Holy hops: Vicar creates unique Bible study


Tyler Werner sips on a frosted mug of beer as he greets people gathered around tables at Poplar Street Restaurant in Seymour.

Immanuel Lutheran Church’s vicar is not only there for a bite to eat and to meet friends but to share the Gospel in a neighborhood tavern.

He formed the Holy Hops Bible Study, where participants discuss a hot-button issue and take a look at how the Gospel can guide them on those topics.

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As a vicar, a seminarian at the church to intern as a pastor, he completes outreach projects at the church, 605 S. Walnut St.

Werner wanted to bring people together through a unique Bible study where participants meet outside the church and enjoy an adult beverage if they’d like.

Thursday evening was the group’s second study, and 16 people participated. They were from Immanuel and other congregations.

“It’s one of those outreach opportunities that churches don’t think about,” he said of having a Bible study in a bar.

“This is for people to have a Bible study in a casual setting outside the church,” he said. “We want to get to an area where we normally don’t do outreach.”

The format for the study is an interesting one.

Werner takes issues of the day, defines them with the group and then participates in an in-depth discussion.

Once the discussion wraps up, Werner leads the group to read corresponding Bible verses.

The first study was in October and covered civility, drawing 30 people. The second session’s attendance was likely affected by an ice storm that caused power outages throughout the county.

“Civility was a great first topic since it was right before the election,” Werner said. “It was the perfect time to talk about that.”

Werner isn’t afraid to walk into the fire and appears wise beyond his 25 years with his ability to maneuver through sensitive matters.

He takes neutral positions on issues and sometimes plays devil’s advocate to the group to get them to think about another opinion.

Werner also is well-versed in the topics, conducting research weeks ahead of time to back up claims or maybe share something group members may not realize.

The second session Thursday evening was about immigration, the polarizing topic that has been debated for decades.

The topic was brought to the forefront of the 2018 election after discussions about a caravan of migrants making its way from Central American countries to the U.S. border.

But Thursday’s discussion never got heated, even though some had differing views.

And that’s exactly the point, as Werner’s only rule is for participants to discuss matters in a respectful way.

“I thought this would be a great idea considering how divisive all of our conversations, especially in the political realm, can be right now,” he said. “I want to bring it back to that civility.”

Having a different opinion is part of life, he said, but as Christians, the group can make an impact on how their views are shared.

“As Christians living in this day and age and how we interact with people who might not share the same viewpoints as us, we can use God’s Word to show how we express our viewpoints through love and respect and care for our fellow human beings,” he said. “God’s Word can guide us and direct us in our conversations with other and future conversations.”

Still, some may find the idea of having a Bible study in a bar a little ironic, Werner said. But that’s all right.

“There’s a lot of people who may see it as sinful or not biblical,” he said. “But time and time again throughout the Scriptures that we see, alcohol is a gift from God.”

Jesus, after all, turned water to wine at the Wedding at Cana, he said. But alcohol is not to be consumed excessively.

“We also see the Scripture say we should also do it in moderation,” he said. “In everything we should do, we should do in a God-pleasing way.”

Having the study in a bar could bring a new group of people to discover faith, he said, or it can be a more relaxing and social way for regular churchgoers to practice faith.

Some people aren’t comfortable in a church and are a little intimidated by it, Werner said.

“A lot of people nowadays might view the church as a whole as stuffy or exclusive and may feel intimidated,” he said. “So we can go out here and feel free to join us. They don’t have to participate and can listen if they want.”

Werner hopes the next vicar, who will arrive next summer after he returns to the seminary, will continue the study. He thinks the mixture of the setting and casual feel will make the study popular.

“Poplar Street is a great place, and people feel comfortable,” he said, adding the topics also are interesting. “Maybe a lot of people shy away from those conversations because they may think they will offend.”

But that’s all right.

“This is a safe environment where you can bring your concerns in our conversations and share your opinion in a respectful way,” he said.

Dennis and Darlene Motsinger both attended the study and participated in the discussions. The couple are members of Immanuel, and it was the first time they took part in the study.

“I think it’s needed, and we need more people in society to discuss these kinds of things,” Dennis said after the study.

“I think a lot of the civility has been eroded by members of Congress,” he said. “They take extreme positions and don’t want to listen to what anybody says.”

It would probably do many of those 535 individuals some good to take a seat at Poplar Street and participate in the Bible study, he said.

“I think a lot of them could,” Dennis said.

Darlene said she enjoyed it, too.

“I like that it brings today’s real life in with the Bible and helps us try to deal with today’s issue, yet maintain our Christian faith,” she said. “How does God expect us to handle these things?”

It’s all part of Werner’s overall goal to restore some civility in a divided society or maybe to show those here that things don’t have to be that way.

“You see it all over the news and social media with this dividing wall that separates us all,” he said. “It’s important for us to look back at our founding fathers and think about when they formed this nation on the idea of bringing everyone together to have that sense of unity.”

Werner isn’t out to change minds when it comes to the world’s biggest issues, but he might create an example of how people should talk to each other.

One pint and verse at a time.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Immanuel Lutheran Church’s Holy Hops Bible Study with Vicar Tyler Werner

When: 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday each month

Where: Check Immanuel’s website at immanuelseymour.com for locations


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