For me, one of the great highlights of the last two years at Nativity has been the restart of the Nativity Speaker Series. I consider myself unbelievably privileged to be able to learn from, spend time with, and host some of the most influential religious thinkers of our day right here in Greenwood. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would be talking theology with Walter Brueggemann over a plate of chicken livers, and yet, there we were at the Crystal Grill last year before I took him to the airport!
The first weekend in March, Nativity will welcome the Rev. Dr. William Willimon for the 2017 Speaker Series for a program entitled Why Jesus? Born in South Carolina, Dr. Willimon is now known as one of the great preachers of our day. In 1996, a survey out of Baylor University named him, alongside Billy Graham, as one of the twelve best preachers in the English speaking world. He served as Dean of the Duke University Chapel for fifteen years before being elected the United Methodist Bishop of North Alabama in 2004. Since 2012, he has been back at Duke Divinity School as Professor of the Practice of Ministry.
A distinctive feature of Willimon’s preaching and teaching is the high expectations he has of the Church as it witnesses to and follows Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior. Willimon is a fascinating fellow in that he has spent his career deep within the governance and structures of the Church but has never been confused as to Whom he owes his first allegiance. As Rusty Douglas said to me, “Willimon has been known to knock out a stained glass window or two!”
Friday, March 3, the weekend will begin with a light reception at Turnrow Books at 5:30pm. I am grateful to Lucy Swayze who is helping pull off this new feature of our speaker series. After enjoying fellowship and showing off our beautiful bookstore to out of town guests, we’ll head back to Nativity for the first lecture, “The Most Interesting Person in the World,” beginning at about 6:30pm. Saturday morning, we’ll have a light continental breakfast at 8:30am followed by lectures at 9am, “Jesus Christ: the Truth About God,” and 10:45am, “Jesus Christ: the Salvation of the World.” In between, Dr. Willimon will be available to sign books.
On Sunday, March 5, Nativity’s adult forum will be treated to some extra time with Dr. Willimon at 9:30am. All through February, we will be reading his book Why Jesus?, and on this day, he’ll lead a class that he has intriguingly titled “Jesus Christ at the Church of the Nativity.” Finally, at 10:30, he’ll be our guest preacher for the first Sunday in Lent. As we hear the story of Jesus’ trials in the wilderness, his sermon title is “Just Say No! Resisting Temptation with Jesus.”
It should be a wonderful weekend. I hope you’ll plan on taking advantage of this great opportunity and invite friends from near and far!