LEWISTON, Maine — By 6:30 p.m., the line of cars waiting to get into the Androscoggin Bank Colisee parking lot was backed up seven blocks, all the way to the corner of Birch and Bates streets.
And it was still half an hour before the main event was scheduled to start.
The drivers and passengers, plus hundreds more who had already made their way to the Colisee — almost all women — were attending Living Proof Live, a religious event that mixes Bible study with prayer and live music. The two-day seminar was scheduled to run Friday and Saturday.
Thousands of attendees were already forming long lines outside the Colisee before the doors were opened at 6 p.m. And they kept coming.
In all, about 4,000 people attended Friday’s event, according to coordinator Betsy Langmade.
They came from all over.
“We’ve got probably over 20 states represented here and five provinces of Canada,” Langmade said.
Susan Lorette of Riverview, New Brunswick, had come with three friends from Moncton. She had braved the seven-hour trip for “some good Bible teaching,” she said.
“Whenever she comes to New England, we’re here,” said her friend, Fran Day, referring to Beth Moore, the woman who leads the scriptural study portion of the event and is the personality at the center of the Living Proof events.
Moore founded Living Proof Ministries in 1994 “with the purpose of teaching women how to love and live on God’s Word,” according to her website. The ministry produces and distributes Bible study books and videos, in addition to holding events, like Friday’s, all around the country.
Every year, the organization changes its itinerary to hold events at new locations, Langmade said, although this weekend’s event was the second time Living Proof had come to Lewiston.
“We had such a great experience in Maine,” Langmade said. When they began planning a return to the state last year, they wanted to go to the Cumberland County Civic Center. However, with that site under renovations, they chose to return to Lewiston.
Friday’s followed a typical schedule for Living Proof events. After the doors opened, a worship service was held which included prayer. At 7:30 p.m. Moore took the stage. She was animated and excited. She talked energetically, moving through the rows of seats set up on the Colisee’s center floor. She spoke directly to members of the crowd.
“If you don’t have the grace of God radiating through you, then I’ve never seen it,” she said, her hand on the head of a 9-year-old girl.
At one point, she told a story about her childhood. “My family was all musical,” she said, “but I just kept getting in trouble in class for talking. And it all came down to that,” she said to a laugh from the crowd.
Before beginning her scriptural lesson, Moore led the audience in a prayer. By way of introducing the prayer, she said, in her southern drawl: “There comes a time when something’s happening around you that you can’t eat your popcorn through, that you can’t Tweet your way through. You’re so caught up, you don’t have command of it, it has command of you.
“What would happen this weekend if we just paid attention?” she said. “I think [God] would come rip-roaring through us.”
Asked what attracted such enormous crowds to the events, Langmade answered that it was likely Moore’s style of teaching scripture.
“She is a Bible study teacher,” Langmade said. “[The people] see her teach by video and they come to feel that they know her. She gives a very honest and authentic view to women of what their walk to Christ should be.”
She also offers “biblical answers to problems,” Langmade said.
Both sentiments were mirrored by attendees at the event.
Pam Chase of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, said she came for the “applicable lessons. That’s where the rubber meets the road.”
Her friend, Lorette, added, “We’ve come to trust her research, because that’s her job.”
“The big thing is to apply it to your life through relatable examples in Scripture,” said Margot Andbandy, another of the Moncton crew.
Women — and fewer than a dozen men — came from far and wide to hear Moore teach Bible lessons. Among those waiting for the doors to open were women from California, Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts and various parts of Maine. Most of the attendees who were interviewed had seen Moore speaking live before and most were planning to attend Saturday’s events, as well.
And most of the women in attendance reiterated Langmade’s words when asked what had drawn them to the event.
“What she says is applicable to my life,” said Stacy DelGallo of Gardiner. “She uses her experience to relate to us.”
The Living Proof Live series will continue Saturday morning, with events being held from 7:30 a.m. and noon at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Tickets are $65, though organizers suggest that those interested in attending call 1-800-254-2022 to register, as the event may be sold out.