Hops and Hymns – Bringing Worship to our Community
On December 16th, the East Central conference hosted their 4th Hops and Hymns event of the year at Riggs Beer Company in Urbana. It was a night full of holiday hymns and was standing room only for most of the night. Over the last 6 months, this has become an event that not only the congregations can get excited about, but our community and local establishments are eager to participate as well.
We work to keep the event pretty simple. Most of the musicians are clergy, but they emphasize that they are not a band. They don’t rehearse beforehand and are simply there to lead music. Many times they even drop out to let the room sing a capella. The hymns are also chosen by the audience. They are given booklets with selections from the ELW. All they need to do to request a song is to yell out a page number from the booklet and the corresponding ELW number. As you can see, this event is very much driven by audience participation.
While this started out as a collaboration of area churches, this has caught the attention of others in the community. Churches outside of the ELCA have been intrigued by this and have helped with both the promotion and participation for these nights. At our last event we had a group who was celebrating a birthday. They thought there was no better way to celebrate this milestone than coming to sing their favorite hymns and bringing along their close friends and family.
We’ve also established a great relationship with Riggs because of this. This event is a new concept to the Champaign-Urbana area, so no one was quite sure what to expect. Not only does Riggs get a boost in their business on Sunday nights (as well as the food trucks that come), but they also really enjoy the music. Riggs also gives us a great space – it’s family friendly with a playground and lots of games for those of all ages to enjoy. Plus, they also have great beer available. It’s truly a space that anyone and everyone can enjoy, which is exactly what the church is all about.
While this isn’t REALLY worship, this can be quite a worshipful experience. One of the goals of the event is to bring faithful (and maybe even some not so faithful) people together to share songs we all know and love, and we are make it clear that we are not trying to impose our Christian beliefs on those around us. However, we’ve learned that while we are in this age when church attendance isn’t as high as we would like it to be, music can still bring us together. At these events we have people who come to church every Sunday, but also have people who just wanted to stop by that bar that night and are now curious about what we’re up to. Throughout the night, you hear people telling stories about their connections to these songs – how certain hymns helped them grow in their faith, or how others remind them of important people in their lives. We all have connections to the music we hear at church, and its been amazing to see that expand as we’ve taken it outside of our church walls.
We plan on having many more Hops and Hymns nights in 2019, so keep an eye on the calendar for future events!