The event at Wycliffe College last night was a wonderful way to while away a Friday’s eve. Good food, old and new friends and a chance to hear Brian McLaren.
Brian is a story teller… a very good one at that. And he told us the story of april, a young harpist who happened to be playing at the book launch of one his earlier books. An event that someone in his church had put on to celebrate the published work of their pastor. april was hired to play. She wasn’t a church member…anywhere.
As the last few stragglers left the building, McLaren looked out a church window and saw the short musician inching her concert-sized harp out to her van. He responded to the third thing that popped into his mind and went out to help her.
While loading the Harp into her van, april challenged Brian on whether he actually believed what his book spoke of – she’d scanned it during a break in playing. The hour was late and Brian didn’t really have the opportunity to engage her in the kind of conversation her questioned required – but he ran back into the church, grabbed a copy of his book, scrawled his email address in it and gave it to her as she left.
Sunday afternoon, the next day – McLaren checked his email to discover a long email from april after she’d read his 306 page book that morning. He shared the email with us last night (with her permission). The email exchange became the basis for his book, More Ready Than You Realize, where april is known as Alice. Over the course of the email exchange and occasional encounters, april moves from being attracted to Christ while being scared to death of the church, to become part of a Christian community. (Today she works as a leader in one of the church plants from McLaren’s church.)
Last night’s event was for Wycliffe’s Institute of Evangelism and Brian used the context to show (using april’s email) how those of us who may call ourselves Evangelicals (I’m not sure I still do) are answering questions the Emerging Generation are not asking. He shared a rather stunning statistic that a recent survey of 16 to 29 year olds suggested their #1 understanding of Christians is that we were anti-homosexual. Now does that make Christianity attractive or what?
Imbi and I had the opportunity to chat with Brian for a few minutes during the wine and cheese portion of the event. (How I love being an Anglican again! We get to eat cheese!!) Having had the dubious pleasure of hanging with a number of Christian “celebrities” in the past, I was pleasingly shocked by Brian. He’s as warm, engaging and real in person as he is on his blog and in his books. I confess I wasn’t expecting that – and his charm and warmth disarmed my cynicism.
It was a very good evening and I look forward to tonight at Richview. I’ll write on that tomorrow.
(NB: rather than an affectation, the lower-case april reflects how she did not use capitals in most of her emails to Brian.)