After hearing tales my whole life about how the Wood family grew up in the Baptist faith I read an article recently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that made me exclaim, "Ah the times they are a-changing." Grandpa told me that when his mother discovered that her husband took a peppermint lozenge every morning, a lozenge that contained a half milligram of alcohol, she told him to quit immediately "Lest you become an alcoholic." I read a letter written in 1898 in which the same grandma wrote "Trouble with the indians in Northern Minnesota has been BREWING if I may use that objectionable term..."
Still later, her granddaughter, Elsie Wood, was an officer in Wisconsin's "Women's Christian Temperance Union" and served it loyally until the Badger chapter refused to support "women's suffrage," when she fell off the wagon.
So what has changed in the Baptist world view since olden times? According to the Star Tribune last month, Rev. Cowmeadow, longtime pastor of Calgary Baptist Church, has concocted a new way to keep the church, which has had some difficult patches lately, running and economically viable.
The 200-member congregation has invested "less than $250,000" in a tavern around the corner from Calgary. It's called "The Prodigal Pub" and welcomes church members and neighbors to partake of its offerings.
I'd venture to say that this plan puts Roman Catholic Bingo Nights and Lutheran bowling tournaments to shame. But sure enough, the Strib ran a picture of Reverend Jeff and his wife Randi, rocks glasses in hand (small pours), in front of their new backbar.
If this catches on, think of the future. Year after year, I read in magazines and newspapers about declining church membership and attendance. I sometimes wonder if when I memorized Luther's Small Catechism, omitting no semicolons, if I didn't bet on the wrong horse.
So I'll be watching if the Bible 'n booze combination catches on. (It's already had a modest beginning at River Falls' Hope Lutheran where they have already staged Hymns 'n Hops, where congregants can drink beer and sing hymns at Rush River Brewery.)
If this keeps on, I'm imagining River Falls's retail landscape growing and prospering.
Ezekiel Lutheran might open a saloon back of the church, call it the Wittenburg Inn, and a dining annex called "The Diet of Worms."
Further north in town St. Bridget's could continue its fine work with a trendy bistro called "The Newman Club," after the college fraternity of the same name.
The Methodists most certainly want to get into the act with a clubby sports bar called "Chuck's and John's," after the Wesley brothers. (Karaoke nightly).
The Baptists most certainly won't be left out after the pioneer work of Pastor Cowmeadow of Minneapolis. Name of their new joint? "Johnnie's," after the most famous of all Baptists. Its adjunct dining area would be the "Jolly Roger," in of honor Roger Williams, the 18th century Baptist headliner.