JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- To his delight, the Rev. Tom Willis' audience of young adults remained fully engaged during his two-hour PowerPoint presentation about upcoming changes to the Roman Catholic missal.
In part, Willis' engaging speaking style and ability to translate obtuse theological concepts into everyday language helped listeners stay focused. But so did the setting: A Jacksonville sports bar where they could wash down deep theological concepts with beer, soda, dinner and appetizers.
The program is called "Theology on Tap," a national effort that began in 1981 and locally is sponsored by the Diocese of St. Augustine. Its goal is to expose young Catholics - especially those who don't attend church or who haven't settled into a parish - to religious education programs they otherwise may avoid, organizers say.
"It's a non-threatening way to teach about Christianity to college students in an environment - the Mudville Grille on Beach Boulevard - that they would feel comfortable in," said Erin McGeever, director of Christian formation for the Jacksonville-based diocese.
The ages usually range from 21 to 39, but McGeever said no one is checking IDs - except to make sure participants are of drinking age. Each session features a different topic by a different speaker, and, despite the program's name, it's not about the booze for the 30 or so that usually attend the gatherings.
"It's meant to be a casual environment," McGeever said. "It's not meant to be a drink-and-drown sort of thing." (Read more)