More than 650 people filed into the sanctuary at Arborlawn United Methodist Church Tuesday night in anticipation of seeing New York Times' bestselling author Anne Lamott.
The room roared in applause when Lamott entered. It was a level of excitement depicted by one attendee that said, “You would think we were waiting to see Lady Gaga or something.”
This marked the first Arborlawn Vineyard Series event featuring Lamott as the speaker. In reference to the goal of the series Rev. Ben Disney, Senior Minister of Arborlawn said, “We don't have an agenda we just want to begin a conversation where honest intelligent and faithful people can talk about issues, and I think when people sense that someone is speaking, like Anne Lamott who is so real and so authentic and so genuine people want to be a part of it, they want to be close to it.”
Loosely structured around her own spiritual journey, Lamott initiated a highly conversational dialogue with the audience about some of the issues that come with learning to survive, what she referred to as “the messy, excruciating, wild, and hilarious process called life.”
“Many people when they think Anne Lamott only think of the feminist and liberal part. If you didn't know Anne Lamont you might think oh my Lord she is going to come in in a bikini and throw things at us but that is just not the case,” said Stachia Disney, wife of Ben Disney and an Anne Lamott fan.
“Anne comes us as someone who has lived this life and who is no one other than herself,” said Rev. Deandrea Dare, Arborlawn Associate Minister and coordinator of the event.
Lamott used eloquent story telling and an effortless sense humor to describe her journey and how “a very lost, very skinny, strange looking child,” raised in an atheist household grew to become and alcoholic and drug addict and eventually the 28 years sober, self proclaimed “Jesus person” she didn’t think she ever wanted to be.
“Before I got sober I had an experience of Jesus once on my house boat and I turned away and I rolled over and said I would rather die,” said Lamott.
Lamott concluded her talk by initiating an extensive question and answer session. “I want you to ask about faith, and writing, and surviving, and coming through,” said Lamott, “I want you to ask anything.”
Audience members took the floor expressing their admiration for Lamott, one participant referred to her as “Saint Anne,” shared personal struggles and requested advice, all of which Lamott answered thoroughly and openly.
“Some of the things that Anne said tonight I can't imagine people not walking away thinking that was more than just a talk,” said Ben Disney. “You could hear the emotions in people when they were asking questions. She has been a huge influence and she has changed peoples lives."