Thoughts on yesterday's concert...

Yesterday we hosted our 8th Annual Concert for Emergency Fuel Assistance Funds in the Berkshires - and it was stunning! Eclectic, inclusive, inter-faith and filled with such talented and generous artists that I left emotionally exhausted from shedding tears of joy and gratitude. One of the many highlights was our young friend, Olivia, sharing this tune with Dianne.
But this is just ONE of the gifts that came during the 2 hour festival of faith, hope and love. We had a surprise guest, the Berkshire's own David Grover, joined Linda Worster and played with our band throughout. He brings such sensitivity and skill to the music it was pure bliss - and their take on Seals and Croft's "Hummingbird" was ecstatic! There were SO many joys: Rebecca's take on "Stay with Me," David's rocking "Travelin' Band," Brian's "Across the Great Divide," Dianne's smokin' "Black Tambourine" (with the Sun Ra orkestra behind her!), Jon's "Gimme Something Good," Linda's take on "Have a Little Faith" and Eva's "One Voice."

So, first, let me return thanks to all the artists who made this happenEva Perri, Elizabeth McCarty, Carlton Maaia II, Rebecca Maaia, Charlie Tokarz, Jon Haddad, Andy Kelly, Sue Kelly, Dianne De Mott, Olivia Kinne, Ethan Wesley, Linda Worster, David Grover, Dave McDermott, Grahm Sturz, Brian Staubach, Omar Enriquez, Jon Grenoble, Win Riddabock and sound man genius Rob Dumais!
Second, let me share a theological/aesthetic note about this gig: if you notice at the bottom of the picture above there is a small collection of religious icons. There is Buddha and the Virgin Mary, a Celtic Cross, a Menorah and a gold plated page from the Qu'ran (along with a guitar.) We had invited another group to share the stage with us - an opening act of sorts - and in time it became clear that our band, Between the Banks, continues to celebrate a unique and challenging charism for many in the church. We're like Alice's Restaurant where "you can get anything you want." We honor and advocate a broad and deep ecumenism - a radical hospitality - that is like Pete Seeger's banjo that used to proclaim: this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender. Too often church music is boring, disembodied, exclusive and judgmental. That's why we put our religious friends at front stage: there are NO enemies here! That's why at the head of our program we announce our Open and Affirming commitment. We are young and old together, male and female - gay and straight - rich and poor, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist and spiritual but not religious together
And third yesterday's concert clarified something for me: we need to go on a public relations offensive because the media doesn't GET our type of faith community. My friends in government back in Cleveland used to say that more often than not, people report what they know. They tend not to dig deeply nor hang around to experience the whole event (whether that is a concert or a press event or even the State of the Union.) That happened yesterday - again - when members of the press came for a few minutes, spoke with a few people in broad but uncreative strokes, took a few pictures at the start of things and moved on. I am glad they were present. But for whatever reason they got most of the facts wrong:  1) This concert was part of our commitment to care for the common good; 2) This concert was also an act of community building where we worked hard to make sure that everybody had a place at the table; and 3) This wasn't a casual, off-the-cuff jam session on some one's back porch: this was about celebrating and nourishing hope and compassion. 
I think the heart of that came after American folk songs, rock and roll, R and B and some jazz fusion tunes, we offered up our take on Shalom/Salaam - with Hebrew and Arabic prayers - in the midst of an original jazz chart (by Carlton.) It was chanted, it was moaned, it was embodied and it was both lament and assurance of pardon all at once. There was Linda Worster's brilliant "Peace on Earth" with 6 part harmony. There was Andy Kelly's "Primavera" - a sweet and open call for right relations between the US and Cuba. And so much more... but none of that was reported given the pressures to keep moving. Alas...that's why I sense we need to take the initiative and tell the wider community our story.

(You can read the story here: http://www.berkshireeagle.com/local/ci_27300435/annual-fuel-assistance-concerts-moved-mid-winter)

I wept upon seeing the nearly 1.6 million people in the streets of Paris. I wept when 150+ loving souls came to our concert to "fight off the winter cold." More than at any other time in my ministry I am certain that we must "surround hatred and make it surrender" through acts of grace, beauty, hope and radical hospitality. Over the next few months we'll be strategizing about how to do this more effectively. If you have any wisdom, please share it, ok?

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