The Rev. Wayne Snead has never been afraid to ask the difficult questions. As the senior pastor at the Galilee United Methodist Church in Sterling, he has organized several discussion series throughout each year to delve deeper into difficult topics.
Past topics have included, "Honest Answers to Tough Questions," which focused on topics such as "Do Science and the Bible Conflict?" and "Where is God When Bad Things Happen?" and "Making Love Last a Lifetime," which focused on building strong relationships.
"I have a background in philosophy," Snead said, "so I like questioning things and searching for answers."
This June, Galilee United Methodist Church will take on a subject that has been the cause of much debate throughout the religious world: "The Da Vinci Code."
"There has been a lot of boycotting [of the book], but we prefer to look around and see that people are interested and say, 'OK, we are interested in this, too,'" the Rev. Sarah Calvert, associate pastor of Galilee, said.
BEGINNING SUNDAY, June 4, the church will hold a four-week sermon series with separate study session Sunday afternoons at 4 o'clock and Wednesday nights at 7 o'clock.
"The sermons on Sunday will parallel what is discussed at that week's sessions," Snead said.
The four topics are "What Can History Really Tell Us," "Can We Trust the Four Gospels," "What's the Role of Women in Christianity," and "Is Jesus the Son of God?"
"This is a great opportunity to get the truth out in the open," Snead said. "Jesus was never afraid of the truth."
"We hope that people listening to the sermon will walk away with questions," Calvert said. "Then they can bring those questions to the sessions."
The break-out sessions will be moderated, rather than taught, Snead said, to facilitate discussion and group size will be limited to 12 to 15 people.
"If we have a lot more people, we will break the group out further," he said.
The basis for the discussion series comes from a DVD and workbooks written by Lee Strobel, a former editor of The Chicago Tribune, and Christian author Gary Poole. The books are called "Discussing the Da Vinci Code" and "Exploring the Da Vinci Code."
Each week an excerpt of the DVD will be shown at the study sessions before the discussion begins.
"You don't have to attend the service to attend the study sessions," Calvert said. "We show the video to catch people up to where we were with the sermon."
It is not necessary for participants to attend every session or even any of the Sunday services.
"People can just drop in," Calvert said. "For example, if there is a topic that they are really interested in."
ONE OF THE main focuses of the series is exploring history and Christian history.
"We want people to see it historically, not just as fiction," Snead said. "We are talking about things we do not talk about normally."
Calvert said that very few people know the truth about Christian history or even the history of their own church and she is looking forward to delving into those topics with the participants.
"This is about the universal church history," she said. "A lot of people don't know that [Protestants] didn't spring out of the time of Jesus. They aren't aware that there was a time period when there was only one church."
Both Calvert and Snead said one of the most important parts of the Da Vinci Code series was getting participants to think about where they fit into the greater history.
"There is this fear people have about information getting out that might damage their faith, but trying to suppress things doesn't lead to the truth," Snead said. "God gave us a mind and we don't check that brain at the door."
"What went before defines us and who we are today, both the good and the bad," Calvert said. "People want to know what this has to do with them."
THERE HAS BEEN strong opposition to "The Da Vinci Code" in religious communities, but Snead said he has yet to hear anything negative about what the church is doing.
"People came up to me and wanted to discuss the book," he said. "It has been quite the opposite."
Snead and Calvert plan to discuss both the positive and the negative aspects of Dan Brown's book and his claims.
"There are both good and bad things and we will look at where he gave us the good scoop," Calvert said. "And we will look at his interpretation of things and how he used research and then drew a fictional story from it."
Snead said he knows there will be people who will not agree with what they are doing, but he feels that is to be expected.
"Will there be people who get upset about it? Absolutely," he said. "But the percentage of people that will be helped by it far outweighs that."