It’s officially a tradition now. I prefer to call it a practice. But whatever we call it, this is now the third incarnation of “Wine Ministry” as part of the Doctor of Ministry program at Columbia Theological Seminary. Last summer we inaugurated the practice, carried it on in New York City in January of this year, and now we meet again — this time in the upstairs lounge of the Harrington Center each afternoon around 5:00. It’s not a bad way to transition from a day of study and learning into whatever the evening holds (usually more reading and/or writing).
To be sure it’s a time of drinking wine. We put together interesting tastings — so far we’ve had big chewy reds, Spanish delights, and the terroir of the Cabernet grape. Tonight we’ll be sauntering through the Rhone River Valley (and a few other places the lovely Syrah grape has been transplanted). Tasting notes of each of these wines will come soon.
But this is more than wine. Wine is simply the practice that facilitates what is really happening. The community being formed among doctoral students from around the country is what it’s really about. We laugh heartily, tell stories, and connect with each others’ lives in ways that will be indelible (much like the stains of red wine in the shorts I was wearing last night). Others bring a bottle of wine or food to share, the circle gets wider, and the feast just happens. It’s a feast of wonderful tastes and new experiences of wine, it’s a feast of friendship, it’s a feast of lives connecting with one another. We’re all theologians and pastors, so we talk theology and ministry. But all that talk is more sublime and insightful when the words are blended with the flavors of Bordeaux and Malbec.
I raise my glass to this gift of time and friendship. I toast the lives of those with whom I have shared the sacred juice of the vine. And I even toast the Spirit of God whose presence is as flavorful, complex, and delightful as the wines we have shared.