CEDAR RAPIDS — When Jo Wasta first read about a two-day conference presented by Jesus Seminar on the Road coming to Cedar Rapids in 2014, she was intrigued.
“My husband and I were interested and thought we’d go for the first day,” she said.
Both grew up in Methodist homes, and their religion and faith is a frequent topic of conversation. While they enjoyed the lessons they’d learned through the years, Wasta said, they each thought there was more to be told. That 2014 conference, she said, promised to provide more to the story.
They found the first day of the conference so interesting, she said, they returned for the second day.
“That conference gave more perspective to the sayings and actions of Jesus and his people,” Wasta said. “Everything we’d learned through the years started to make a lot more sense.”
Wasta is a member of Faith Explorers, a Cedar Rapids study group. She’s working with that group to bring Jesus Seminar on the Road back to Cedar Rapids this week.
The event takes place Friday and Saturday at Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa, 202 10th St. SE. Hours are 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Cost is $20 for the Friday evening lecture, $30 each for the morning and afternoon session on Saturday, or $75 for the whole weekend.
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The focus this year is encouraging new ways of exploring spiritual life based on rediscovered ancient texts, such as those found in Egypt.
Presenters are Hal Taussig, of Union Theological Seminary in New York, and Celene Lillie, director of the Tanho Center for a new New Testament. Both are longtime scholars with Jesus Seminar on the Road. Taussig led the conference in 2014, presenting “new” ancient texts of the New Testament.
The Jesus Seminar was formed by a group of scholars in 1985 to more closely examine the “true historical Jesus,” the “more to the story” the Wastas were looking for. Jesus Seminar on the Road is a program of the Westar Institute, a non-profit research and educational organization that brings together the scholarly study of religion and the way popular culture perceives it. It’s a non-denominational group that doesn’t promote any one doctrine over others.
While Wasta and her husband were interested in the scholars’ presentations, not everyone welcomes the new take on religious history.
“What we know of Jesus has been presented by the church,” said the Rev. Bob Bromley, retired pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Cedar Rapids. “The Jesus Seminars try to ferret out what has been added by man and study the man.
“It’s very controversial,” Bromley said. “Jesus Seminar on the Road is designed to help really change what people understand about what many of us learned in seminary 50 years ago.”
This year’s conference focuses on the spirituality of faith — a first for the conference.
“We all, as people, are not just heads thinking, but we are full selves that need other kinds of ways to become our best selves,” Taussig said. “Throughout history that has meant spiritual practice and a feeling for spirit. This is important in that we’re not seeing just in our heads and our intellectual selves, but also our spiritual selves, so that we may be more integrated in our encounter with these ancient texts.”
If you Go
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— What: Jesus Seminar on the Road — “The Power of Ancient Texts: A Workshop on Meaning and Practice for the 21st Century”
— When: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
— Where: PCI Medical Pavilion Community Room, third floor, 202 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids
— Cost: $20 for Friday evening lecture, $30 each for morning and afternoon session on Saturday, or $75 for the whole weekend
— Extras: This event qualifies for Continuing Education Units for clergy and other educators. Registration is accepted online and at the door. Credit cards are accepted.
— Info: westarinstitute.org/upcoming-events-calendar/cedar-rapids-2016/