Updated: Nov 28
A Tallahassee-based community connecting through conversation and exploration using books
In the height of the COVID pandemic, we were left without the ability to safely socialize outside of our homes among others. It is undeniable that humans are social creatures that need and desire interaction and socialization with others, so we had to get creative! Many turned to online spaces as a way to stay connected and find community. Hundreds if not thousands of new online communities were established in 2020 and continue to this day. From Minecraft to Facebook groups, virtual reality to TikTok, those with the privilege of internet access found new ways to be together while safely remaining physically apart. I became one of those people when I created Theology Book Club.
Theology Book Club is exactly what is sounds like: a book club that reads theology books! It sprang out of another fresh expression I facilitate called Tallahassee Brew Theology, which meets in local breweries to discuss subjects related to religion, philosophy, and culture. The group was interested in diving deeper into some of the subjects we’d explored together. Book clubs are a simple way to begin conversations and create a space where participants can explore their beliefs and spirituality.
The process was fairly simple: I created a few social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Meetup) to announce the books and date and to share the Zoom link. I made a simple logo and used an online graphic design tool to create a few images to help get the word out beyond the Tallahassee Brew Theology community. Creating an online presence is not necessary but incredibly helpful when developing a fresh expression of church.
In preparation for facilitating the book club conversation, I, most importantly, read the book! I underline and note the ideas and quotes that I thought would be conducive to conversation and write down a few questions that might help if there is a lull in the discussion. Before beginning the book club gathering, everyone introduces themselves and I share basic rules of engagement (Listen well, everyone has a right to their opinion, be kind). We meet for 1.5-2 hrs.
We are not too strict on what qualifies as theology for the book club. We have read a few novels and memoirs among the theology books. And since Theology Book Club was entirely online, we had people joining us from all over the country!
The book club took a break recently, but we are starting again in January and attempting a hybrid gathering for the first time. Locals will meet at a Tallahassee coffee shop in person with a computer set up so that participants can join from anywhere. I am hopeful that this format will be successful. But if it isn’t, we’ll try something new.
It has been so wonderful to meet new people and to hear their perspectives on the books we read together. Together we have explored ideas that are normally confined to seminary classrooms. The simplicity of reading and discussing a book together without expectation has created so much potential for spiritual exploration and community building!