OXFORD, Conn. (AP) — In between a sip or two of beer, a group of men delved deeper into the Bible at a bar off Route 67 last week.
Some also dug deeper for a better understanding of themselves and a better relationship with God.
Rather than hosting a men's community Bible study inside a church, The Rev. John Donnelly of Christ Church Quaker Farms led the start of a new men's Bible study at the Brookside Inn on Wednesday.
He conducted a men's Bible study similar to this when he was co-rector with his wife, the Rev. Ellen Donnelly, at a church in New Jersey. There, Donnelly had it in the living room of his home, which was next door to the church. He couldn't host it at his home this time because he lives in Southbury, and he wanted it in the center of Oxford and not in church.
He said a lot of men won't go to Bible study in church, but they might at a bar.
Ten men, including Donnelly, showed for the first session of Beer, Bible and Brotherhood. They enjoyed some suds while contemplating certain Bible verses together.
The group is open to all men, ages 21 through 59, in the community. To date, 15 have signed up, but Donnelly said he would like 50.
Downstairs in a banquet room Wednesday evening, the men gathered at long tables, with pints in front of a few of them. Donnelly had Samuel Adams Boston Lager, while some sipped Samuel Adams OctoberFest.
The sessions will be led by Donnelly and retired Army Col. Bob Knapp, a clerk of the vestry. They will follow a program called "40 Days in the Word" by Rick Warren.
The men practiced reading verses by using a method called Pronounce It. They read a verse over and over, emphasizing a different word each time. After each reading, the men wrote down what that word meant to them.
Take Colossians 3:16a, for example: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."
In each reading, they emphasized different words, like "let, "dwell" and "richly." For "dwell," some men thought of "marinate," ''linger" or "inhabit."
Jordy Evancho, 20, of Oxford, said "What about 'soak'?"
Donnelly chimed in, saying, "That's a great word."
He added that the word baptize means to soak.
"It means to be saturated like a sponge so that you are saturated in God, in the Holy Spirit," Donnelly said. "So, Jordy, I think of that when you talk about the word, soak. It becomes such a part of you that you are dripping with it."
Donnelly said he has read about a pastor who did a similar type of Bible study. He started to think about it, and whenever he has come around a lot of men, they tend to have a beer when talking.
The church wants to relate to people in the world, not take them out of it, he said.
Donnelly said he found that the Bible study in New Jersey provided an atmosphere for more men to feel comfortable because the men create an atmosphere of trust, laughter and community.
In that atmosphere, men can learn more about how Christ loves all and about how they can improve relationships, he said.
The beginnings of a similar atmosphere could be felt at the Brookside Inn.
Evancho, a member of Christ Church Quaker Farms, attended the Bible study with his father, Mike Evancho, 51.
The younger Evancho said he wants a better relationship with Christ, and to be a better person and do the right thing.
Resident Jim Ludoviconi, 52, who is also a church member, said, "My coming here is really kind of an extension of what we like about with Christ Church to start with."
This church has a real call to participate, Ludoviconi said.
John Zimmel, 52, another church member, said he attended the study after he received a flier about it from Donnelly.
"I don't partake in the church as much as my wife does, so I wanted to get involved a little bit more and understand the Bible," Zimmel said.