“I really wanted to run a pub where if Jesus came down, he’d want to come in and have a beer.”
The Jesus Arms is the original beer tent where Beer & Hymns began. It also represents the space, the thin place, where Beer & Hymns exists.
Dave ‘Monkey Boy’ Ball, the piano player and Tim ‘the stout but not fat Landlord’ Fox explain:
When Greenbelt asked us to run the beer tent, they wanted an inclusive tent.
‘The Jesus Arms’ comes from Othona. It was a covert message said late at night, tongue in cheek. When we set up the beer tent at Greenbelt we had the chance to make a space for the inclusivity we crave – somewhere Jesus would drink.
This was not about being inclusive in a PC way. We really love pubs. And we love our faith. We wanted the people in the room to feel: we are like you. Therefore we are not asking you to be like us, we are already us together; let’s celebrate that!
Dave grew up in a free worship, black pentecostal setting. Tim came from a radical inclusive tradition, where community is at the heart of worship. But we both grew up with football, where men sing, and drink. The Jesus Arms brings together the best of all these world.
What we love about men singing at football is its spontaneity. Where did the songs on the terraces come from before Facebook and fan forums? There’s a rapport, a banter between people.
In many ways the Jesus Arms wasn’t part of a plan, this is us. We love football and we love beer, and we weren’t finding an authentic expression of who we are. So we ran that pub and stood on that stage showing vulnerability. We wanted Beer & Hymns to express a suppressed spirituality hidden within us without inhibition.
At the Jesus Arms there’s a different power dynamic. In normal church, there’s the people at the front telling you what to do. We’re not telling people what to do. There’s an edginess, there’s heckling. Beer & Hymns is different from a lot of religious services.
The Jesus Arms brought something that challenged the safe middle class culture at Greenbelt. Worship became working class. It became football and earthy and beer.
Whilst we’re genuinely excited about seeing Beer & Hyms travel across America and the world, there are some places where they’ve put a firm structure around proceedings: one-pint-one-song, checking ID at the door, things like that.
But if you’re going to truly engage with the people on the fringe of faith you can’t put up boundaries.
Where were health & safety at the Sermon on the Mount? Would procedures and policies have kept people away from Jesus? ‘What if people aren’t happy, or someone gets hurt?’ That’s not an excuse to keep people away.
Beer & Hymns has most traction where it’s counter-cultural. It can eventually become the culture, but Jesus is at his most present beneath the power structure, moving against a prevailing culture that keeps him distant.
If you put on a Beer & Hymns because you think you’ll increase your congregation, it won’t work. It’s not about people of the church allowing beer to be drunk so that other people will come to church. It’s about people of the church drinking beer so they can meet other people where they’re at. It can help churches engage with their local communities rather than the other way around.
There’s no way God would use people like us. We agitate people, you can’t control us, Tim for one can be quite frightening! But if you look at any bible story where exciting things happen, they’re always odd balls at the centre.
So come join us for a drink in Jesus’ arms! We hope you’ll be very happy here.