Check out Darkwood Brew: Who knew a mainline congregation could do high-quality online programming?


Last week I enjoyed getting to know a fellow United Church of Christ pastor named Eric Elnes at a Colorado mountaintop retreat. On Friday Eric inconvenienced himself to get up early and drive me a couple of hours to the Denver airport to get me home. In the car we had a fascinating conversation that touched on things as diverse as video games and the possibility of post-mortem salvation.

Eric is the pastor of Countryside Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and is involved with a unique and creative on-line ministry called Darkwood Brew, which he describes as “renegade exploration of Christianity’s outer edges.” This isn’t the first time Eric has launched out in new and innovative directions in his ministry.  Some of you may recall Eric’s book about walking across America, Asphalt Jesus:  Finding a New Christian Faith along the Highways of America.
Now there’s Darkwood Brew.  What is it?  Well, it’s a bit hard to describe, but here’s an attempt.  (Better yet, when you are done reading this, go here and see for yourself.)

Darkwood Brew is broadcast on-line via streaming video each week. The episodes take place in an informal studio/coffee-house setting. Each week a topic from scripture is developed that runs through the entire episode.

The teaching is in short bursts and accessible to laity, but it is by no means simplistic (Eric himself has a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary). Each episode is punctuated with some incredible jazz by Chuck Marohnic and his band “The Brew’s Brothers.” These are professional jazz musicians, and the music itself is worth checking out the site.

The episodes are designed so that small groups watching remotely can pause at intervals and share in the discussion.

Typically on an episode there is a live Skype visitor to weigh in on some aspect of the days theme. I saw an episode on Galatians with NT scholar Beverly Gaventa from Princeton via Skype.  Good stuff.

The pacing on Darkwood Brew holds your attention and the discussions, though dealing with serious topics, are often lighthearted and full of humor. This weeks episode (May 1) deals with the “Doubting Thomas” story in John’s Gospel and features a Saturday Night Live type faux infomercial for a diatery supplement called Certitude. Very funny.

The production values of this site are very high, but in no way slick. I typically have an allergy to Christian media, but I’m telling you Eric and his team are doing an amazing piece of ministry and evangelism here.

So check out Darkwood Brew. Their motto is “You May Not Like It.” I’m guessing you will.

6 thoughts on “Check out Darkwood Brew: Who knew a mainline congregation could do high-quality online programming?

  1. >Rick, I'm a UCC pastor just a couple of hours east of you on the Mass Pike (Brimfield) who has been enjoying DWB for a couple of months now. Not only is it all you say it is, I see it as a model of the future church. We need to get over our edifice complex and get out into the coffee houses (and pubs) to bring people the good news.I plan on saying that during this week's episode since they bravely (perhaps foolishly) have agreed to let me join them for a few minutes via Skype. Maybe I'll "see" you then? Heck, maybe I'll see you offline sometime since we are practically neighbors.

  2. >Thanks, Richard…Great to hear from you. I'm the producer over at DWB. We also have a lively discussion every day on Facebook.Eric and I will be hosting a special DWB this week…interacting with our audience and social media followers to find out what they want more of…and what we could be doing better.Then we start a series on Rob Bell's book, love wins. We'll have guests like Brian MacLaren, Carlton Pearson and Diana Butler Bass. We're all excited about the future for DWB…and appreciate your kind words!Cheers,Scott

  3. >Hi Ian,Thanks for the good comment. I agree that DWB is a great model for reaching a different set of folks, but I also like that Eric also pastors a 1500 member church of non-virtual people in a real building. I think there will always be embodied congregations. After all we are an incarnational faith.I look forward to bumping into you out here in Western MA, and I'll look forward to your Skype chat on DWB.Best, Rick

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