This is Not Your Average Annual Meeting Keynote Address

This is Not Your Average Annual Meeting Keynote Address

Editor’s Note: After publishing this article under the headline “This is Not Your Grandfather’s Annual Meeting Keynote Address,” the Massachusetts Conference received a complaint from a reader who felt the heading reflected an ageist attitude, and that as a church that welcomes all, the MACUCC should not presume that people of a certain age would not appreciate the perhaps radical message that will be brought to the 2015 Annual Meeting by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Of course it was not our intent to insult the older people of our churches. The headline was a play on the 1980s TV commercials that declared this was “not your father’s Oldsmobile.” It was meant to convey that this keynote address – to be given by a female pastor known for her tattoos and colorful language – would be something very different from what people may have come to expect from a Conference Annual Meeting. In retrospect, we should have been more thoughtful in crafting the headline, and I apologize to any readers who were offended.
- Tiffany Vail, Associate for Communication

By Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

“Deeply flawed, and deeply spiritual.”  That’s how Nadia Bolz-Weber, next year’s Annual Meeting keynote speaker and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints described herself in a Denver news interview.

“Nadia is a blogger, author, and well regarded speaker on the importance of church, Christ, and the transforming power of God's grace, and I think she will be a great keynote speaker for Annual Meeting,” said Ian Holland, pastor of The First Church in Swampscott, Congregational and Annual Meeting Moderator.

Nadia Bolz-WeberOthers may describe her as heavily tattooed, loud, sarcastic, cranky and punkish; but this may truly be a case where one should not judge a book by its cover.

According to Holland, Bolz-Weber is a passionate disciple of Christ and a great preacher. “She was raised in a very conservative Church of Christ tradition, rebelled against everything, fell into a life of drug abuse, nearly died, fell in love with her husband, God, and orthodox mainline Christianity, and is now a mother, and a Lutheran pastor of an emergent Lutheran church in Denver that serves both the outcasts of society as well as khaki-wearing middle-class dudes,” he rattled off. 

She has also become a leading voice in the emerging church movement.

“I saw her on YouTube giving a speech\sermon to an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) youth conference that knocked my socks off,” Holland said.  “She is an unlikely Lutheran, with her- 6+ foot tall height, tattoos, black tank-top t-shirts and profanity. Yet she speaks so vividly and relevantly about the mission of the church in our time.”

A former stand-up comic who struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, Bolz-Weber never considered herself to be religious leader material—until the day she ended up leading a friend’s funeral in a smoky downtown comedy club. Surrounded by fellow alcoholics, depressives, and cynics, she realized: These were her people. Maybe she was meant to be their pastor.
Pastrix” (pronounced “pas-triks,”) a term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors.
That’s what she writes about in her latest book, Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, which landed on the New York Times Best Seller list in September 2013.  The book has gotten rave reviews from both clergy and lay people.

The ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson wrote in a review of Bolz-Weber’s book: “Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber speaks the truth of our humanity that we too often want to deny. She declares the radical power of God's grace for Jesus' sake that we so often water down rather than daily be drowned in it. Yes, read at your own risk.”

“Nadia Bolz-Weber is someone who is unafraid to live into her calling as a Christian minister during this time in our lives when to be ‘atheist’ or ‘spiritual but not religious’ is in vogue, said Rev. Anne Cubbage, pastor at First Church, UCC in Sandwich, and Vice-moderator of the upcoming 2015 Annual Meeting.  “Nadia's radical appearance, passionate speech, and willingness to share the gospel with some of those who most need to hear it are some of the reasons that the planning group decided to invite her to be our Annual Meeting speaker.”

“We want to pique the interest and feed the souls of both the persons currently sitting in our churches and those who believe that churches these days are irrelevant and out-dated,” said Cubbage. 

“John the Baptist was pretty strange and powerful in his time,” said Holland. “Nadia is kind of like that too -- a strange and powerful witness for Christ.”

The 216th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference will be held Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13, 2015, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The keynote address will take place Saturday morning and will be open to the public. At Bolz-Weber's request it will NOT be videotaped and so will not be available for viewing later.  Stay tuned for further details early in 2015.


Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane writes news articles for the SNEUCC website. She is also the editor of the Starting With Scripture newsletter. Contact her if: Your church has a great story to tell about an innovative ministry. You have a prayer request to ...

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