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Sunderland: vicar plans beer and hymns night – at church

It's ale and hearty singing on the menu for a North Wearside vicar and her choir master husband ...

The Revd Chantal Hoppen is combining her love of real ale and her day job as team vicar of the parish of North Wearside in Sunderland by holding a Beer & Hymns evening on Saturday 21 October at her local – St Cuthbert’s Church, Red House, Sunderland.

Supported by husband Tony Harbottle-Noppen acting as MC and choir master, the newly married couple hope that their Beer & Hymns evening will be a new opportunity to engage with the local community and to open the church up to those who had never thought of spending an evening at an alternative local!

Chantal said: “It's a simple formula, but it works. Combining the communal singing of Hymns in a Church setting with the opportunity to enjoy a glass of real ale – really opens up opportunities for us to engage with the community in a different way.

“If people are invited to something that is different, and they enjoy it, their perceptions of church and Christians change. The church building in their midst becomes something more relevant to them and the relationship it produces is more personal.”

The idea of Beer and Hymns was established at Christian arts festival Greenbelt several years ago, and has since been repeated at churches across the country. Chantal is an old hand at running such events, something she did in her last post in the Diocese of Newcastle and even at her wedding in 2016.

Chantal added: “When we got married a little over a year ago, we had an hour or so of Beer and Hymns during the reception. We were amazed how many people raved and gushed about it afterwards as a highlight for them.

“The most common thing I hear said at these events is ‘if church was like this, I'd come ...’ And I don't think this is just the beer talking, or the presence of the bar. The boundaries are able to be blurred and barriers broken down.

“Beer and Hymns has been known to bring people back to a place of faith and into the church when they thought that they were ‘were done with it’, finding something in the inclusivity and welcome they experienced to realise that ‘God wasn't done with them’. One such person is now training to be a lay reader,  having returned to church as a result of a Beer and Hymns event I ran.”

The first Beer and Hymns event is being held at St Cuthbert’s Church, Red House, Sunderland at 7.30pm. Tickets are £5 with a cash bar serving local real ales from the Sonnet 43 Brewhouse in Coxhoe as well as other alcoholic and soft drinks. All are welcome and tickets can be purchased by emailing:

St Cuthbert’s Red House is part of the North Wearside parish along with sister church Holy Trinity in Southwick, Sunderland.

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