What We Do at Parable: pub church through Alisa’s eyes

We are so grateful to Alisa Carr for sharing below her experience of this past Sunday’s Parable, the Front Porch’s pub church that meets at Scholz’ Garten each Sunday evening. Alisa works as a spiritual director, licensed counselor, and Reiki practitioner in south Austin.  

alisa picI was really looking forward to participating in Parable this Sunday, and was relieved when timing allowed me to be present! I have learned to arrive a little early, so as to avoid a long line to order a beverage or a bite to eat, and to have a conversation or two before the “service” begins. We are here to worship and pray, yes, but not in the traditional sense…we are at Scholz’ beer garden in Austin, after all. We are gathering over bratwurst and beer. We are gathered at rectangular tables that invite us to look at each other and talk.   This is a space of gathering to dialogue and connect with others—with intention and with the purpose of listening to, holding, and honoring both our differences and our similarities.

Austin singer-songwriter Stephen Smith is sharing his music with us this evening. He has a beautiful voice and sings us a prayer with a hint of the blues. It is a heart song with beautiful energy in which to enter some silence and then pray together Steve Kinney’s translated version of the Lord’s Prayer – words and phrases that also grab the heart, such as “that we may see as you see,” “interrupt us with grace,” “release us from the burden,” and so on. These phrases open up my heart and mind to receive what is to come. I am moved. Since today our topic is Marriage, we get to sing together The Wedding Song by Peter, Paul and Mary. I don’t know about everyone else, but tears well up in my eyes!

Yes, the topic for the evening is Marriage. We are led in that discussion by the teachings of Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest, J. Pittman McGehee. We talk about becoming whole, about becoming who we are created to be, and about relationship as the “crucible” for this inner journey. The hard work of embracing the shadow – within ourselves and in those whom we love – is the Way. This is the content that itself becomes a vessel for vulnerable and heartfelt sharing of personal struggle. How do I love and accept myself? How do I move beyond shame and guilt to allow myself the freedom to be and express who I am in my core? How do I accept the messiness that is within me? Where we wind up in this discussion is where we started in the opening of silent prayer…an invitation to compassion, the freedom to be, radical acceptance, and love. I experience compassion drawing us together – the openness of a few taking the whole group, or at least those of us willing to go, to greater depths.

I like to come to Parable as often as I can, and I am grateful that it is now a weekly gathering. The more I come, the more I witness and participate in the community that is emerging. It seems that every week there are people willing to express deeply felt experiences, opinions, feelings, challenges, and hopes. In an atmosphere that is, on the surface, more conducive to cheering for a favorite sports team, we are increasingly exposing ourselves with courage and vulnerability. I have found myself wanting to reach out in support, encouragement, and gratitude.

With that level of heart opening, we move into Parable’s unique celebration of Communion – what has drawn me here in the first place. Every week, Steve leads us in the most earthy, intimate, and descriptive telling of the Eucharistic story that I have ever heard. Amidst the clamor of the kitchen, the music of the guitar, bass or other instruments, conversations erupting, and between bites of bratwurst or burgers and sips of beer, wine or tea, we approach the “common table.” Surrounded by all the sounds and would-be distractions, we receive those familiar words of blessing, “The Body of Christ, The Bread of Life…The Blood of Christ, The Cup of Salvation…” as we share table fellowship for all. For this life-long, liturgical, contemplative Episcopalian this is both profane and sacred! It turns out that the line between those two realities is quite murky, if present at all. Being among others who are willing to hold that tension is what keeps me coming back to Parable on The Front Porch!

One Response to What We Do at Parable: pub church through Alisa’s eyes

  1. […] Parable is a “pub church.” The meet over beer and bratwurst. And yet that have Holy Communion. Here’s how it is described by Alisa Carr. […]

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