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Ancient Texts for Troubled Times

When Truth and Compassion Meet

February 8-9, 2019

Sarasota, Florida

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 Maryand Thunder: Perfect Mind both in their ancient context and creative, modern expressions.

Celene Lillie (Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary) is the Director of Adult Education and Spiritual Formation at First United Methodist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.  She is the author of The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis, the director of translations for A New New Testament, and a co-author of The Thunder Perfect Mind: A New Translation and Introduction.

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 and the Gospel of Mary.
(Lillie & Perkins)
Friday evening, 7:30–9 pm

The Rape of Eve as Tool for Resistance

In recent decades, scholars of New Testament and early Christian traditions have given new attention to the relationships between gender and imperial power in the Roman world. This Nag Hammadi text offers us a window into symbolic forms of Christian resistance to imperial ideology
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 were 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


First Congregational Church (UCC)

Local Contact and Information

All events at:

First Congregational Church (UCC)
1031 S Euclid Ave
Sarasota, FL 34237

For local information, contact:

Budd Friend-Jones
[email protected]


Online registration is now closed. Please register in person at the event.

All Sessions

  • Individual Rate $75
  • Pre-registration Rate (by Jan 25) $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.