FLORENCE—The line of people waiting for seats in the small parish hall at St. Anne Church on Sept. 1 wound down the stairway and spilled into the courtyard.
More than 130 people from St. Anne and St. Anthony churches turned out to hear Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone lead a session of “Theology on Tap,” a monthly faith education program that has been gaining popularity since it started at St. Anne in June 2008.
Father John Zimmerman, administrator, wanted an informal way to teach people in the area more about the Catholic faith.
Theology on Tap sessions were the answer and are now held the first Wednesday of each month, except during the summer. Before every gathering, people can attend Mass and then eat together.
Bishop Guglielmone’s talk was about challenges facing the church and how Catholics should learn to respect each other regardless of their differing opinions about politics or Mass styles.
“We have to put our own house in order if we are to continue being a credible witness to the Gospel,” he said.
He took a variety of questions from the crowd about upcoming changes to the missal, Catholic education, and how to deal with Catholics who don’t agree with church teaching on issues such as abortion. One man even asked if the bishop thought there would ever be an American pope.
The range of topics was not unusual for Theology on Tap, which focuses on a different theme each month. Formats also vary, including “Jeopardy!” style question-and-answer games, trivia and even a bingo game focused on sin and reconciliation.
The name? SINGO.
While Theology on Tap is often geared to young adults, in Florence people of all ages show up, organizers said. Most of the regular participants are 30 and over, proving that older Catholics want and need to learn more about their faith, organizers said.
“I come because we can debate and talk about the faith at a deeper level,” said Lorraine Bennett, a St. Anne parishioner. “It’s a great format because it’s relaxed and people feel comfortable.”
Sharon Elmquist, also a member of St. Anne, said she attends for the fellowship and relaxed atmosphere.
“It’s a fun evening, because you’re getting to know your faith without having it rammed down your throat,” Elmquist said. “You find out things at each session that you never learned before.”
Father Zimmerman said he knows of several lapsed Catholics who started attending Mass again after going to Theology on Tap, and a few people converted to Catholicism. He also is pleased to see a number of non-Catholics who attend the sessions to learn more about the faith.
“I’m really happy that Theology on Tap has lasted this long here in Florence,” he said. “I think we really need to be doing more of this type of thing. Through events like this, we’re teaching apologetics and helping people develop their expertise in the faith, while also giving them a little bit of fun.”