It takes an orchestra to perform a symphony, and it takes a diligent chapter to foster one spectacular speaking tour.
Originally, two scholars were headed to Washington DC for a quick-yet-important meeting. Then an email to the local RTB chapter (see sidebar) from our events manager, Ken Hultgren, sprung chapter members into action. They contacted Chi Alpha Ministries to activate a network of university connections and suddenly the door opened for events at key universities.
Soon the schedule expanded to include the entire scholar team and a five-day, 17-event speaking tour with additional talks at Johns Hopkins, Morgan State, and the C. S. Lewis Institute, plus a number of other universities and churches.
Over the course of the trip, the scholar team addressed a variety of topics, including why the universe is the way it is; the challenge of religious pluralism; and how recent scientific advances provide a testable case for creation.
Fazale Rana and Jeff Zweerink and chapter member and apologist Dr. Nick Tavani headed to Morgan State to give a seminar on science and faith. Participants responded with much enthusiasm. There’s even the exciting possibility of a partnership between the university and RTB for ongoing outreach in Baltimore’s urban core.
After these events, Dr. David Yue, DC chapter member and distinguished Johns Hopkins professor, gave our team a tour of his research lab where they spent time interacting with grad students.
From there, Fuz and Jeff gave presentations at Johns Hopkins. When the students came to the microphone they seemed more interested in asserting their views (influenced by recent atheist’ writings) than in asking sincere questions. Still others, says Jeff, “seemed to appreciate the weight of our arguments but were troubled by what they’d read or heard about the God described in the Bible.” When asked about the response overall, Jeff adds, “We were able to respond to their objections, and hopefully we gave them something to think about.”
Chapter member Bill Schworer was instrumental in opening doors for Hugh to speak at the C. S. Lewis Institute (where Schworer is studying to become a fellow). The event drew a capacity crowd, and discussion continued long into the evening. Leaders spoke of planning a future conference with RTB.
Kenneth Samples, an avid C. S. Lewis fan, had the opportunity to visit the Aslan House in Annapolis, Maryland. There he engaged in a lively discussion of theology and apologetics with invited guests. Kenneth’s comment afterward, “The word on the street now is that I may be good, but I’m not safe!” (His play on a line from The Chronicles of Narnia.)
Hugh, Fuz, Kenneth, and Jeff spread out among different venues—even different states—for much of the trip. But chapter president John Entzminger and member Barbara Hvasta worked diligently to coordinate a time for the whole scholar team to dialogue with local pastors. “In that setting,” Nick said, “I saw Hugh as a pastor…talking from his heart. It was beautiful.” The event—which drew many more pastors than a similar luncheon in 2008—was sponsored entirely by the chapter.
RTB scholars and staff also had the opportunity to meet with donors in the area. Some drove more than two hours to be with the team. “Being able to interact with these committed partners in person was a blessing and honor,” remarked Hannah Palpant, director of ministry advancement.
Overall, the DC trip included eight events at churches and nine events at five universities, bringing RTB into direct contact with an estimated 1,750 people. Ken Hultgren says, “Every event happened because a chapter member opened the door. These members worked hard—in some cases for years—to create opportunities for RTB speakers. Places that may not have been receptive in the past responded to the chapter’s efforts and welcomed our scholars for the first time—and we’re already planning for return visits to most of these venues.”
Together, RTB’s scholars, staff, and chapter members remain fully devoted to bringing the ministry’s faith-building message to new and broader audiences. With help from “orchestras” across the country and around the world, we can extend our reach even farther and more effectively!
By Sandra Dimas