Travelled all the way to Cambridge after work to hear Rob Bell this evening. He has just published a book called 'Love Wins' which has met with huge controversy. I've enjoyed his Nooma DVD series (though confess I haven't read his two other books because I haven't got over their format), and thought he'd be great to hear speak. But this event was an example of how not to do it. Quite reassuring considering I have a number of events to run in the next few weeks, but disappointing being a member of the paying audience.
The event was held in the impressive Cambridge Corn Exchange and the audience was large, young, energetic and supportive. Rob Bell was confident but, I think, exhausted. This was his last talk in a tour of eight, or 12 cities, he wasn't quite sure. He was meant to speak for 20 minutes and then be interviewed. He managed 10, telling three disparate stories which certainly had no relevance to his book's theme of heaven and hell. Unfortunately he also mumbled and the amplification was bad. This became worse and worse as the evening progressed. His interviewee, Maggie Dawn, seemed excellent, when we could hear what she was saying but most of the time, even though we were sitting midway in the hall, it seemed as though we were eavesdropping on some private conversation. But perhaps it was an age thing. All the 20-somethings were participating in the question and answer session, and whooping and guffawing where appropriate. We came away feeling very short changed. Not only had we understood nothing about the book's themes and argument, but we didn't even feel we'd got to know any more about Rob Bell.