Disciples of Christ drink in learning at Theology a’ Latte

GREENVILLE — When 50 young adults met in a dimly lit, subterranean coffee shop called Carpenter’s Cellar on March 10, they had brighter, higher things on their minds. It was the monthly meeting of Theology a’ Latte, a different kind of learning experience in a setting out of the Beat Generation. But these were no existentialist poets; these were professionals and people in the mainstream of a modern civilization, Catholics all.

The common perception is that Catholics who reach their 20s or 30s comprise the group least attracted to a life of faith. They wander away from their religion as they strive for success in marriage and career. They are too young to be overly concerned with their own mortality, too old to be obedient any longer to Church authority. And too stressed with their upward mobility to have the energy to study the intricacies of Catholicism.

That perception would wither quickly in the presence of the Disciples of Christ (DOC). The DOC is a ministry at St. Mary Church for young adults, both married and single. It is a multifaceted organization peopled by Christians active in ministry.

“There are five components to the DOC,” said member Jessie Eisenmann. “There’s our pro-life effort, service projects, social events, small (prayer) groups and an education component.”

For a typical pro-life exercise in ministry, they picket abortion clinics every month. For the current service project, Michael McIntyre solicited volunteers for a Saturday gig at a children’s shelter. They went skiing over the winter as their social event, and the small groups are organized and functioning weekly. Theology a’ Latte is the DOC’s main educational piece.

“We meet once a month. Usually, we have a priest talk to us, but we’ve also had a deacon, an RCIA instructor and other lay people. Tonight we have a bigger turnout than usual because everybody wants to hear Father Newman,” Eisenmann said.

McIntyre, who organizes the Latte meetings, asked the priest to speak about the sacrament of reconciliation. He dove right in.

“Confession is not something to be feared, but something to be grateful for; it’s God’s Easter gift to us,” said Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary. “The most urgent thing on Jesus’ mind when he came back from the grave was to give his apostles a share in his ministry.”

He quoted from the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel, when Jesus said to the 11: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

And he spoke about God using humans, the beings created in his image and likeness, as the instruments through which good things happen.

“One of the great truths of the Christian faith is that the grace of redemption is given by God through human mediators,” Father Newman said. “It’s the foundation of the entire sacramental economy.”

His hour-long talk was heavy in theology and Scripture, but the participants hung on his every word. At the end, they peppered him with questions about such things as temporal versus eternal punishment, culpability, even purgatory. The DOC members sat at tables, lounged on the floor and leaned against poles, but they all got into the lesson. The priest was impressed.

“(Their faith) is a very powerful thing,” he said. “This is a blessing for the whole congregation.”

The next Theology a’ Latte is scheduled for the second Thursday in April in the same coffee house. The DOC will engage in a game of Catholic Trivia.