UPDATED WITH CARDINAL'S APPEARANCE: He may not be changing water into wine, but the Rev. Michael Drea from St. Ann’s Church in Wollaston is hoping to reach out to a different crowd with the “Theology on Tap” series he’s hosting at the Quincy Center bar.
You’ve already sampled the Sam Adams and guzzled the Guinness.
But on six Wednesday nights this fall, Bad Abbot’s Irish Pub has a something a little different on tap.
He may not be changing water into wine, but the Rev. Michael Drea from St. Ann’s Church in Wollaston is hoping to reach out to a different crowd with the “Theology on Tap” series he’s hosting at the Quincy Center bar.
“The last place you’d expect to see a Catholic priest stand up is at a bar, at Bad Abbot’s in Quincy,” the Rev. Drea said. “It’s kind of countercultural. But when you think about it, Jesus himself was countercultural.”
The goal of the “six-pack,” as the fall session is called, is to go out and engage people someplace outside of a church, whether they’re already involved in the church or just happen to be at the pub to watch a Red Sox game.
“It’s not just for those in the pews on Sunday who come down and bring their friends,” Drea said. “It’s for those who might not be expecting it. I might have one ear to this while I have one eye on the ball game. Maybe something might be of interest, something might click.”
On Wednesday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley made a guest appearance and got a big thumbs up from the standing-room-only crowd.
“It’s an opportunity for us to gather young Catholics together about our faith,” O’Malley said. “You have to go where the people are.”
Karen Collins, 45, of Braintree, said seeing the cardinal mixing with people in a pub was a refreshing change.
"It’s important to have this kind of exposure to him that we hadn’t in the past. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere,” she said.
Dan Cox, 31, of Quincy, a member of a young adults group at nearby St. John the Baptist Church, said he couldn’t have been more pleased to hear O’Malley speak about commitment to the Catholic faith.
“I thought he was very philosophical and inspiring,” Cox said. “I give him a 10-plus. He was great.”
Beer drinkers didn’t get a chance to hoist a pint with the cardinal; he doesn’t drink alcohol and left shortly after fielding a few questions that followed remarks to the gathering.
In an interview later, the cardinal, who said he is a teetotaler, said he embraced the chance to share his feelings about faith with pub patrons.
O’Malley said he was impressed with the seriousness and depth of the questions he was asked.
“I hope more young people will become involved and be energized about their faith,” he said.
Stacia Stornetta, coordinator of young adult ministries for the archdiocese, said the program fits into a three-year spiritual renewal process that O’Malley is launching this fall as part of the archdiocese’s 200th anniversary.
Stornetta said the Theology on Tap program has been going on for about six years in Brighton and a few other spots in the Boston area, sometimes drawing crowds of 70 people.
“It’s kind of springing up,” she said. “People are definitely responding to this. It’s giving young adults an opportunity to experience a community, a Catholic community, outside of Sunday Mass.”
The Theology on Tap program started 25 years ago in Chicago, and has since spread internationally.
Peter Kerr, owner of Bad Abbot’s, said he was immediately open to the idea of holding the sessions at his bar when he was approached by Drea.
The meetings have not alienated any of Bad Abbot’s regular customers, he said.
“We don’t dress the place up because Theology on Tap is here,” Kerr said. “Bad Abbots is the same way seven days a week -- we’re an entertainment lounge, and we’re open to all forms of entertainment.”
Drea and Stornetta were quick to point out that not every young person hangs out in bars, but this is a chance to talk about things such as religion and faith in a low-key environment.
“There’s no pressure; no saying when was the last time you went to church, when was the last time you were at confession,” the Rev. Drea said. “What we’re trying to do is reengage their faith.”
Contributing: Dennis Tatz
Diana Schoberg of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Theology on Tap
Wednesday nights at 7 p.m.
Bad Abbot's Pub, 1546 Hancock St., Quincy
Oct. 10, with speaker Cardinal Sean OíMalley
For more information: e-mail the Rev. Michael Drea or Tom Lyman at email@example.com or call St. Annís Parish, Wollaston at 617-479-5400