grill, as it is does on the third Wednesday of every month. Archer, a Zionsville resident, presents the topic to open discussion.
“It’s kind of a free-flowing discussion,” Archer said. “Sometimes we will end up branching out into other things. You may start with a topic about faith and it will lead to a discussion on prayer. We’re not trying to limit discussion to only talk about the topic if there is something else someone wants to share.”
Archer said there are typically between seven to 13 participants. After the session, Archer asks the group if there are discussion questions they would like to address in the future.
For example, one session they discussed the concept of whether everything happens for a reason and if God have a plan for individuals.
“It’s not like here’s a (Bible) verse, let’s talk about it. It’s not a Sunday school topic type of idea,” Archer said. “It’s a more philosophical – how does this affect society and how do I make this work in our culture. We made some simple rules like respecting each other’s opinions. If you are talking all the time, it might be time to sit back and listen.”
Archer serves as chairman of the church’s growth committee.
“It’s grow numbers, it’s grow spiritually, it’s not specific,” Archer said.
Anyone is welcome
The majority are members of his church, but others are welcome, Archer said. Kat Higgins, who lives on the west side of Carmel, has been attending Pub Theology with fiancé Chad Daugherty. Neither is a ZCC member.
Higgins said it is a better way to get to know people than just seeing them at a church service. Daugherty’s father Jim is a member of ZCC. Higgins, a life-long Catholic, and Daugherty, who was raised Methodist, have been exploring options for a church they can attend together.
Higgins said her two college-age daughters aren’t interested in attending church now but she believes they would enjoy going to Pub Theology.
“The nature of the Disciples church is there is no wrong way,” Higgins said. “There are different ways that God approaches everyone. It’s strikingly more progressive. I didn’t expect it to be. Zionsville is a small town and it’s an older, established church. It’s very non-offensive.”
Higgins, who has attended four meetings, said the guidelines of being open to other’s ideas allows for free discussion.
“One of the rules is to make sure you reaffirm everyone’s right to believe something different,” Higgins said.
Higgins, who also has been attending ZCC services with Daugherty, said to become a member would mean leaving the Catholic church, so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Whether they join the church or not, Higgins said they plan to keep attending Pub Theology.
“The value in practicing religion no matter what the format is you spend time thinking of ways to be a better person, and this is a very enjoyable way to do that,” Higgins said. “Some of the questions are not that comfortable, they’re not horribly uncomfortable, but if you’re going to do self-examination you can. I think self-examination is a healthy practice and hearing how other people struggle with those things makes you feel more human also.”
When: 8 p.m., Sept. 16.
Where: Carolina Grill, 7629 W. Stonegate Dr., Zionsville.