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No joke: A bishop, a minister and 35 young adults walk into Plum bar ... to talk about religion

| Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, 11:03 a.m.
Bishop David Zubik leads 'pub theology' gathering at Somma's Pizza in Oakmont, Dec. 20.
Christine Manganas | For the Tribune-Review
Bishop David Zubik leads 'pub theology' gathering at Somma's Pizza in Oakmont, Dec. 20.

Beer, pizza and talk about religion mix nicely for a group of under 30-year-olds who meet regularly at a bar and restaurant on Coxcomb Hill Road.

Pub Theology is hosted by St. John the Baptist Catholic Church's young adult minister, Matt Scruggs, every other week at Somma Pizza and Sports Bar. Typically, about 15 young adults meet to weigh in on faith-based discussions. But more than 35 showed up when visitor Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh was in the house just before Christmas.

“This discussion is just another opportunity to open up to a group of people who feel like they might not have a place in the church,” Zubik said. “I want them to know that they do have a place and that their ideas do matter. This is a way to meet them where they are.”

Topics change from meeting to meeting, but hit on everything from the pope to homosexuality in the church.

“We try to do edgy topics that young adults care about now,” said Scruggs, 28.

Zubik asked the eager audience what the church could do to tear down walls that keep many young adults away from services.

“The church tends to err on the side of conservatism when it comes to politics and social issues,” said Janie Messina, 23, of Plum, citing the church's position against gay marriage and abortion. “Those two issues are so important to people that they won't come to church because of it, or they won't think about being Catholic because we don't back those issues.”

Zubik's follow-up question — what can the church do to promote discussion of such issues — was met with uncertainty. It was easier to identify barriers than to tell the bishop how to open up discussion about the issues, audience members said.

The bishop said it is important to him to try to give people a better understanding of the Catholic church and its views. For instance, he said, its “pro-life” position runs a lot deeper than simply being against abortion. Opening up dialogue about such topics is key, he said.

While on this night, his audience appeared mostly to be Catholics, that's not a requirement of Pub Theology. Everyone is welcome to the discussions where beer and religion do mix.

“Its good to hear these voices heard by figures like Zubik, because a lot of the times that doesn't happen,” Scruggs said.

The next Pub Theology meeting at Somma is Jan. 17.

Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.

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