Incarnation friends, I am SO excited about the start of Dinner & Dialogues this week! I've invited a few neighbors that I've had good conversations with and want to go a little deeper (pray with me that they come!). And I'm really looking forward to sitting down with all of you to eat a homemade meal cooked by someone who is Not Me once a week.
But I know that many of you also have questions about what it is, why we’re doing it, what to expect, and more. So I’m going to try my best to answer them here, but if I miss a burning question, please email me and ask! Better yet, email Morgan, whom I’ve dubbed our “Alpha Male” because he’s the Alpha point person on our (otherwise all-female) staff team.
What is South Arlington Dinner & Dialogue?
It’s just what it sounds like: dinner together and good conversation. We’ll begin with dinner, catered by a friend of our church who cooks delicious food. (Again: Not. Me.) If you have allergies, you can let us know when you register.
Then we’ll kick off conversation by watching a short video together and discussing at our tables. The videos and discussion questions are produced by Alpha, an organization with a long track record of facilitating good conversation around faith topics. Each table will have a few assigned discussion leaders who are just there to make sure the conversation doesn’t fall flat or veer way off course.
Where will it be? Why?
We’re meeting at Theatre on the Run. We wanted a public building that was easily accessible
and felt comfortable for all kinds of people to walk into (unlike, say, a church). As a significant bonus, that means we’ll be next door to New District Brewing Co, a favorite Incarnation hangout, which means you can invite someone to grab a beer and then join you for Dinner & Dialogue afterward.
Who is it for?
We hope EVERYONE in our church will come and bring someone. This is a place for the convinced, the curious, and the downright skeptical; it’s not a place to be judged or debated. All faiths, questions, and ideas contribute to a meaningful conversation in a welcoming environment.
What if I invite someone and they say no?
Thanks for taking the brave step of inviting someone. Whether or not they accept your invite, please come anyway! Free dinner and good conversation with awesome Incarnation people is always a good idea.
I want to come, but I know I’m going to miss a few weeks. Is that okay?
Yes! Conversation works best when the groups stay mostly the same week to week, so we’d love for you to try to make as many as you possibly can. But life happens, and we get it. Please come as often as you can make it.
Just one note: after the 4th week, we will not be accepting new people, as newcomers after that point could disrupt the environment of safety we’re trying to create. So if you want to come or want to bring someone, please plan to join us sometime in the first 4 weeks.
What topics will we cover?
The Alpha materials cover one topic each week. Those topics are:
Is there more to life than this?
Who is Jesus?
Why did Jesus die?
How can I have faith?
Why and how should I read the Bible?
How can I resist evil?
Does God heal today?
In addition, on Feb 9-10, we’ll take a retreat together to explore topics about the work of the Holy Spirit.
I already know a lot about those topics. Why should I come?
This is our only small group opportunity for the next two months, so please come for all the reasons you would normally come to a small group: to stay connected with your church community midweek; to form new friendships and deepen existing ones; to engage in interesting conversation that stretches and grows your faith; to ask questions and be vulnerable; and to eat really good food together in community. Plus, this particular small group offers the unique opportunity to extend hospitality to people who believe different things and learn from their perspectives.
What’s this I hear about a retreat?
We’ll spend a Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning at Camp Highroad, a beautiful and rustic camp setting in Middleburg, VA (about 45-60 minutes away). This will be a time to rest, reflect, get to know one another better, and enjoy more good food and conversation (sensing a theme yet?). Details are still being worked out, but we know the cost will be low and the fun and relaxation will be high. Carpooling, non-overnight options, and scholarships will be available.
What if I’m not good at talking about Jesus?
That’s great, actually. Nothing grinds conversation to a halt like a bunch of Christian jargon and bible references.
Christianity is full of countercultural ideas and includes a heavy dose of mystery. It naturally elicits questions and skepticism, and that’s perfectly okay. Responses like “that’s a great question” or even “I don’t know; now I’m curious” are refreshing, honest ways of keeping a conversation going and being yourself.
And as a bonus, going through the Alpha materials will help all of us grow more conversant in our faith by practicing it weekly in normal, natural conversation in the context of real relationships. Plus, there’s food. Food always helps awkward conversations.
What if I don’t really like apologetics and don’t think they address the real reasons people resist faith in Jesus, especially in our post-truth society?
Perfect. I’m totally with you, and if you’re asking this sort of question, we should grab coffee sometime. :)
Apologetics can be great for answering some logical objections to the faith, but are not so great at reaching people at a heart level, where most real objections reside. Fortunately, Alpha is so much more than apologetics. While its videos do contain some apologetic elements (and in my opinion, those are really well done), the heart of Alpha is relationships. People come to Alpha because they feel accepted and valued just as they are in a welcoming, respectful atmosphere. We want to grow as a church that creates that kind of atmosphere and invites people into it, and we want you to be part of it! Please come, eat, and learn and grow with us.
Okay, I’m totally convinced. This will be awesome. What do I do now?
Sign up here, invite a friend, and see you on Wednesday!