Religion in the 21st Century featuring Peter Rollins
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20
Where: Brenau Downtown Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville
Cost: $65 through participating churches or $75 online
More info: www.fbcgainesville.org/connect/adults/religion-in-the-21st-century or http://peterrollins.net or call 770-534-7354
For author and theologian Peter Rollins, the current institution of church is similar to a sports bar.
“If you’ve gone through a breakup, you go to sports bar, have a drink, listen to music and forget about the pain,” the native Irishman said during a phone interview from his Los Angeles home. “But the next day, you wake up and the pain is still there.”
Rollins, however, thinks the future church should resemble a place akin to an Irish pub.
“At an Irish pub, you talk about your troubles and you sing songs that help you connect with your pain. Then you go home and feel better.”
This concept and its different facets will be explored during a two-day series called Religion for the 21st Century series at the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville. The sessions will begin Friday, Feb. 19, followed by two more Saturday, Feb. 20, at 301 Main St. SW. The topic are:
7 p.m. Friday: Session I – Contemporary Religion and the Need for Pyrotheology
10 a.m. Saturday: Session II – The Religious Impact of this Approach
1 p.m. Saturday: Session III – A Picture of the 21st Century Church
Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the Friday night session and 9 a.m. for the Saturday morning session. Each session will be followed by a structured question and answer moderated by church leaders.
Tickets are $65 through participating churches, including First Baptist Church, Grace Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church and other churches serving Gainesville and Northeast Georgia. Online tickets are $75 and available at peterrollins.net/2015/07/emw-lectures-gainesville-ga.
The registration fee includes all three lectures, coffee and water service, the presenter’s reception on Friday, and lunch on Saturday, according to Rollins’ website (peterrollins.net).
First Baptist Church associate pastor Will Dyer, who suggested bringing Rollins to the city, is looking forward to the event. He explained Rollins takes an entirely different approach to the religion of faith.
“His thoughts don’t square with the institution of the church,” Dyer said. “He is going to come in and challenge our idea of what it means to be the church. And he is going to ask ‘Why does the church matter in an increasing secular world?’”
Rollins said the secular world, in fact, can be just as religious as the established church.
“Basically, in a nutshell, everyone is promised we can have what will make us happy and what will make us whole,” he said, pointing to the accumulation of money or material possessions or even an addictive drug. “Anyone who promises that you can be made whole and not have to face the difficulties of life is lying to you or themselves.”
Instead, Rollins encourages people to become free from the pursuit of happiness and embrace the beauty and difficulties of life.
“It is a way of joyfully embracing the range of human emotions and finding God in the midst of life,” he said, adding he believes a 21st century church needs to do just that. “Sermons should draw you into life and the hymns should help you look at the dark places and work through them.”
He said some churches and sermons focus on the joys and praises rather than the sorrows and struggles of life. Dyer tends to agree.
“Most of the songs we sing in church are Jesus is my boyfriend,” he said. “And our prayers in church are ‘God will deliver us. God will rescue us.’ That prohibits us from experiencing the trauma of life.”
With the lecture series, Rollins will force the participants to embrace doubt and ambiguity, Dyer said. The associate pastor then warned churchgoers Rollins will make them think deeply, disagree and get angry.
“All those things are good things,” he said. “They force us to reconsider why we believe what we believe. And in some ways they help us to reconfigure what matters most with our life before God.”
For more information, visit www.fbcgainesville.org/connect/adults/religion-in-the-21st-century or www.peterrollins.net or call Dyer at 770-534-7354.