SOBER SPIRITUALITY by Erin Jean Warde is ultimately an invitation for readers to ask themselves, “How do I want to be in a relationship with alcohol?” Warde, an ordained Episcopal priest, spiritual director, and sobriety coach, asked this question of herself years ago. She ultimately chose sobriety but realizes that won’t be where everyone lands. And Warde also wants the whole church, not just individuals, to engage this question.
Because, according to Warde, the church’s current relationship with alcohol is pretty toxic — especially in progressive churches. Progressive denominations often work to distinguish themselves from fundamentalism and much of white evangelicalism, communicating, “Yes, we’re Christian, but not that type of Christian” — not the type that is hostile to immigrants and bars women and LGBTQ people from the pulpit.
But one of the ways progressive churches have signaled this distinction, Warde argues, is harmful: “by illustrating how much they drink or that they drink at church.” Events like “Beer & Hymns” or “Theology on Tap” come to mind. This type of laid-back programming quickly communicates to newcomers that the host church isn’t dogmatic or old-fashioned. But it sends a different message to people who are sober or sober curious. “The common refrain of ‘all are welcome’ must ring true when a person changes their relationship with alcohol,” Warde writes.