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Secular Bible Study casts wide net

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Organized in part by Antlerman, a moderator in the Ex-Christian.Net Forum.

As if it's not unusual enough that Trinity United Methodist Church and the Minnesota Atheists have joined forces to promote a project, wait till you hear what the project is: a Bible study class.

Granted, it's not your normal one. At least, that's the hope. Called Secular Bible Study, the program aims to "foster and nurture relationships between folks who would otherwise avoid each other," said Chester O'Gorman, community outreach director for the northeast Minneapolis church. "Secular Bible Study hopes to attract a variety of people -- Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, Christians and even Jews and Muslims."

The weekly class will focus on the Bible's historical and cultural context. Organizers have drawn up a set of ground rules designed to keep participants from proselytizing, but that doesn't mean that they want to discourage disagreement. Just the opposite.

"We've discerned that people have lost or lack the skills to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue in the context of profound disagreement," O'Gorman said. "An emphasis will be placed on dialogue among the group of small groups."

The first meeting will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Gold Room at Diamonds Cafe, 1618 Central Av. NE. The class is free. Bibles will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their own. No particular version is recommended. In fact, O'Gorman is hoping to use a wide array of versions as a conversation starter.
Organ grinder

The Church of St. Peter in North St. Paul has a new organ, and to show it off, organist Rodney Barbour will offer a free workshop today and a free concert Sunday.

Barbour, director of music at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, is known for workshops he presents for the American Guild of Organists. His trademark is encouraging musicians to "think outside the Bachs."

OK, that's corny, but he gets away with it because he really knows his stuff. The workshop, which is open to all but will focus primarily on tips for church music directors, is at 10 a.m. today. The concert is at 3 p.m. Sunday. The church is at 2600 N. Margaret St.
All that jazz

Lent begins Wednesday, and for part of the Christian community, that involves fasting. But for many people, fasting is not an option -- it's an economic reality.

To help people who fall into that category, Minnetonka United Methodist Church is throwing a Fat Tuesday jazz party to raise money for ICA (Intercongregation Communities Association) Foodshelf, which combats hunger in the western suburbs.

You don't have to be Methodist to attend. You don't even have to like jazz, although it helps. Since launching a weekly jazz service two years ago, the church has become a gathering spot for both musicians and fans.

The party runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and includes a pancake supper. Admission is $5, with ages 8 and under free and a $15 maximum per family. The church is on County Road 101 between Hwy. 7 and Minnetonka Blvd.