Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

November 30, 2013

Beers and Hymns: Church leader combines two loves to reach people

TRAVERSE CITY — Justin Grimm is a bit of a rebel.

He probably is the last guy a patron walking into Right Brain Brewing would pick out of the crowd as a Lutheran minister. The 34-year-old South Dakota native’s beard and tattoos break from church stereotypes, but so do his methods.

That’s why, in April, the Advent Lutheran Church pastor decided to start a program that emulates a few of his counterparts in other areas of the country.

It was called “Beers and Hymns,” and was followed by the slogan, “Drink beer, sing hymns, nothing churchy.”

It’s the “nothing churchy” part Grimm knew would make waves, but he wanted to make sure people would know the session of songs and ales is open to everybody, not just those who take a seat in the Lake Ann church where he delivers sermons each Sunday. The group goes as far as welcoming children to join.

“I knew some people weren’t going to be happy about it,” he said, smiling after sipping from a tasting glass of beer at the brewery on a recent afternoon. “It’s to show the world the church can be a social entity. It’s not about showing up on Sunday and sitting with your back straight.”

And the branding paid off when about 100 people attended the first gathering hosted at Right Brain Brewing in April. Since the Grimm has hosted two more successful sessions.

Owner of Right Brain, Russell Springsteen, was pretty sold on trying beers and hymns when Grimm brought him the proposition. The brewery’s taproom was constructed to be a community gathering center for people from all walks of life, he said.

“That’s why we don’t have TVs,” Springsteen said.

Still, the wording provoked a few nasty voice mails left on Grimm’s phone from people who accused him of stepping out of line by hosting an event that includes beer and “nothing churchy.”

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