Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2013, 11:10 am

Tapping into their faith at local brewery

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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
The Rev. Larry Conway of Trinity Lutheran Church Moline recently started a new program called Table Talks, that's held Monday nights at Front Street Brewery, in Davenport.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
The Rev. Larry Conway of Trinity Lutheran Church Moline recently started a new program called Table Talks, that's held Monday nights at Front Street Brewery, in Davenport.
MOLINE -- Beer proves God loves us and wants us to be happy, Benjamin Franklin once said.

The Rev. Larry Conway, senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Moline, cited that quote when discussing a new "Table Talk" program he co-hosts at 6:30 p.m. Mondays at Front Street Brewery, 208 E. River Drive, Davenport.

He also borrowed the idea for the program, he said.

"In the 1500s, Martin Luther would meet with his people and go to a tavern, as good Germans were known to do, and talk about the issues of the day and discuss their faith," Rev. Conway said. "All we're trying to do is bring God where the people are, just as Martin Luther tried to do."

Four to 19 Trinity members have gathered Monday nights to replicate Luther's practice to reach people and discuss faith issues and theology in plain language, and now they want to open the sessions to the public, Rev. Conway said.

"We need to engage the world on their terms," he said. "We can't expect people not raised in the congregation to come in the door knowing everything about the church, so we want to make it easy, enjoyable and comfortable for them to get into conversations about our faith."

"They are definitely not a typical Monday Night Football type of crowd," brewery general manager and co-owner Jennie Ash said. "They seem quite content, typically meeting downstairs, but their discussions do get pretty intense sometimes."

Staff members love the group, she said. "They are the nicest people in the world. They're never demanding. When we're really busy, they just roll with it."

Plus, they're good tippers, she said, adding that favorite orders include Old Davenport Gold and Cherry Ale.

Except for Rev. Conway. "I'm allergic to wheat, so no beer for me," he said. "But everyone else can eat or drink what they want.

"We also have no set agenda," he said. "I usually prepare a one-page sheet of topics we may or may not talk about, and we often have three or more conversations going on at the same time."

At its gathering last Monday, Rev. Conway's topics included the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and one heated conversation dealt with how the Old and New Testaments meshed, he said.

"It's amazing what we learn from each other, from a viewpoint perspective alone," Rev. Conway said. "We discuss the things we have in common, and agree to disagree with the things we don't. We may think the other person is absolutely dead wrong, but then say, 'OK, let's have dinner.' "

Rev. Conway's assisted by co-host Dana Norris, a church member and Davenport Central High School teacher who's also had theological and world-religions training. So the two of them can handle questions about other religions if they get brought up, he said.

"And we tend to share a corny joke or two," Rev. Conway said, retelling one of his favorite "Ole and Swen" tales.

As the joke goes, Swen calls the police department to report an accident and ask for an ambulance to be sent to Eucalyptus Street to help an injured woman. When the dispatcher asked Swen to spell eucalyptus, he told police he would drag the woman over to Oak Street, instead, according to Rev. Conway's account.

Every time the church group meets at Front Street, "they enjoy the atmosphere and long discussions," Ms. Ash said.

"And lots of laughter," Rev. Conway said. After all, God wants them to be happy, and the proof's in the beer not the pudding.


For information ...
Call Trinity Lutheran Church, 1330 13th St,., Moline, at 309-762-3624.