By Christine Way Skinner
Sometimes a book comes along at just the right time. For me, this was Matthew Anderson’s Pairings: The Bible and Booze (Novalis, 2022). As pandemic restrictions were loosening and the possibility of gathering with other people was restored, I yearned for a good discussion group. Pairings provided just the right text for a post-pandemic bible study! The concept is clever. Anderson has chosen ten scripture stories and “paired” them with an appropriate drink. He begins with “Low-Hanging Fruit: Apple Cider and the Second Creation Account,” and ends with “Bringing Down the Curtain: Bloody Caesars and the Book of Revelation.”
The book is small – only 111 pages – but Anderson packs a wealth of material in each short chapter. Readers will be presented with insights into both Scripture and the history of various libations. Though the book seems light and fun – and it is – it is by no means superficial. Anderson provides rich, thought-provoking points for discussion on important and meaningful topics. Each time, our group has met, folks have arrived with points underlined that they wanted to discuss. And discuss we did! So far, the topics have included the portrayal of women in the Bible, the church’s role in colonialism, the comfort that faith brings to our lives, and the admixture of bitterness and sweetness in human life.
I have recently become fond of ordering a beer flight in our local restaurant/brewery where I can sample a variety of beers in small sizes. This always leads me to think, “I’d really like to try more of that beer.” Pairings reminds me of such beer flights. Every chapter left me intrigued to learn more. So, I very much appreciated the excellent suggestions for further reading that Anderson provides at the chapter’s end. I also appreciated that he provides non-alcoholic drink pairing for those who prefer this. Sharing a drink among friends can be wonderful, but alcohol can also be problematic. Thus, I found this to be an ethical, sensitive, and compassionate addition.
The small group we formed around the book has met only four times. I look forward to our six more meetings by which time, (hint, hint), we might have a Volume II!
Christine Way Skinner is a lay minister and author. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. She is currently working on a Doctorate in Theology at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. Christine loves trying to find inclusive, compelling, and creative ways to pass on the church’s 2000-year-old traditions. She enjoys exploring the arts, gardening, and engaging conversations. Christine’s numerous publications can be found and purchased here.