ROCKY RIVER: Eric Van Scyoc, lecturing on the miracle of the Transfiguration of Christ, is blowing a lot of smoke.
That’s because he is actually puffing on a big cigar as he discusses St. Matthew’s Gospel writings of Jesus meeting Moses and Elijah — back from the dead — on a mountaintop.
“His face shown bright as the sun,” Van Scyoc reads from the holy text, between tokes on a $10 Perdomo Grand Cru.
The preacher’s listeners, all men, also are puffing big stogies, gathered at a round table in a backroom of a cigar shop.
It’s a twice-a-month Bible study group that meets at Cigar Cigars, a storefront smoke shop in a Rocky River shopping plaza.
“It’s an opportunity to get out of the cold, have a cigar and learn some Bible,” says Larry Gilbert.
Van Scyoc, pastor of St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Rocky River, has been conducting Bible studies at Cigar Cigars for about three years.
So far, the group has puffed through John and is now smoking into Matthew.
Van Scyoc, 57, raised in Arkansas, had been a rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas before earning a divinity degree from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1987.
“I’m doing the same thing now, but with a better product,” he says.
He came to Rocky River in 1994 to pastor St. Thomas’ congregation, which is tied to the Missouri Synod, a Lutheran branch that is generally conservative on social issues.
Van Scyoc says he had reservations when Cigar Cigars owner George Karitakis first approached him about conducting the Bible studies.
He says he told his congregation about the idea and no one objected, so he went ahead, naming it Smokin’ Bible Study.
“There are those who might say, ‘What kind of a Christian would smoke a cigar?’ ” Van Scyoc says.
Gilbert, butting in, says, “Let that be our only sin.”
The backroom could be described as a manly place, rich with masculine decor — heavy leather chairs, a big trophy fish and a picture of a ship decorating walls.
“Some women have said to us, ‘I’m going to come by because it shouldn’t be just for men,’ ” Van Scyoc says.
“They’re certainly welcome, but, so far,” he added, exhaling an aromatic cloud, “none of them have come by.”