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For God’s Sake: Concert serves as cultural kaleidoscope

The ministry is Urban Impact, and it is associated with the Evangelical Free Church of America, a denomination to which my own congregation, Compass Community Church of Navarre, belongs.

About eight months ago, at a regional pastor’s meeting in New Orleans organized by our district superintendent, Urban Impact’s director and I ate lunch together. We are long-time friends and fellow musicians with a similar past playing in bars and clubs.

He asked if I would consider playing in a “special concert” on April 16, 2023, at Live Oaks Community Church located in The Villages, a massive retirement community in the middle of Florida. Though the details were few, I agreed.

The relationship between Urban Impact and Live Oaks Community Church is a testament to the power of Christ’s gospel to renew minds.

The Live Oaks congregation is a 2,500-member sea of +55, gray hairs, not surprising given that the demographic of The Villages is 98% white, conservative Christians. Urban Impact ministers to the residents of inner-city New Orleans, which is almost 60% Black.

Since its inception in 2016, Live Oaks Church has had a close relationship with Urban Impact providing funds and teams of volunteers who travel to New Orleans at their own expense to serve where needed.

This annual weekend event in which I was invited to participate has consistently raised tens of thousands of dollars for Urban Impact.

For my wife and me, the weekend was a cultural kaleidoscope. The Villages community is a kind of Disney World for retirees, the commercial area choked with tricked-out golf carts, filled-to-capacity eateries, and retirees lined up for sundry entertainments. We clung to one another in a bid to keep from becoming enculturated – we fit that demographic save being retired.

At the many rehearsals for the concert, I was introduced to worship songs that I had never heard before, but I know the “soul music style” well from my early years as a professional musician.

Most of my fellow musicians were Black and grew up in New Orleans, but in a band, ethnicity, race, and cultural diversity don’t divide its members but rather enrich its music. The massive concert venue was filled with an eager audience and the level of musical creativity and artistry displayed by my colleagues was off the charts.

After the concert, I was humbled by the many expressions of appreciation from my bandmates for my participation in the event. I felt like I should be giving thanks for the opportunity.

The best words heard, however, were from my friend, who embraced me and asked, “Will you do it again next year?” Indeed, I will.


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