CHAMPAIGN — This isn't a church service, but it is about God.
And there's beer.
Welcome to Beer & Theology, an outreach of University Place Christian Church, Champaign.
The church, itself, is in the heart of the University of Illinois campus area, but Beer & Theology — billed as a group of beer-loving people searching for God in unlikely places — meets at a downtown Champaign pub twice a month on the second and fourth Sundays.
Each meet-up includes a planned discussion topic. The topic for the next one, set for 4 p.m. Sunday at Quality Beer, 110 N. Neil St., C, is "Guns, America and Jesus."
These discussions over beer are open to everyone, regardless of faith, church affiliation or not, according to the Rev. Christopher Schilling, the church's minister for community and campus relations and the facilitator for Beer & Theology.
Typically the discussions attract about eight people, many in the 30s, 40s and 50s, and one 80-something, he said.
Come as you are, Schilling invites. All opinions are respected, and everyone is invited to speak freely.
Beer & Theology was started in late 2016 to engage the community in topics around theology and religion outside the context of a church building, Schilling said. Meeting at a bar, "it's a space that's not intimidating and that's different," he said.
"Beer & Theology is a search for divinity in music, TV, movies, art, literature and the routine of everyday life," says a description on the church's website. "Beer & Theology meets to ask challenging questions and explore what it means for people of faith to be relevant in Champaign-Urbana."
This isn't a new concept, Schilling said. There are churches all over the country offering similar programs, sometimes for their own members. One great thing about University Place Christian Church's Beer & Theology program is it draws people from all faiths and backgrounds, he said.
A 33-year-old Disciples of Christ minister, Schilling said he's seen adults reach their 30s and 40s, sometimes as former members of churches they left, sometimes getting married and starting families. They've got spiritual questions and want to learn more — but they want to feel comfortable doing it, rather than as though they're being taught.
Beer & Theology gives people a chance to ask questions and formulate what they believe, which, Schilling said, "I think is awesome. Allowing people to engage in their own theological questions and wrestle with it, that's part of our spiritual journey."
University Place Christian Church, called UniPlace Christian Church for short, has been in its current building at 403 S. Wright St., C since 1932, Schilling said.
These days, it's a small congregation of about 50 people, he said. The church continues to offer a free dinner to the community each Wednesday during the University of Illinois academic year with the help of UI student volunteers.
Schilling will be relocating to Ohio at the end of May, he said, but the church plans to continuing Beer & Theology after he leaves.
One of the headliners of this weekend's annual Illinois Interfaith Conference at the University YMCA is a familiar face. The Rev. JASON CARSON WILSON (Champaign Central '94, UI '99, right), a Washington, D.C.-based Black United Church of Christ minister, is scheduled to speak at 7:30 p.m. today (on social justice ministry) and 2 p.m. Saturday (on sexual orientation and faith) at the Y (1001 S. Wright St., C).