By: Chereese Cross and Dyondra Wilson
Elbows resting on an oak table, and lips pressed against glass– people gather near a table in the back behind a doorway next to the kitchen, watching a man in black. This group of young curious minds met Monday night to share thoughts, theology and laughs in a dimly lit bar in Greenvale, Long Island.
“Distilled Theology” is a discussion-led event where two ends come together– religion and young adults. They meet every two weeks to discuss various topics about religion and life. The idea came about when Father Gabriel Rach of Saint Patrick’s Church in Glen Cove, visited a similar event called Theology on Tap. Since February, the group has met in a place where some people wouldn’t think religion would dare to go– a bar.
“We want to engage with people who wouldn’t necessarily come to a church, because this isn’t about engaging with people who are already really religious, this is about engaging with people from all walks of life,” Theresa Bissex, event coordinator, said.
In a survey published in 2015 by the Pew Research Center, researchers found that the percentage of adults (18 and over) who identified as Christians dropped by nearly eight percent within seven years, from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014. Within that time frame the rise of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated increased, identifying themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”
Distilled Theology targets college students and young adults from 18 to 40. The goal is to discuss and bring forth the concepts of Catholicism to young adults seeking to deepen their faith or explore it, by providing a comfortable setting for conversation over a pint of beer.
“Father Gabriel started it as a way to meet the intellectual, spiritual, and social needs of young adults in the community and parish,” Kelsey McManus, church promoter, said. Father Rach is out of town for the week and was unavailable for further comments.
There are many factors to take into consideration for what is causing this shift. Barna Group conducted a research asking millennials why they thought church was not important. One in three (38%), said that they found church boring, while eight percent said church is “out of date.”
“As culture changes, religious communities don’t function the same way they use to for people, they use to be this integral part of social life [an] integral part of political life,” Dr. Kathrine Schmidt, from the department of Theology and Religious Studies at Molloy College, said. “As young people have changed their politics especially in terms of homosexuality and other issues of sexuality, like transgender issues, they have grown really frustrated with religion because religious communities over the past couple of decades have really aligned themselves with more conservative politics.”
Though young adults are progressively disconnecting from religion, one pastor argues that there’s something they bring. “Young adults bring that romanticism of wanting to give all and solve everything and to try new things,” Father Elias Carr, of the Church of Saint Rocco’s in Glen Cove, said. “They bring a lot of freshness, ideas, enthusiasm for the faith [and] newness.”
On Monday night Father Carr led the discussion at Barefoot Peddler on the topic, From Words to the Word: Silence in the Spiritual Life. In his discussion he expressed to the 12 young adults in attendance how important silence can be to one’s spiritual walk with God.
“Every initiative we undertake we hope to get a response. Some work some don’t, this one is starting to pick up some steam and we’re happy about that [and] it’s important because we want to try to reach different sectors of the population, young people is a very important part.” Pastor Elias Carr, said.