The 'Connections' - NTC pastors playing for fun, missions
|Leader of the band, Rev. Rusty King, left, and Rev. Eric Folkerth go back to the Seventies as they sing "Old Tennessee."|
In the early years of the Methodist movement, John Wesley formed bands of five to ten Christians who met regularly for spiritual growth. The groups gathered weekly for confession and prayer. They held one another accountable to regular worship attendance and service to the poor. They encouraged one another in love and supported one another through spiritual nurturing.
Six North Texas Conference pastors have formed a band of a different kind, for spiritual nurturing and more. This band is a group of musicians in love with great music of the past, who gather to make music that feeds their souls and to raise money for United Methodist missions.
The band is known as Connections, in recognition of their clergy connection, their connection to great music, and the calling as United Methodists to be connected to those in need through giving to missions.
Rev. Rusty King, minister of music at Spring Valley UMC, is the band leader. Rev. Eric Folkerth, senior pastor at Northaven UMC and independent recording artist in his own right, lends his creative expertise. On keyboard is Rev. Frank Rahm, associate pastor at First UMC Coppell. On vocals is Rev. Ann Willet, associate pastor at First UMC Richardson. And rounding out the clergy leadership, on guitar and vocals, are Rev. Paul Escamilla, senior pastor at Spring Valley UMC, and Rev. John Fleming, senior pastor at Buckingham UMC.
|The photo above shows the band at Spring Valley UMC, Dallas, for the first Eagles Tribute Show, the reason for the expanded horn section.|
Some 30 additional musicians, from bass player to percussionists, to trumpet and saxophone players, share their talents as well. Most of these are NTC laity who play regularly in their own church praise bands.
Connections had its beginning at the 2004 North Texas Clergy Retreat at Tanglewood Resort at Lake Texoma. Revs. King and Folkerth, never far away from their guitars, began an impromptu sing-along and were soon joined by Escamilla and Fleming. They began to reminisce about music from a favorite artist, Dan Fogelberg, and together they remembered many of his hits.
A year later, at the 2005 retreat, the group reassembled, and played songs from Fogelberg, James Taylor, Jim Croce, The Eagles, and others. In that season, King and Folkerth began discussing the possibility of a Dan Fogelberg tribute concert to raise money for UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
The band recruited additional musicians, including Rahm and Willet, and began regular rehearsals at Spring Valley UMC, and Connections was born. Since the first Fogelberg tribute in March 2006, Connections has raised more than $20,000 for UMCOR and Nothing But Nets. Musicians donate their time, and United Methodist churches provide the venues for the coffee house-style concerts. In the past two years, the band has been hosted by Spring Valley UMC, Dallas; Custer Road UMC, Plano; First UMC Coppell; Highland Park UMC, and Walnut Hill UMC, Dallas, playing the music of Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, The Eagles, James Taylor, and Carole King.
The band enjoyed a return to its roots with a concert at the 2007 Clergy Retreat, at Tanglewood Resort, Texoma, and the 2008 season promises to be a busy one, with seven shows scheduled at North Texas churches between February and July.
No tickets are sold for Connections shows, but throughout the concert the band actively promotes donations to the mission offering for the evening, UMCOR, Nothing but Nets, or another UM-related cause.
All concerts give tribute to the great music of the past, and most audiences find that they know the words well enough to sing along.
Connections concerts are open to the community, so select the concerts your church would like to support. Bring a car load, a van load, or a bus load, and enjoy the great music and support UM missions.