By Kim Barto Meeks
What does religious faith have to say about ecology? That will be the topic of the next gathering of PUBlic Theology, a monthly discussion group started by two local church leaders that meets at Mountain Valley Brewing in Axton.
“Faith and Ecology,” a talk by author and local farmer Bill Guerrant, will be held the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 9 at Mountain Valley Brewing. The event is free and open to all, including families with children.
Guerrant and his wife, Cherie, own and operate White Flint Farm in Keeling. According to the event page on Facebook, “Bill met his wife in Florida while practicing law for over 25 years. Bill now describes himself as ‘a homesteader, a goatherder and small-scale farmer.’
“Eventually homesickness, and a yearning for authenticity, caused Bill and Cherie to come back home to Virginia, where they now live on the farm where Bill grew up. In addition to his work at White Flint Farm, Bill is also the author of the novel Jim Wrenn and Organic Wesley.”
The monthly events start with food and informal fellowship at 6 p.m., and the discussion begins at 7 p.m. and usually lasts an hour. While the brewery does not serve food, they sometimes have a food truck on-site, and guests are allowed to bring their own snacks or dishes to share.
Public Theology celebrated its one-year anniversary in June. Fr. Nicholas Hull of Christ Episcopal Church and Rev. Kameron Wilds of Smith Memorial United Methodist Church in Collinsville originally started the group as a ministry “to show that Christ’s love is not confined to our buildings,” Hull said.
Each month, 25 to 35 people gather over pints of beer to explore life’s big questions around a particular theme. Past topics have covered the relationship of the church to modern culture; women in ministry; immigration; and a panel discussion of religion and the medical field led by several local doctors.
Organizers encourage attendees to approach the sometimes controversial topics with “an open mind and heart.” The group’s Facebook page describes the events as an “open, inclusive, come-as-you-are crowd,” with the aim of creating “community, not conflict.”
“What started as a dream between two pastors who barely knew one another has grown into a faith community for many,” Hull said.
“Kameron provided the initial idea and push to get this ministry going, but for me the idea was compelling, because we need to find a way of engaging people that may not be interested in going to a traditional Church,” he said. “We cannot expect for people to magically appear in our pews ready to create community, so it makes sense to go somewhere untraditional, and even unexpected.”
Those interested in learning more can see upcoming events on Facebook by searching PUBlic Theology at Mountain Valley Brewing.