I’m travelling from New York to Cambridge, MA (home of Harvard U) on Sunday evening to attend the Center City Summit: Where Faith and Secular Culture Meet. The event is billed as:

A first-of-its-kind event where you can connect with and be inspired by folks from all over the country who have a passion for robust faith, for secular culture, and for becoming influence leaders at the point where those two things meet.

I learned about the event from its organizer, Dave Schmelzer, who is a formerly atheistic pastor in Boston and the author of the recently released book Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist. He and I connected about two weeks ago when I sent him a cold e-mail asking if he might read my book proposal for a possible future endorsement (part of an ongoing quest suggested by an acquisitions editor that is considering my book for publication.)

Dave graciously agreed to read the proposal, introduced me to another author and pointed me in the direction of his blog where I read about the conference. Sensing that this might be a Holy Spirit coincidence (I tend to follow these into all kinds of interesting adventures), I spoke to Martin and reserved a room at a B&B in Cambridge.

Since then, I’ve kept up with Dave’s blog and read his book with interest. He shares stories of conversion (including his own) and modern miracles (more than I am used to) and discusses psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s four-stage theory of human spiritual and emotional development as it relates to the development and maintainance of faith (this was originally introduced in Peck’s book Further Down the Road Less Travelled.) I won’t go into the theory in depth here, but it creates an interesting space for the skeptical, deconverted and deconverting people I’ve been encountering in the past couple of weeks in a way that I would like to learn more about.

Headline speakers include:

Chris Lowney,

author of Heroic Leadership: Best Practices of a 450-year-old Company that Changed the World, a book about the Jesuits. Formerly a Jesuit himself, Chris was named managing director of J.P. Morgan & Co. holding senior positions in major international cities. He is currently president of the Catholic Medical Missions Board.

Carl Medearis,

advisor on Arab Affairs for members of the US Senate and House of Representatives who spent over 25 years in Lebanon, Iraq, England, and Saudi Arabia and “has found Muslim communities to be very open and interested to his perspective on faith and what Jesus has to offer.”

Charles Park, who

earned his PhD in economics at MIT. After striving to achieve the American Dream, he found getting tangled up with the story of God made life much more interesting and unpredictable. Now he lives right in the heart of Wall Street and is the leader of the innovative faith community, The River.

Dave Schmelzer, who

graduated from Stanford, went on to get his M.A. in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, and worked as a former playwright. Currently he is the leader of the two-site Vineyard Christian Fellowship Greater Boston and author of Not The Religious Type, Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist.

This is a very different cast of speakers than I have seen advertised for conferences in evangelical or emergent circles. It will be interesting to hear a whole new take on the ongoing question of where faith meets culture in 2008. Will be sure to follow up and share what I learn.

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