By Janis Fontaine
You can find religion in the strangest places.
Like at lunch.
You’re quietly chowing down on a burger and fries and the guys at the next table are talking about religion. You don’t really mean to, but soon you’re joining the conversation. And the guys are just fine with that.
A couple of years ago, one of those friendly guys was Boca Raton’s Thad Schoen. “It was $5 burger day at the Biergarten in Royal Palm Plaza. We were just talking. People were always joining in our conversations.”
It helps if you’re interesting, and Schoen is. He’s a retired scientist and professor and a cancer survivor.
“I specialized in hematology and oncology clinical research,” Schoen said.
If a life devoted to science and to God seems like a contradiction, Schoen says, it’s not. “Many very serious scientists were and are convinced there is a God.”
Schoen decided those impromptu meetings were helpful and should be more official. He had heard about a group called Theology on Tap. Its website is a virtual how-to manual on starting your own casual club devoted to topics of faith.
Schoen talked to the senior staff at his church, First United Methodist Church Boca Raton, and they supported the idea. But the name Theology on Tap was a trademark of a Chicago-based Catholic corporation, so they came up with a new name: Pub Theology.
The group, which is open to people of all faiths, meets twice a month in Boca Raton. “All perspectives are welcome” is the club creed.
“We wanted to reach out to the community,” Schoen said. “We wanted a place where people could discuss questions of faith, God and religion in a nonthreatening environment.”
The group generally attracts 10 to 15 people but as few as six and as many as 40 have turned up. Ages range from college age to octogenarian. Some return every week, while others are one-and-done.
The group sometimes begins with a topic for discussion in mind, and no topic is taboo — even politics. Senior Pastor Marcus Zillman, who sometimes moderates, says the questions and comments surprise the clergy, but that’s what it’s all about: Always questions, and sometimes answers.
Schoen says the group will continue to meet through the summer, but without him for the first time since the group started two years ago. He and his wife, Loretta, a writer and blogger, are moving to Oviedo, northeast of Orlando, to be closer to their grandchildren.
Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation & God meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at the Biergarten, 309 via de Palmas, No. 90, Boca Raton, and 7 p.m. the third Thursday at Barrel of Monks, 1141 S. Rogers Circle, No. 5, Boca Raton. Conversation, fellowship, open discussion. 395-1244; www.fumcbocaraton.org
St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church and School joined the rest of the Catholic world in recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. Between May and October 1917, Mary Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, appeared six times to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.
On May 13, hundreds of worshippers from the five-county Diocese of Palm Beach came together in prayer and reflection on the messages of Our Lady of Fatima. The event began with a 5:30 p.m. vigil Mass followed by a candlelight procession of prayer and song.
In Portugal, Pope Francis canonized two of the Portuguese shepherd children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, honoring their visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago. Those sightings made the tiny town of Fatima one of the world’s most important Catholic shrines, a destination for tens of thousands who wanted their prayers to be heard.
St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church is at 840 George Bush Blvd., Delray Beach.
First United Methodist Church Boca Raton is hosting a Chili Challenge and Bingo Night beginning at 5 p.m. June 3, on the East Campus, 625 NE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. This fundraiser will help send 25 kids to Warren Willis Methodist Summer Camp. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for children, which includes samples of five chilies and five rounds of bingo. Cast your ballots for the best chili and play for prizes. Purchase advance tickets online.
Info: 395-1244; www.fumcbocaraton.org
Music minister performs
Paul Cienniwa, the new director of the music ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, will perform his first South Florida concert, “French Sweets on Harpsichord,” at 3 p.m. June 11.
The program will include suites by Francois Couperin, Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau. Admission is free.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 188 S. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 278-6003 or visit www.stpaulsdelray.org.
Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.