GAINESVILLE – Before COVID-19 hit, there was an unusual gathering once a month at a local pub.
It was called No Bull Bibles & Brews, and it was hosted by Trinity United Methodist Church. It’s part of an effort by United Methodist churches called Fresh Expressions, which is designed to reach people beyond traditional church settings.
“We have a band that plays,” says Rev. Ben Richards, an Associate Pastor at Trinity. A group of Trinity members would regularly attend. The location helps put people unfamiliar with church at ease.
“It’s more ‘in the space,’ interactive and more inviting,” Richards says.
After the worship band would play for about 45 minutes, there would be a Bible study for church members and others alike.
“It’s been a blast,” Richards adds.
He says it also adds new meaning to the term BYOB: Bring Your Own Bible.
What about those who may think the church should not be meeting in a pub?
“If you keep Jesus out of there, I’ll stop going,” Rev. Richards says. “There is no place that the Holy Spirit isn’t preceding us.”
While No Bull Bibles & Brews has not been able to meet routinely during COVID-19, other Fresh Expressions ministries at Trinity have.
Holy Yoga is what it sounds like: a yoga class that begins with a devotional.
It has been popular at Trinity for years. Now, the class is being taught, recorded, and uploaded to YouTube.
There is also a Walking Group that takes advantage of Trinity’s large campus off 53rd Avenue. Because they can social distance, attendees can gather, have a devotional and prayer, and then exercise.
Trinity has even had a ballet class as a way to worship and gather people together.
Richards gives credit to the church’s Outreach Team for taking the first steps to organize these sorts of efforts. He emphasizes this is a person-to-person way to reach people for Christ.
“It starts with listening, it starts with relationships, and then it develops,” he says. You have to let others know you care. Also, it does not conflict with the church’s more traditional services.
“It doesn’t take away from the impact of what we’re doing,” he says.
“It’s exciting,” is how Richards describes the unique ways in which the church is going outside its walls. “I’m grateful for that flexibility.”
Richards emphasizes this is something that other churches can do in their own ways. “Every church has something going on in their neighborhood.”
Richards himself is venturing into a different kind of neighborhood as part of Fresh Expressions: online gaming.
“It’s been kind of life-giving to do what I’ve wanted to do for years,” he says.
As he describes it, he has a camera setup that projects his picture into a corner of the screen. “I’m playing the game and interacting with people.”
The gamers are there for more than just playing the games, he explains. They are there to watch how others perform at the games they are playing, but they are also there to communicate with each other.
“They are there for interaction,” he says.
Richards says Trinity will continue to try to find ways to interact with people beyond the church walls, to bring more people to faith.
To see more about Ben Richards’ gaming efforts, go to https://www.twitch.tv/theirreverentreverend.
NEXT SUNDAY: There are more places to reach people for Christ, including tattoo parlors and the dog park.