DISCLAIMER: The following post is the story of Folklore as told by Sam Smith, which is a gathering of folks from various contexts coming together to eat, drink, and discuss the story of God. I am intrigued by their story and considering starting something of similar nature in the Raleigh community. If this interest you and you live in RDU please reach out to me to see what we may get started in our community.
For the past year we’ve been getting questions from people all around the country asking about Folklore. This has come as a surprise to us and we are humbled that people would take the time to observe us from a distance. To help share who Folklore is we decided to write the story of Folklore and then share it on social media. After reading, if folks still have questions about Folklore we would love to have a conversation with you in the next few months to talk more in depth.
Folklore actually begin in Austin, Texas, well at least the concept did. Eddie Everette and I were on our annual trip to Austin, Texas to enjoy Austin culture, friendship and the Verge Conference and while we were on the main strip in downtown Austin sipping whiskey and talking about life the idea of Folklore was birthed. This probably wasn’t the first time an idea was birthed when whiskey was involved, but for Eddie and I ideas aren’t that unusual, as we are both ideation guys who desire to work together in order to see the Story of God shared in various contexts. And so Folklore began. We initially took the ideas of both whiskey and theology and merged them together, and so good drink and good conversation was the initial overarching idea. We both love and respect CS Lewis and his group of comrades (The Inklings) who discussed all sorts of topics in a pub in England and therefore what we called “Whiskey & Theology” was a urban, present day spin off of what they did.
When we returned to Chicago we invited a few friends to join a conversation on a theological topic in Eddie’s living room in Humboldt Park. We had whiskey, beer, non-alcoholic drinks, and homemade pizza. Eddie’s wife Danielle set up candles and created a hospitable environment and twelve people showed up to the first ever “Whiskey and Theology.” The first hour people mingled and then we brought everyone together and the second hour was a moderated conversation on the theological topic. It was a success! Those who attended enjoyed it and we agreed to plan another W&T the next month. The following month we chose another topic and created the same environment; hospitality, food, drink and conversation, and about fifteen people showed up. These conversations were open, yet direct, and we created an environment where people could wrestle with thoughts, share their concerns and ideas and respect one another. All the while we’d share what we believed to be the orthodox Christian view of the topic. Each month we met, people would leave wanting to spend more time together outside of the monthly gathering, they’d desire to go deeper with the topic and they would invite more people in. And so by month three we had outgrown Eddie’s living room and we started to meet in Craig Hensel’s back yard. The first W&T that met in Craig’s backyard we had about thirty people show up and Eddie and I started to think about bringing in some different rhythms and a name change.
We decided to change the name to Folklore, which worked, as Folklore is the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generation by word of mouth. And we have beliefs, customs and stories that we as a community desire to pass down to our culture and to one another. In our rendition the Legend of the Story is Jesus, for He is the Better and Truer Folklore.
We also introduced some new rhythms/DNA after our third gathering. We didn’t want to be another Theology Pub, those are great, but we wanted a more missional bent, and we wanted to be like family. And so we created the rhythms of collaboration, creativity, stories, eating and drinking, discussions, guest lectures and parties.
Collaboration: Folklore is not a local church, it is made up of people from the Church (followers of Jesus) and people who are not part of the Church. We don’t want it to be connected to one local church because from day one Folklore was a collaborative idea. We desire both Christian and non-Christians to attend and be a part of the Folklore culture. We want to learn from people who are good at a particular craft and it doesn’t matter to us if that is theology or how to make craft coffee. We believe that all good and perfect gifts are from above, from the Father, and we want people to experience and enjoy those good things (and yes the leadership of Folklore wants everyone to ultimately enjoy the Father who gives those good gifts! But whether people do or not doesn’t hinder us from working alongside them and eating and drinking with them). In the heart of collaboration and generosity, the people of Chicago have been incredibly collaborative with their spaces so that Folklore can meet. We’ve used people’s homes, yards, church buildings, lofts spaces and business spaces. And then I should mention that we are diverse as a group of people, we are black, white and tan, male and female, we have different cultures and backstories and personalities and talents. Our leadership team alone is made up of 15 people that collaborate together and are incredibly diverse.
Creativity: We at Folklore follow "The Creative." God is the Creator and we believe that human beings are created in his image and thus we are also creative. In light of this we like to highlight creativity and aesthetics. And so everything we do involves the creative element. Each event or gathering we create, we intentionally try to have the theme or topic align with an aesthetic. For example, we recently did a Folklore Gathering on Liturgy and we desired to have the aesthetic match it. And so a local church in Chicago that has stained glass and a beautiful and lofty space agreed to partner with us. We believe this helps create a holistic experience for everyone that attends. Everything we do from how the dinner tables are set up at our Dinner Parties to the space itself is done with a specific aesthetic in mind by our incredible details and design team.
Eating and Drinking: Human beings love to eat and drink. It’s a natural space for us to create community and have conversation. Each event or gathering we have at Folklore involves some form of food and drink. And the first hour of each gathering is given to eating, drinking and mingling. We want people to connect and we want people to taste and see and not just hear.
Discussions: Folklore started with the dual foundation of community and conversation. And content and discussion is still a foundational piece of who we are. We create about nine discussion gatherings a year. The first hour of these Gatherings are for eating, drinking and mingling and the second hour is for discussion on a particular topic. The topics vary from theological (On the Incarnation) to practical (Social Media and Community) to informational (Our upcoming Craft series on coffee, beer and community). We lead out and moderate about half of these conversations and the other half we invite in guest lectures who we believe to be experts on a particular topic.
Parties: Three times a year we throw a party. We find a large space, like a loft space, and we invite in friends, neighbors and co-workers. We eat and drink, mingle and dance. These parties are no-agenda parties, meaning there is no topic to discuss, besides what happens organically as folks connect and mingle. We believe that Christians should be the most celebratory people on the planet and so we eat, drink and be merry. All of this is a foretaste of what is to come, a forever party with a gracious Host.
Stories: Folklore is a story-formed culture perhaps more than anything. We believe that everyone has a story and that all good films, books, poems, sitcoms and songs are actually influenced by story. And even more, we believe that overarching all of our stories is the Story of God, and so we as Christians are a story-formed people who not only want to share the story of God, but also want to help create good stories, hear one another’s stories and share the stories of others.
These are the things you are going to encounter if you connect with Folklore. You are going to experience collaboration, community, discussion, stories, good food and drink and a good party. That’s who we are. But we are ever evolving around that DNA.
Folklore has been around for a little over a year and we have been growing each month. People are interested in the culture that we’ve created, and we don’t claim to have it all figured out, but we do believe that there’s something here that human beings long for. There has been some unique opportunities that have come our way and we are looking forward to the next season of Folklore. In the next few months you’ll see some of the things that are next for Folklore. We are working on a fresh website, some unique collaborations, some re-branding and some new content. Although we are ever evolving we will always keep to our original DNA as described above. All the things we add have to go through our DNA filter. If you would like to learn more about Folklore or how you could partner with us please contact us. We’d love to set up a Skype/Google Chat call or connect via social media or email.