Life does not need to be complicated: a good beer, a good dog, good music and some fellowship. Who knows where an appreciation of life’s simple virtues will take you? Ask Bill Miller.
The man more properly addressed as Father Bill is a Texas-born Episcopal priest, author, bar owner and world traveler whose resume prompted me to triple-check that the 10 Commandments do not include the prohibition, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s life.”
With a website (FatherBill.net) titled “Spirituality for real people,” Miller believes that paths to enlightenment come in many forms. Even in his bar, Padre’s, in arty Marfa, Texas, which recently closed its doors (Miller is seeking an investor) after a New Year’s Eve concert by the Flatlanders’ Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
“One of the things I learned is how similar being a bar owner is to being a parish priest,” Miller says. “You have these diverse communities, with great music, joyful movement, an atmosphere of acceptance, potent sacramental beverages, an occasional brawl, and you mix all that in with these moments of transcendence and confession and penitence and love and loss. Transformation happens.”
Miller will be at Books and Books in Coral Gables at 4 p.m. Sunday to share stories of happiness and hoppiness in “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God: The Whole and Holy Truth About Lager, Loving and Living,” a 2014 collection of essays published by the Simon and Schuster imprint Howard Books. Just re-released in paperback is a 2005 book inspired by his Airedale titled “The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul” (Seabury).
Miller has spent most of his religious life leading congregations in Houston, Austin and Dallas. His church in Austin became a destination for the artistic and literary crowd in the city, including William Broyles Jr., former editor of Newsweek and the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Tom Hanks’ “Apollo 13” and “Cast Away.”
In a blurb for “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God,” Broyles calls Miller “a magician with language. His stories are beautifully written. They’re parables, gateways into the deep mysteries of life, love, and death. They find great joy in the everyday wonders of life. The simplest things become beautiful and, right before your eyes, divine.”
Miller recently spent a decade at a church in Hawaii, where he thought he'd retire, before answering a call within himself to take a position at a church in Covington, La., on Lake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans. What it may lack in volcanoes, Covington more than makes up for in musical and literary inspiration.
“My church office is in a building that used to house Walker Percy’s office, the old St. Tammany Art Association Office,” says Miller, who has led sermons based on the music of Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”
He will begin his Sunday in Miami preaching at the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. services at St. Philip's Church in Coral Gables, with a homily based on Luke 7:38.
Miller acknowledges that he writes “with a little bit of an edge, an earthiness, and honesty” that isn’t for everyone, but “I think reaches a much broader audience than a lot of spiritual literature might reach.”
Plus, Miller says, God is funny.
“My goodness, God is the originator of humor and irony and the punch line,” he says. “The more we are able to laugh, the more we are able to discern truth. Humor is part of our spiritual salvation.”
One of the central themes of “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God” is that the spiritual quest is a communal activity, and many of the essays are set with Miller sharing a beverage with someone.
“There’s one of me sharing a Chimay with the abbot of Scourmont Abbey [Dom Armand Veilleux], in Belgium, where Chimay is brewed [by Trappiste monks],” Miller says. “Let me tell you something. He is a real person. I’m simply sitting down with him, having a beer — in this case, of course, a Chimay — and talking about brewing, about ministry, about God, about spiritual truth. The book is filled with those kinds of connections.”
Miller’s currently at work on another book, a search for spirituality in surfing. Not lost on him is the irony of having written a book on drinking while living in Hawaii, and now writing a book on surfing while living near New Orleans.
“There are some themes associated with surfing, with patience and waiting, with balance … all of those are very powerful images that speak to a more balanced and whole lifestyle,” Miller says. “I think that is something that people in our culture are desperate for. I know in my own life I’m missing that.”
For more information, visit BooksAndBooks.com.
LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED
A lot of the ideals that Father Bill Miller seeks can be found on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village at the For the Love Music Festival, a celebration of such communal activities as food, art, music and beer. Among more than 30 acts set to perform noon to 11p.m. will be revered and reconstituted indie rockers Further Seems Forever, the wounds of singer Jason Gleason’s long-ago departure now healed. Also performing on four stages in and around C&I Studios (541 NW First Ave.) will be Civilian, Kids, Jacob Jeffries, MeWithoutYou, the Goddamn Hustle, Hoyle and more. Tickets: $35 at ForTheLoveFestival.com.
SWEET PITCHERS OF MERCY
Miller, whose geneaology goes back to Ireland, Scotland and Germany, blessed his bar, Padre’s, with the prayer of St. Brigid that wishes for "a great lake of ale for the King of Kings,” a symbol of the joy to be found in abundance and camaraderie. This weekend we begin to fill Brigid’s “sweet pitchers of mercy” in honor of another saint, Patrick, who died on March 17. The Delray Beach St. Patricks Day Parade and Festival begins 5-10 p.m. Friday with a pre-party on Old School Square, followed by the Atlantic Avenue parade beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday and more festivaling on the square until 7 p.m. Info: StPatrickParade.com. The 30th annual Irish Fest on Flagler brings its usual strong lineup of music to downtown West Palm Beach Saturday-Sunday, including Celtic rockers Off Kilter, Noel Kingston and the Young Wolftones, and Gaelic Brew, traditional Irish rock balladeers direct from County Cork. (Think “Hills of Donegal” and “Galway Girl,” but you can hear their version of “Sweet Home Alabama” here.) Admission: $5, younger than 14 free. Info: IrishFlorida.org. Fort Lauderdale’s annual downtown parade begins at noon Saturday on Las Olas Boulevard, ending at Riverfront, with the free festival taking over Huizenga Plaza on the Riverwalk until 7 p.m. Musical highlights range from Celtic Bridge to the tribute band U2 by UV (5:30 p.m.). Info: StPatsFTL.com. Hollywood’s 18th annual downtown parade and festival, emceed by radio personality Footy, begins at noon Sunday, with more music by U2 by UV (5 p.m.). Info: StPatricksParade.com. If you want to start a new beer-drinking tradition, next year circle Feb. 1, the date St. Brigid died.
SWEET BOTTLES OF MERCY
The Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park at 7 p.m. Tuesday will debut its apple-pie inspired Muy Bonita ale in bottles. “Using our Double Brown ale as a base, this batch was treated with a copious amount of cinnamon, over a thousand pounds of apples, loads of vanilla, and most importantly love ... lots and lots of love.” What’s not to love? The 22-ounce bottles are $9.99 each. Look for them to begin showing up on retail shelves later in the week. Info: FunkyBuddhaBrewery.com.
SWEET JACUZZI OF MERCY
One of South Florida’s most happeninig gathering spots, downtown Fort Lauderdale's Rhythm & Vine Beer Garden, hosts one of South Florida’s most happening bands, Miami’s Jacuzzi Boys, on Thursday (March 10). Admission is free. It’s just too much to comprehend. Info: Facebook.com/RhythmAndVineFTL., Facebook.com/JacuzziBoys.
Through the end of the month, Pistache French Bistro (101 N Clematis St., West Palm Beach) will donate a dollar from each sale of their Blood Orange Manhattan to No Kid Hungry (NoKidHungry.org), which works to “ensure that every child in the United States has access to healthy food where they live, where they learn and where they play.” Info: PistacheWPB.com.
SUNFEST FOR LESS
SunFest is offering advance tickets at a discount through Friday: $35 for a one-day pass, $55 for two days and $75 for a five-day pass. On Saturday, the price for each goes up $5. SunFest 2016 is April 27-May 1 on the West Palm Beach Waterfront with performers including Alabama Shakes, Meghan Trainor, Duran Duran, the Roots, ZZ Top, Jason, Derulo, Train and many others. Info: SunFest.com.
The Craft Beer Cartel Carnival is coming up at 2-6 p.m. March 19 to celebrate the first anniversary of the beer stop (557 SW 12th Ave., Fort Lauderdale) with food, beer, live music and games. But the real highlight will be the dunk tank manned by Julian Siegel, of Craft Beer Cartel and the Riverside Market across the street. For $5, you get three tries to dunk Siegel, who we’re sure will not be shy with the smack talk. Wristbands for drinkers also cost $5. Proceeds go to the worthy work of the Peanut Butter & Jelly Project, the nonprofit organization that serves the local homeless and veteran communities (PBAndJProject.com). More info: Facebook.com/CraftBeerCartel.
TAKE THE KIDS
While the Fort Lauderdale Strikers continue their tour of China, you can watch Boca Raton FC take on the Strikers' NASL rival New York Cosmos at 7 p.m. Saturday at Boca Raton High School. Tickets are $10, free for kids 12 and younger. Info: BocaRatonFC.com.
Word came this week that the Baboons will release their first album in 15 years, a 15-song bilingual ode to the Miami melting pot titled “Spanglish,” with a party April 16 at the North Beach Bandshell (7275 Collins Ave, Miami Beach) on a bill with reggae greats Third World. Info: Facebook.com/TheBaboons.
OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS
Guitarist Denny Laine (Moody Blues, Paul McCartney and Wings) will be joined by local bard Jim Camacho 8 p.m. Thursday (March 10) at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room (CultureRoom.net) ... New York-based actress, ukulelist and jazz singer Gracie Terzian is at Lagniappe in Wynwood 9 p.m. Thursday (GracieTerzian.com) … The Copper Tones will share music from an imminent album 8-11 p.m. Friday at Bangin Banjo Brewing Co. in Pompano Beach (TheCopperTonesMusic.com) … The Byrds founder Roger McGuinn plays the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach 8 p.m. Friday (OldSchoolSquare.org) … Haitian singer Emeline Michel performs 8 p.m. Saturday during the GlobalFEST Creole Carnival at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC.org) … The Heavy Pets Duo (Jeff Lloyd and Mike Garulli) are at World of Beer in downtown West Palm Beach 6 p.m. Saturday (Facebook.com/WOBClematis) … Surf poet Donavon Frankenreiter does the Culture Room 8 p.m. Saturday (CultureRoom.net) … The young Indiana quartet Houndmouth brings retro country-rock to Revolution Live 7 p.m. Sunday (JoinTheRevolution.net) … Indie-pop singer Carly Jo Jackson, formerly of FAU and Season 9 of “America’s Got Talent,” is at the Blind Monk in West Palm Beach 8 p.m. Tuesday (TheBlindMonk.com) … Vance Joy, the engaging opener at Taylor Swift’s recent BB&T Center show, is the headliner 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Fillmore Miami Beach (FillmoreMB.com) …