Local churches host live concerts again

Rob Mills, left, and his sons, Levy and Jacob, are the trio The Sound that recently entertained a full house at Village of Faith Church. Churches are opening their doors again for concerts.

All eyes and ears were focused on organist Brent Nolte and flautist Stacy Vance as they began the first of Carl Staplin’s “Three Sketches for Flute and Organ” March 13 at Open Bible Lutheran Church in Oxford. For many of the 62 people in attendance, it was their first concert at an area house of worship since the coronavirus pandemic halted all events last year. The return of live musical performances at area houses of worship is a sign that they are continuing to make steps toward normalcy as COVID-19 cases dissipate and vaccinations become more common. “It is wonderful to be back in the sanctuary holding these events,” said Pastor Mark Schulz of Open Bible Lutheran. “Concerts like these bring the church community together, and introduce others to the church as well.”

The hourlong show featured Nolte, who serves as director of music at Ohio Christian University, along with Open Bible Lutheran members Vance on flute and Fred Hainen on violin. They performed works spanning the centuries, from the music of Italian baroque composer Tomaso Albinoni to the samplings of modern British composer and conductor Andrew Carter. Nolte also performed one of his own hymn variations, “In Christ Alone.”

While Open Bible Lutheran welcomed dozens of Villagers to the show, the church understood that COVID-19 remained on the minds of many. Attendees sat socially distant from one another in the sanctuary and were encouraged to wear masks over their mouths and noses.

“We also limited post-show activities to a simple, socially distant gathering instead of the larger events we’ve held prior to COVID,” Schulz added.

New Life Christian Church entered the musical realm March 21 with a performance by popular gospel quartet The Kramers.

“We’ve done in-house concerts in the past, but this is the first time we’ve done an outside act of this caliber in several years,” said senior minister Matt Malott, of New Life Christian. “Our congregants love this kind of music, and we are hopeful that this show could launch more concerts of this type in the future at the church.”

The concert comes as New Life Christian slowly opens up its sanctuary and offices to worship, small groups and other events. The church has been averaging nearly 300 people in attendance for its two Sunday services in recent weeks, with another 200 watching online.

“It seems like every week we add a few more people to our congregation,” Malott noted. “We’re hopeful that the upcoming concert can help New Life Christian continue that uptick and help introduce the church to those looking to find a house of worship to call home.”

A quarter-mile away from New Life Christian on Wildwood’s “Church Row” stands Village of Faith Baptist Church, which has been quite active on the concert front this year. The church welcomed gospel trio The Sound for a concert on March 14, the third this year.

“Our January and March concerts were free shows where love offerings were taken during the events,” said Kevin Pledger, worship and associate pastor for Village of Faith Baptist. “We sold tickets for our February concert, and we were three short of a sellout. We are definitely seeing interest from the community for these types of shows.”

Pledger, whose father, Ron, serves as senior pastor of Village of Faith Baptist, knows a thing or two about music. He has written more than 400 songs, including “I Will Go,” which was used as the theme song for the 2006 Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. He also has performed on stage with such gospel performers as Guy Penrod, John Starnes and the Goodman Revival.

Village of Faith Baptist is working on adding more concerts to its calendar this year, Kevin said. Currently there are plans for the church to host a concert this summer featuring two-time Grammy-winning gospel artist Jason Crabb, Details on the show will be released in the future at vofpeople.com.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Summerfield is thinking outside the box to allow its congregants and the community to enjoy concerts while staying safe. The Summerfield church streamed a concert featuring award-winning Christian band Casting Crowns March 20 at the church. The show followed Saturday worship, and included an interview with Casting Crowns lead singer Mark Hall.

“These concerts are a wonderful way to celebrate and be together while, at the same time, remaining safe,” said Sara Stumbaugh, administrative assistant for Trinity Lutheran.

The church streamed a pair of Christmas concerts last December featuring Christian artists Michael W. Smith and “For God and Country.” Learn more at trinitysummerfield.com.

Senior writer James Dinan can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5302, or james.dinan@thevillagesmedia.com.