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Ancient Christian Texts Inspiring New Spiritual Practices

October 6–7, 2017
Irvine, California

In 1945, a collection of early Christian texts was discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Many were written at the same time as the more familiar texts of the New Testament, but ultimately were excluded from it. As scholarship makes these ancient texts increasingly accessible to the public, they are inspiring new art, music, spiritual practices and more. In this Jesus Seminar on the Road, Celene Lillie and Natalie Renee Perkins will introduce the Gospel of Mary and Thunder: Perfect Mind both in their ancient context and creative, modern expressions.

Session resources

Odes Song Project

Celene Lillie (Ph.D. Union Theological Seminar) is the Director of the Tanho Center and on the pastoral staff at Boulder First United Methodist Church in Colorado. She is the author of The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis (2017).

Natalie Renee Perkins (M.Div., Union Theological Seminary) is a writer, lecturer, preacher, chaplain and composer who intertwines early Christian material with contemporary society through a social justice lens. She has performed professionally with cruise lines, national tours, symphony orchestras, and the USO.

Program Details

Social and Spiritual Practices, Yesterday and Today

What do we know about the spiritual practices of the ancient world? How do we engage in spiritual practices today? We’ll explore these questions and also talk about the exciting possibilities for thinking about spiritual practice that have emerged with the ongoing scholarship and imagination inspired by the Nag Hammadi Codices found in Egypt in 1945.
(Lillie & Perkins)
Friday evening, 7:30–9 pm

Ascent of the Soul in the Gospel of Mary

The fragmentary Gospel of Mary portrays Mary as a comforter and stabilizing force for Jesus’ followers in the wake of his crucifixion and resurrection. It also presents teachings of Jesus that were given privately—teachings that cause the disciples to question Mary’s authority. This session introduces Mary’s “ascent of the soul” and how it might be used as a practice today.
Saturday, 9:30–10:30 am

The Power of Thunder’s “I am”

Thunder: Perfect Mind is an ancient text that speaks in the voice of a predominantly female deity. Thunder mixes paradoxes of weakness and strength, male and female, honor and shame in one voice. It challenges readers to deconstruct and reconstruct divine images and human identities through the lenses of both the ancient and contemporary worlds. We will also explore our own creative “I am” statements together.
Saturday, 11 am – noon

Singing the Odes of Solomon

This session introduces six texts from The Odes of Solomon written around the same time as the rest of the traditional New Testament but, for whatever reason, did not make it into the contemporary canon. The melodies for this early Christian worship material was lost ages ago, but following a brief study of this book, we will take the unique opportunity to breathe new life into these pieces.
Saturday, 1:30–2:30 pm

Questions and Answers

Lillie and Perkins will share some concluding thoughts, followed by questions and discussion.
Saturday, 3–4 pm


Irvine United Congregational Church

Local Contact and Information

All events at:

Irvine United Congregational Church
4915 Alton Parkway
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 733-0220

For local information, contact:

Rev. Steven Swope, Director of Adult Programs
[email protected]

Restaurant Information

Click here to download a PDF map of nearby restaurants.

Hotel Information

DoubleTree by Hilton
90 Pacifica
Irvine, California, 92618, USA


All Sessions

  • Individual Rate $75
  • Pre-registration Rate (by September 22nd) $60
  • Additional Family Members $50

Single Sessions

  • Friday Evening Lecture $20
  • Saturday Morning Workshop $30
  • Saturday Afternoon Workshop $30

Refunds are available until two weeks before the event if requested in writing, minus a $10 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.