On a trip down to Nashville to visit her sister, Carly Hubbard, owner of Rough Draft Coffee and Cocktails, heard about a group that tucks into the backrooms of local bars to raise their voices together in worship.
The idea of a “pub sing” really appealed to Hubbard.
“I have always been amazed at how, in Irish pubs, they can easily transition from drinking songs to hymns,” Hubbard said.
The Nashville group has been gathering since 2013, and Hubbard thought the idea would fit in perfectly with her vision of what Rough Draft can offer the Hillsdale community.
“Rough Draft has all Michigan craft beer and all the employees love to sing hymns. We thought that people in the community would love to put them together with us,” Hubbard’s business partner Haley Talkington said.
The first two Beer & Hymn nights took place on July 27 and Aug. 23, filling the back room of Rough Draft with more than 30 eager singers who enjoyed a dollar off a pint of craft beer during the event.
Sophomore Timothy Green was called upon at the last minute to accompany the singers on piano for the event in August.
“The atmosphere was easy to play with because everyone was excited and we were all able to get caught in the spirit,” Green said.
Talkington and Hubbard pass out song booklets with the lyrics of their favorite hymns which include classics like “Take my Hands and Let Them be,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Come Thou Font.”
Talkington and Hubbard want the event to bring Christians together through singing.
“Beer & Hymns is not a bible study; we are just offering a space to gather in a very ecumenical way to enjoy worship,” Hubbard said.
Not wanting the event to become terribly “churchy,” Talkington said that they chose not to have any preaching so that those who identify with different denominations are not discouraged from coming and enjoying the event.
Though Hubbard was initially concerned with self-conscious singers, she said the earnest singing at the events has allayed her fears.
“At first I wanted to make a rule that everyone had to drink a pint before we started singing, but that seemed a little forceful,” Hubbard said.
The events have been popular with members of the Hillsdale community.
“People ask to do it more frequently, with something like Beer & Hymns, however, we need to limit the number of times we do it,” Talkington said. “You don’t want to ruin the uniqueness of the event.”
Inclusion is of primary importance with the event.
“We want to facilitate the community of Hillsdale, not just the Christians. We want to be sure that we don’t limit the parts of the community that come and enjoy Rough Draft,” Talkington said.
Through the event, Talkington and Hubbard want to show a different side of Christian culture. “A lot of people think Christians can’t drink beer and have a good time,” Talkington said.
But Rough Draft asserts in their social media promotions for the event that Beer & Hymns is “good for both the body and the soul.”
The next Beer & Hymns event will take place on Sept. 28 at 8pm and Hubbard urges singers of all talents and ages to come and sing.
“The point isn’t to sound good. Just bring to the table whatever you have and come enjoy the experience of worshiping through song,” she said.