The rough-edged, outspoken founding pastor of Denver's House for All Sinners and Saints, Nadia Bolz-Weber, can challenge preconceived notions on both sides of the aisle - mainstream America and its body-modified progeny.
"She's covered with tattoos, so she has a very intriguing image around her I think for millennials and people who are part of the alternative culture, but then you find out she's a Lutheran pastor. It messes with images," said the Rev. Benjamin Broadbent, lead minister at First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs.
Rattling old concepts and stereotypes about faith was one reason the downtown church initiated its annual James W. White Lecture Series, and Bolz-Weber seemed the ideal speaker for the series' 10th year, Broadbent said.
"The goal of our lecture series is to bring in somebody who can help the congregation think about Christianity in a different kind of way," Broadbent said. "Nadia does that for us because she has a unique and compelling story."
Before recognizing her calling within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bolz-Weber rebelled against her fundamentalist Christian family as a teen and struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as well as aspects of her spirituality, all of which she discusses in her 2014 New York Times best-selling theological memoir, "Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint."
"She's doing a lot through her story and personal writing and speaking to bridge some gaps in our culture that are not really necessary," Broadbent said. "We're a mainline downtown established church and we're very interested in rethinking the faith in order to revitalize it. We're interested in opening the conversation in our own congregation and the wider community regarding the intersection of faith and the rest of life."
Bolz-Weber's popularity could prove a challenge for the venue set to host the lecture. Larger off-site locations, such as Armstrong Hall at Colorado College, weren't available to host the keynote address, Broadbent said.
"Friday night might push the limits of our capacity at the church, but we'll do our best to accommodate everyone who comes," he said. "We might even have some loudspeakers outside so people can hear."
Bolz-Weber's keynote talk, which is free and open to the public, is 7 p.m. Friday in the sanctuary of the church, 20 E. St. Vrain St. The series continues through the weekend with special sermons and an in-depth presentation by Bolz-Weber, "Going Deeper to Participation and Congregational Life," 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday. Registration is $15 at fcucc.org or at the door.