Waco church series to move locations

Downtown Waco churches are bringing their storytelling-type series to the Hippodrome. The series has a TED-talk like atmosphere. Photo credit: Dayday Wynn

By Joy Moton | Staff Writer

Every year during the Lenten season, the churches of downtown Waco unite to host a series in honor of the 40 days leading up to Easter. A few years ago, local church leaders felt they were not being effective in reaching beyond their doors.

Tim Jarell, senior pastor of Austin Avenue United Methodist Church, said the leaders of the churches sought ways to become more effective in reaching people in the downtown area and the Baylor community. After being inspired by the Moth, a national storytelling movement of telling real-life stories, the church leaders changed things up this year by moving the series to the Hippodrome to create an atmosphere similar to TED talks.

Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m., visitors can enjoy a free lunch and hear a local speaker share personal stories about how life and faith intersect.

“We were looking for people who we felt would be gifted in telling stories because it’s one thing to preach a message, it’s a different thing to tell a real life story,” Jarrell said.

During the first week, Dr. Jonathan Tran, associate professor in Baylor’s department of religion, spoke about infertility. Last week, Lyndon Olsen, a former ambassador from Sweden, spoke about creating an international monetary fund to help Holocaust survivors. He also shared about his experiences as an ambassador that he was not allowed to discuss during his time of service.

“I have been pleasantly surprised. I think this is our best year of doing this,” said Josh Carney, lead pastor of University Baptist Church. “The venue’s a lot of fun, and the speakers have really exceeded my expectations.”

Vivian Rutherford, president of the Heart of Texas Storytelling Guild, and the April 5 speaker Robert Darden, professor of Baylor’s department of journalism, public relations and new media will also speak in this year’s series.

“It’s one thing for someone to hear a message about the Bible or the doctrine of the church, but to have people talk about real-life stories and where being a person of faith intersects with real life, there’s something that’s striking about that that I think is fresh and deserves a hearing,” Jarrell said.

Carney said he hopes people will be deeply impacted and inspired by the speakers’ stories.

“I hope that people are inspired by the stories, and there’s a deeper hunger for them to move towards something transcendent,” Carney said.

For more information, contact Dee Dee Carson at dcarson@firstpreswaco.org.