The rostered leaders met today, led by their new dean, Mike Button. We began with worship and covered a host of topics.

After lunch I bumped into the ubiquitous quilters, finishing their lunch.

During the day, food was being prepared for Alpha this evening, tables being set, organization being done.

At 6 pm the 16 Alpha leaders met in the prayer room for a kind of preface pep talk by Pastor Chris and prayer. Table leaders, food preparers, child care folks. Chris reminded them they were feeding Christ’s sheep, and they were Jesus for these guests. We sang a song and then prayed. Energy was high. So we’re nerves a bit. Chris asked the group what the guests needed, and what the staff needed, listing them on a marker board. Everybody then prayed together for a bit.

Then Lynn met with the table leaders, briefing them about who would be at their tables. Each group got a folder with information about the guests. By 6:20 the group broke and went out to greet the guests.

The guests came and came and came. There was a strong emphasis on hospitality. Extra chairs were set up. The meal was great.

The host, Jim, greeted everyone and told them what to expect on Tuesday nights for the next nine weeks, 6:30-8:30 pm: Prayer, dinner, lecture, dessert, discussion. He told his story of moving into the area with humor. He also talked about finding the church and joining a small group. Introductions were made. Each session is a lecture. If you miss a lecture there are booklets on the table you can have for free to catch up. Jim shared information about the retreat at the end.

Alpha is not a new member class. It is a class on the basics of the Christian faith. Half the participants are already members. Jim told us these meetings would be “edifying” and a lot of fun.

Then he introduced the speaker, John Perez. John is from New Orleans’ 9th Ward, and his accent was thick. He gave us a short lesson in 9th Ward “English” so we could understand him:
Anthony = Ant-knee
Sink = Zink
Oil = Earl
Point = Pernt
Oyster = Er-stir
Toilet = Ter-let
Mayonnaise = Mine-as

Who is Jesus? Did Jesus exist, or is he like Robin Hood? Is there evidence for Jesus beyond the Bible? Jim talked about Pliny, Heroditus, Tacitus, Josephus, Roman Emperors…) Then he started talking about the New Testament and text criticism.

Who was Jesus? What did he do? What did he have to say? The speaker then told quite a few Bible stories. We pastors often assume people know all these stories, but they are fuzzy for many. He encouraged people to read the Sermon on the Mount, Marthew 5-7. He shared the Jesus he knows and loves.

Then he went back through an overview of the Hebrew Bible, hitting on the passages yearning for the coming of the messiah. This was followed by a strong argument that Jesus clearly was crucified and died. He talked about the message of the cross and resurrection. There was a lot of C.S. Lewis-style modern theology. It’s not my theological approach, but those present seemed attentive.

Next week: Why was Jesus Crucified? The group had conversation over dessert and headed out around 8:30. I left by 9:00, a 14-hour day.

Tomorrow, Pastor Chris meets with his small group at 5 am. Yes, I wrote that correctly. 5:00 in the morning. “Who,” I asked, “meets at 5 am?” Turns out they are all Marines. They work across the lake, and want to hit the Causeway by 6 am. Unbelievable. I’m passing on this one.