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Orthodox Services Held at Annual Christian Music Festival - 07/06/11

Conversion to the Orthodox faith is not something that can happen only in the mind. It may start in the mind but inevitably it must work its way down into the heart. The tradition of the Church is very aware of man’s “wiring.” It is informed by centuries of man’s failings and just as many centuries of God’s mercy meeting those failings with forgiveness and with hope. A true conversion is one that must touch every aspect of the human experience so that with our whole being we might respond with the Theotokos in saying “Be it unto me as you have said.”

One common aspect of true conversion, whether Orthodox or not, is the inward compulsion to take this “new found candle of truth” and to bring it back to whatever people or place that the converted came from before he or she encountered this new life changing reality. There are many stories of pastors or youth leaders who bring the truth of orthodoxy back to their local religious organizations and find a receptive ear in other like-minded members of their community who are still searching for a deeper and fuller experience of faith.

Some Orthodox faithful, however, do not come to the Church via the more well-known and conventional avenues. One such “non-conventional” avenue centers around an organization called Jesus People USA or JPUSA. JPUSA marks its beginnings in the late sixties to early seventies, a time when many people were unsure of their beliefs and were even more hesitant regarding the more “traditional” expressions of those beliefs. 

Like so many of the various religious groups who were born from this era one of the central concentrations of the JPUSA's religious journey is the value they place on the concept of Community. The importance of community within the orthodox religious experience is one that has been enumerated by Orthodox writers since apostolic times. It is an area of key importance in the religious life here at St. Tikhon’s Seminary and Monastery. 

It is no wonder that, with this concept in mind, many from the group have found a “kindred spirit” in eastern orthodox Christianity. Some people after staying with the group for a short time would eventually find their way to the Church later in life and end up joining a local parish community. 

Perhaps the most successful creative endeavor that was to come from the religious journey of this group of individuals is an annual music festival that occurs once a year over the Fourth of July weekend.  

Within many protestant circles the Cornerstone Music Festival is that time once a year when people travel from all over the country to a little unknown town in Illinois to meet, fellowship and pray with like-minded believers without fear of judgment or even raised eyebrows.

A more detailed account of the festivals history as well as a link to this most recent Cornerstone 2011 has been provided.

The idea of an Orthodox presence at the Cornerstone Festival is not a new one. This year is also not the first time that Orthodox Christianity has provided outreach to the tens of thousands of people who attend this celebration every year. 

The Death to the World organization has been a presence in past years and has been very successful with packaging Orthodox Christianity in a form that is appealing to young people from a more “counter cultural” demographic. This particular year due largely to financial constraints the group was unable to participate in the outreach. They did however provide us with the ability to distribute the small magazine that they handed out each year to hundreds of interested young people. Many of the people we spoke with asked specifically for the magazine, a true testament to the success of the many years of hard and sometimes thankless work on their part.

The concept of bringing an “official” delegation from a national jurisdiction has been one that has been discussed in years past both at St. Tikhon’s and St. Vladimir’s Seminaries. But, for the opportunity to finally see this long awaited idea become manifest we have to thank three individuals for dragging the idea, sometimes kicking and screaming, through the proper channels to see it realized. Dn. James Bozeman and his classmate Andrew Boyd whose presentation on the subject provided the impetus for the endeavor and for the new Director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries Sub Deacon Luke Beecham who patiently navigated the uncharted protocol/political waters to secure the greater part of the groups funding.

We must also thank both St. Tikhon’s and St. Vladimir’s seminaries for all their many efforts. St. Tikhon’s for providing both the vehicle as well as the fuel for the trip, for the printing costs for flyers and for magazine production. 

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press was very generous for their donation of books and icon cards, thank you Rev. Dn. Gregory Hatrak.

St. Tikhon’s Monastery for their donation of books and icons, thank you Abbot Sergius. 

We would like to thank Fr. Christopher Foley for collecting resources from his and other neighboring parishes to allow for the purchase of numerous copies of Orthodoxy for the Non-Orthodox, as well as TempleGate for allowing us to purchase them at cost. 

Thanks to Conciliar Press who also provided us with a number of pamphlets. 

Thanks to St. Tikhon’s Alumnus Fr. Joel Weir and the faithful of St. Stephen the First Martyr for donating books from their own personal libraries to be handed out as well as taking up a collection to purchase several others. A thank you to Lamp Post Books for supplying the books at cost.

Thank you to the OCF, OCMC, FOCUS as well as The Orthodox Peace Fellowship for all of the materials they sent on their respective organizations.

Thank you to our two volunteers Stephen Wendland and Reid Broadstreet as well as Bobby Maddex, and his assistant Troy from Ancient Faith Radio for supplying coverage of the event. 

Last but not least, thanks to Mike Poulin for taking amazing photographs and allowing me to utilize his press pass for a couple days.

All in all it was an eye-opening and heartwarming endeavor.  We were able to provide an Orthodox presence in a very visible way at a large venue filled with non-orthodox people who are by most accounts searching for a deeper and fuller experience of their faith. We were able to enjoy the holy services in a place where they had been unknown previously. In some instances there were as many as 25 people who came to either participate or to just observe from a distance the beauty and sacred peace of our holy services. 

“At the end of the day every person on the team walked away both tired and enriched,” said Sub-Deacon Luke (Seraphim) Beecham. “It’s not every day you get to explain the existence of the Orthodox faith to people who genuinely want to know more about it, and on such a fundamental level. Sometimes we allow ourselves to get bogged down with such trivial “high theological” concepts that we forget about some of the more core elements of our theology. More importantly, if we do remember them we hardly ever get to present them in a hopeful way to people who are desperately looking for answers.”

Each one of us were humbled by this opportunity and look forward to next year.




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