Some eleven years ago, a concert series was started at the church. It began with a few local acts and church ensembles who would come in for a small fee and play for the members of the congregation. The event was held in the new Chapel of the Resurrection, attended mostly by congregation members and friends of the church. What began as a labor of love by three of our congregation members (Jim Ball, Joan McClure & Merle McClure), has evolved into Friends of the Arts — significant outreach for the faith.
I could talk for endless lines of text about the performers who have been on the series — Ken Medema, Joe Scruggs, Houston Symphonic Band, Dr. Zog Zydeco Band, to name a few. But the performers are only part of the story. The real story is that it should be titled Friends of the Outreach. Each season, many guests come to the church to visit. Yes, they are drawn here by the music — but, they do other things to interact with their faith life, too.
A good example of this was Holy Week in 2011. The Chapel Singers, one of the church’s music ensembles, presented the Dubois Seven Last Words. It was a moving music offering during worship on Good Friday. What struck me was the number of people who took the opportunity to walk the Stations of the Cross that we had set up around our building. Young and old were looking for a place to learn and pray about the last week of Christ’s life. It was truly moving.
But, the Friends of the Outreach also draws in people to worship. Many of our visits first found the church because they came to a concert. And, statistically speaking, these music events have the highest visit rate of any single event — and there are ten single events per season.
Recently, we had a funeral for a community person who had no church home. The family chose to have the service in our church because they had friends in the area and it was close to their community. It was a well attended service and our church assisted the family with planning and executing the funeral during this time of grief and pain. Several of the friends of that family commented that they have talked to the unchurched spouse about coming to the series. One of our staff members included the spouse on our concert series mailing list. By offering a quality outside event, we’ve made it simple for our congregation members to be in ministry.
Keep in mind that all of this is volunteer led . . . completed by a hard working leadership team who see that the series gets carried out in good order — a team that is the hands and feet of Christ.
This Sunday at 4 pm, we kick off the event with Billy Stritch, noted local Houston man, who made it big in New York as the musical director for Liza Minnelli. Interestingly, at the same time, our youth will be having their Fall kickoff with messy games night at 5 pm. Young and old will be gathering at the same time, gathering and creating community. What a way to come together with the Holy!
I’m not trying to make this overly simplistic and say that this is the way to fix all that ails our society. We still have so many things to do and we are trying to do our part:
- Our church works to feed those who are hungry by helping East Fort Bend Human Needs. We have volunteers to work and we have supplies that are needed so that provide the essentials to those in Fort Bend County.
- We are helping children in a disadvantaged neighborhood by adopting a local elementary school — Armstrong Elementary. We have over fifty volunteers that will become reading partners will those elementary school children — and that number is growing.
- We host in our building a program for at-risk youth and share space with a home school that specializes in children that learn in different ways.
The concert series is just one part of the entire picture of outreach.
For you see, everyone needs Christ. Whether it be young, old, rich, poor, middle class, no class, educated, uneducated, musical, tone-deaf, Republican, Democrat — each need to know Christ knows no boundaries. And, as a community of faith, we hope to be the Friends of the Outreach.