|Ryan Byers at Christ Church in Fort Thomas. FTM file.|
FTM first reported the sale and rebranding of the Midway Cafe last week, so their application submitted to the city was not surprising. However, at first glance the application submitted by United Christ Church (15 S. Fort Thomas Avenue) may raise an eyebrow. But pastor of the Christ Church, Ryan Byers, said that his idea was about making the church a community gathering place.
"How can we make the Church a community gathering place? How can we get people who live in Fort Thomas to see our space and realize that we are available for the other six days a week for all kinds of events? If we can bring people in and further the mission of the church, that's a great thing," he said.
Byers has been the pastor of Christ Church for the past two and half years and thinks the centrally located Christ Church could be a third-place.
A self-described craft-beer lover with an entrepreneurial mind, he helped start the first Christ Church Festival in 2013. Now in its third year, Byers said he is trying to rebrand the festival into Fort Thomas' version of Oktoberfest. He said he originally spoke to some members of the church about doing a beer exchange, but a call to the state's Alcoholic Beverage office squelched that idea.
According to Byers the church was told they'd have to get a three-day license for the festival, but when he found out it wasn't much more money to apply for a yearly license, they opted to go that route. "We will have to get the alcohol through a distributor, but that will likely work out in our benefit," he said. "If it goes well we could have more events like this and inside or out (the church)."
"Oktoberfest Fort Thomas" will take place on September 12th of this year. The German American Citizens League helps to prepare the Oktoberfest in Cincinnati and will also help Christ Church get it as close to authentic as possible.
"Christ Church was founded by the German Evangelical Church, so I tell our congregation that we are getting back to those roots," Byers joked. "Our Oktoberfest will be the week before Oktoberfest Zinzinnati so it'll be a warmup of sorts."
Established in 1906, Christ Church like most churches, is suffering from a decline in membership. Byers began studying the causes of that attrition when he first began his career path within the church. It's his hope that "Oktoberfest Fort Thomas" will help turn that around.