Thinking Out Loud

February 9, 2013

Festival Attending in a Security Obsessed World

Beruna Music Festival

So yesterday we remembered the Cornerstone Festival; part of the carefree days in the ’70s and ’80s when Christian music festivals sprang up in Midwest parks and Pennsylvania dairy farms. Ahh… simpler times.

Things have changed. I’ve never been to Kingdom Bound, a bit of trivia which my closer friends find amazing given my history with CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) mostly because the idea of a Christian festival in a theme park seems somewhat contradictory.  Two hot elements competing with each other: The bands and the rides.

But then there’s another issue. Back in the day — and you know you’re getting older when you start talking about ‘back in the day’ — the speakers and the musicians shared a somewhat equal billing. Even the most star-struck music fan could tell you about things the speakers said in the tents. At some festivals today, you’re lucky to get three speakers for every twenty music acts. Or less.

Which brings us to The Beruna Festival being held in July (19-20) on “The Flats at Molson Amphitheatre” in downtown Toronto; the first multi-day Christian event to be held there.  Well, almost downtown; the picture makes it look like the CN Tower and Air Canada Centre are directly in the background, when in fact they are a few miles further down the road. But you wouldn’t want the sound echoing off the high rise buildings anyway, nor the complaints from the condo owners.

Having nothing better to do on Tuesday night, I went poking around their website. The lineup is certainly good.  The pricing is probably somewhat normal for this type of event. The sponsors and event organizers are well respected.

But buried away on a FAQ page, you’re reminded that this is a venue used for general market events not Christian events; that this is 2013, not 1983. So no backpacks. No rigid liquid containers. No beach balls. Really? From all the outdoor concerts I’ve seen, I thought beach balls were required.

And then the one that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No SLR cameras.

What the festival is up with that?

My wife has been talking about getting a Canon SLR camera for some time now. But if we decided to attend this event in July — and we’re free that week and greatly admire some of the 22 bands and both of the speakers — she would be denied admittance.

“You mean I can’t take a SLR camera to the event?  Seriously?”

A camera with a removable lens is considered a professional camera, and professional cameras are not allowed. You might intimidate the people with smaller cameras.

And I’m sorry to say this, and perhaps it sounds rather petty, but with that, they lost me…

…Working with concert promoters for many years before I got married, the management and operating staff of the various venues we used were always impressed with the good behavior of the people who attended Christian events. In two words, they liked that there was “no trouble.” Over the years the promoters built up credibility equity, which meant they were afforded some grace, which they were then able to pass along to ticket buyers. (Neither grace nor customization of the rental package here; the beer vendors will be open though probably not quite doing business as usual.)

In a post-911 world, security at mass gatherings is essential. Purses and satchels do need to be checked. And refreshment vendors are counting on the dehydration of young people spending 12-hour days in the hot sun. And yes, it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone.

And I know that those in youth ministry see the value of these events for their students, and really want these events to be there as an option for the youth they work with.

But in the contract negotiations, I would be crusading hard against a one-size-fits-all approach which, for example, bans beach balls.  (Headline: Beach Ball Ban Baffles Blogger) Or a camera easily picked up for free with Sears points. If it’s that uptight an environment, it’s just too easy to lose the heart of the event. What’s next? Security staff at the megachurch? Oops! Too late. Maybe this is what happens when we get too big.

In a world of liability litigation, environmental impacts, and stricter safety standards for staging (Headline: Staging Safety Standards Set Stricter), it’s not as easy to find a Pennsylvania dairy farm willing to host tens of thousands of teens and twenty-somethings; but make no mistake; those dairy farms do exist and some of those dairy farmers are willing to give it a try.

Anytime soon would be good.

February 8, 2013

Memories of Cornerstone Festival and Magazine

Oboe Jones Comic - Kevin Frank - Cornerstone MagazineIf you remember Cornerstone Magazine after which the festival was named, you might remember the Oboe Jones comic by Kevin Frank which appeared 27 times in the mag. In 2011, Kevin uploaded all the comics. You choose an edition and then click on the image, and then click the little magnifier thing to see it full size.

Now, I know Kevin doesn’t like it when bloggers embed his stuff — physically impossible with these anyway –  so you’re going to have to click through for this one, but the particular link here is a great memory of the Cornerstone Festival, in this case the one from 1994. (But somewhat representative of all of them, the last one I attended being 1986.) If your internet connection can handle something 5,000 pixels wide, click through for Postcards from the Web. (The teaser sample here is just a very small part of a much larger scene.)  You might even find Waldo, though I’m not sure if Waldo is there to be found.

You can also catch up with Kevin’s more recent work at KevinFrank.net

May 18, 2012

This History of Contemporary Christian Music

Most the “histories” you hear on Christian radio only involve material the production staff were able to source on CD, and of those, some are limited to items still available for purchase on collections, since record companies are actively involved in “helping” the radio guys create these specials.

My purpose at the YouTube collection I created for the SearchlightBooks YouTube account — our sponsor, so to speak — was to find things that nobody had posted on YouTube to date, or possibly any other video service, either…

The Mass for Peace was originally written in Italian in 1963, so if you think Jesus Music began with Larry Norman or the Calvary Chapel concerts around 1969 and following, forget it; the Catholic folk masses really got there first. This one got translated into English in 1967.

The Christian festival scene began with Explo ’72 in Dallas, but was refined by a series of different events in rural Pennsylvania, including Jesus ’75 and ’76 which took place on a diary farm in the western part of the state.  Regulars at this event were the group Hope of Glory, and this 1975 song took it’s cue from a Hallmark Cards advertisement, “When you care enough to send the very best.”

No history of CCM’s early years would be complete without mentioning The Archers. (No, you’re thinking of the Archies…) Tom, Steve and Janice Archers recorded this song later in the career for a concept album by Dony McGuire and Reba Rambo based on the Lord’s prayer.

Contemporary Christian radio took a different form back in the day. There were a few dedicated stations, but many organizations had to settle for purchasing block airtime on secular stations on the weekend, or providing free programming features for use during the week, or even public service announcements like this one. Long before there was Lifeline Productions, there was Chuck Blore Creative Services.

Some people say that today’s modern worship grew out of CCM, while others argue that with groups like New Zealand’s Scripture in Song, the two movements were set on a parallel track and modern worship simply overtook CCM and became the more dominant genre. Here’s an independent recording by Tom & Candy Green that is typical of things people were recording way back when.

We’ll do more of these, or you can visit the YouTube page and see more, but I need to warn ya, it’s an extremely eclectic collection. I have a couple of thousand albums I can access for this, and I’m willing to look at requests for songs not online, but the material has to be both (a) old and of historical interest, and (b) not on a label which may have renewed the copyright.

August 24, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I like a church that covers all the basics for living

Years from now, when anthropologists discover this blog, they will say, “Truly, this was the Wednesday Link List for August 24th, 2011.”

  • Randy Alcorn quotes a Chuck Colson report that we shouldn’t be talked into thinking there’s been a lessening of persecution of Christians in China.
  • The author and publishers of The Shack — a bestselling Christian novel — found themselves on opposite sides of a lawsuit which was finally settled out of court.
  • Just what WOULD the Beatles have come up with, creatively speaking, had they been followers of Jesus all those years ago? A good friend of ours has finally given us the green light to release the link for a take-off to The Beatles “When I’m Sixty-Four.”  So enjoy “Matthew Six Three-Four.”  (The link will open your computer’s media player.) Stay tuned for more from Martin Barret on a soon to be released project featuring this song and others.
  • Schullergate Item of the Week:  The Crystal Cathedral succeeded in getting a dissenting website, Crystal Cathedral Music, taken down this week. The site featured commentary from former members of the CC choir and orchestra and friends of the Cathedral’s former music style.
  • Darryl Dash warns pastors and others that when it comes to email and online correspondence, nothing is confidential.
  • Christianity Today profiles Dave Ramsey, noting the new Momentum curriculum, designed to bring the same advice to cash-strapped churches as is given individuals.
  • Alex Mejias at the blog High Street Hymns gives you Five Reasons to Use Liturgical Music in Your Contemporary Worship Service.  (And no, “Liturgical songs are free of copyright worries” wasn’t in the list.)  [HT: Zac Hicks.]
  • This one’s a repeat from April, but I read it again and laughed again.  What if churches used their signs to suggest “purpose statements” that were actually achievable?
  • DotSub — the online service which adds subtitles in any language to your videos — picks up a June, 2010 TED Talk by Larry Lessig which deals with copyright and fair use, but begins with an observation about Republicans: They go to church.
  • Ronnie McBrayer adds his voice to The Underground, a Christian website like no other, and notes that a lot of people do strange things because they thought they heard God’s voice.
  • In an in-depth article, CNN ponders whether Christians can win the war against pornography. (Over 3,000 comments as of Monday.)
  • Julie Clawson considers the theological implications of the Veggie Tales song, “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.”  Okay, that’s not exactly what this post is all about.
  • Just discovering the music of Phil Wickham.  Gave Mrs. W. the Cannons album last week for being good!  This older song, You’re Beautiful, is closing in on 2,000,000 YouTube views.  For the already-converted (!) here’s a clip from Phil’s October-releasing album, Response.
  • Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like delivers a fundy take on I Cor. 13; though in all honesty, I gotta say this one is high in contention for being tomorrow’s post here.
  • You’re not really going to the bathroom at Bible study group are you?  Bryan Lopez reblogged Tech-Crunch’s Technology is the New Smoking.
  • Somewhat related: Chrystal at Life After Church introduces a new blog series by describing a very non-Baptist way to engage with scripture.
  • Thomas Prosser at the UK Guardian newspaper thinks that Christian youth camps are manipulative, but before you read, you need to know that what they term as camps, we refer to as festivals.
  • If you’re a link-o-phile, you’ll also find a daily rundown at Take Your Vitamin Z (Zach Nielsen), Kingdom People (Trevin Wax) and Tim Challies.  These bloggers include things from the broader blogosphere including lots of tech news, but when it comes to theological discussion the links are all from a single doctrinal family of bloggers.  (Note the vast number of links that turn up on all three over the course of a month.)  The mix here is quite different, but feel free to check out the three mentioned above as well as the large, diverse number of other bloggers in the margin at right.  These links are constantly checked for (a) a spiritual focus, (b) frequent and recent posting, and (c) taken as a group, doctrinal mix and balance.

The Wednesday List Lynx arrives late to the party

June 20, 2011

The Jesus Movement Turns 40

I am a direct product of the Jesus Movement.

That is not an admission of age, for if you are a member of the contemporary Church — that is to say, any church that is not locked into a business-as-usual, same order-of-service way of doing things as church circa 1940 — then you are also a direct product of the Jesus Movement, even if, unlike Buck Herring, you never had a pair of blue suede sandals.*  This period of time, rewrote the playbook for Christianity, and the June 21, 1971 cover of Time Magazine was really prophetic, since the movement wouldn’t truly hit its stride until the mid to late part of that decade.

The Jesus Movement was the catalyst that propelled the church into the 20th century, albeit nearly 75 years too late.  Music changed.  Dress change.  The stage was set for the emergence of social justice and compassion ministries that wouldn’t come to fruition until the late 1990s.  The evangelical church got away from country club religion — with its ‘for members only’ attitude — and became more about reaching out.   Years before the term ‘next generation ministry’ would be coined; the Jesus Movement paved the way for a new generation of leaders; with some of the changes being perhaps superficial, but others birthing entire new denominations.

Chuck Smith invited the kids to come to church and when his parishioners charged that their studded jeans were scratching the pews, Smith removed the pews and while he was at it, moved the baptism services to Pirates Cove on the Pacific ocean.  Larry Norman caught much criticism for his long hair, but was actually a rather gifted Bible teacher if only the older generation would have taken time to listen, and around him gathered a generation of teens and twenty-somethings who the church might have otherwise drifted away.  Barry McGuire went from protest singer to the man who would write “Communion Song” one of the best ‘lost’ worship songs, while Campus Crusade’s Michael Omartian brought the sound of keyboard synthesizers into the music mix while singing about Old Testament prophets. 

Kids traveled to Pennsylvania dairy farms for outdoor festivals where the speaker list was held as equal to the musician list, with two favorite teachers being the team of Larry Tomczak and C. J. Mahaney.  Paul Baker and Scott Ross put Christian music on radio stations both sacred and secular, and in the process put Christian music on the map.  A man named Arthur Blessitt carried a cross (yes, literally) across many continents and challenged a generation to find their own expression of bold witness. The Highway Missionary Society took to the road while Jesus People USA took to the Cabrini Green projects of inner city Chicago at the same time Nicky Cruz went from New York City gang leader to evangelist.

It was the best of times.  Period.   It was possibly the most significant spiritual movement to take place in North America in the 1900s.  Really.  I mean that. And I’m not the first to suggest it.

So happy birthday to all the aging Jesus People, and to those who wish you were there.   This week Andrew Jones shares some memories, but it also might be the right time to read Ed Underwood’s challenge to recapture the spirit and energy (and innocence) of those days as he writes in Reborn To Be Wild.   Because the Evangelical church today is a product of those times, you might actually want to read all you can about what happened and why.  You might even want to start your own revolution.

*I have no proof that Second Chapter of Acts’ Buck Herring actually owned blue suede sandals, but that was the rumor back in the day.  And yes, for several hours a couple of us did share the back of Daniel Amos’ Alex MacDougall’s house with Larry Norman, but Larry mostly slept and did laundry. 

Pictured: Time Magazine cover, June 21, 1971

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