LIFE AS A FULL-TIME MUSIC GROUP
June CoxheadIf Liberty had any illusions about the glamour of being a full-time music group, these were quickly shattered this year.
After a full year out on the road they can look back on a time of grappling with sickness, tiredness, odd hours, monotony, lack of desire, depression and hurts. But as well there have been the victories —thousands of school children touched (in three schools alone 700 children responded), openings into television, and numerous opportunities to minister at concerts, youth-camps and conferences. As Rusty, the pianist in the group put it: "We have made more mistakes this last year than in the rest of our lives, but we've also had more successes. The other beautiful thing we've learnt is, you can't afford to be a part-time Christian. The Lord has to come into everything you do, including the hum drum of practices."
We were sitting in the park during a lunch-break at the Melbourne Charismatic Conference where the group had been ministering at the night meetings. Three of them, John Drury the leader, Russell Fragar and Brenda Fowler, were reflecting on their life together as a full-time music group.
Liberty started as a girls' singing group at the Methodist, now Uniting Church, in Liverpool. John joined the group as guitarist when his father became minister there six years ago. Since then many others have come and gone, until today the group totals eight.
But the real beginnings of the group stem from a talent quest they entered in 1972. "That's what really got us going,"
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John said. It was also how they got the name Liberty. "We needed to have a name for the quest and I was looking through the scriptures one day when that word jumped out at me in three different places," John explained.
From then on, in the words of their latest record, they have never looked back. By 1976, they had cut two records and were on almost constant demand at weekends. Then came the challenge: were they prepared to go full-time? They wrestled with the question for some months until finally at the end of January 1977, they decided to take the plunge. They started as a full-time group in February, last year.
Now a whole year later, sitting in the relaxed atmosphere of the park, they had time to reflect. "What have been some of the highlights?" I asked. All three were very thoughtful. Finally Rusty replied: "I think really some of the highlights have been more the soft candlelights. What I liked best was going into all the high-schools. To me that was the real highlight."
Their initial contacts had come mainly through religious-instruction teachers in their own area of Liverpool. But as others heard they were available, opportunities quickly opened in other areas. "We never had to push—the invitations just came," John said.
In some schools they were able to return three or four times and so build up a relationship with the kids. But follow-up was the main difficulty. In such a short time all they could really do was to break the ice and let them know Christianity wasn't the stuffy, boring religion so many imagine.
"I think more than anything, we were a P. R. for the Lord. Just our being there as a group, more than what we said, is probably what they'll remember," John remarked.
John said he personally had been amazed at the hunger for truth, particularly amongst the older age groups, but he added that there had been quite a difference in schools where a sol id basis had been laid through scripture classes. "We were able to build on that," he said.
The group's other exciting opening last year was in television. Although they only had two programs in Newcastle on a Sunday morning at 8 a.m. (barely peak-hour viewing), that gave them access to an estimated audience of some 30,000.
Television they explained, was a whole different ball-game. It required a high professional standard, together with a sense of relaxed intimacy in presentation. To completely master this they recognise, takes dedicated application and much hard work. "Its a bit like a cat chasing its tail," Rusty commented. "You have to learn to be good at the media, before the media at large will accept you."
But, while both schools and television
[caption: From left: Russel Fraegar, Linda Roach, Jenni Drury, John Drury, Janice Coleman, John Hannaford , Brenda Fowler, Joan Hannaford.]
present a challenge, perhaps the biggest challenge to the group last year wasn't so much in what they were doing for the Lord, as what he was seeking to do through them. Learning to flow as a group with eight different individuals, was no easy task. At the times when this did happen it brought much joy, and they saw it as the key to their real effectiveness in ministry.
"One thing we discovered, was our salvation was not in our music," John said. "As a group, music is not our main aim. If it were, it would have become a god in itself and we most probably would have starved." Another important factor was that they all came from one church. Having a spiritual home, prayer support, and being under the watchful eye of their pastor was a tremendous asset, in that it gave the group stability. "It also helped other people to trust us. They could see that we weren't just another group out satelliting on our own," John said.
Philosophy of Christian Music
Together with the need to establish a right basis for their ministry, was the need to establish their own particular approach to Christian music. Although this hasn't been done as a conscious effort, it has been something they have constantly had to work at.
In describing their approach, John explained that they saw a dichotomy existing between gospel music and worship. Gospel music was more like entertainment, where the congregation was passive; I ike listening to a sermon in song. In worship, the congregation became active participants. "In our singing, we've tried to draw these two aspects together," John said. "We feel they should go that side by side. The music we sing should not be separated from worship."
But basically they are still experimenting to find their own particular style of music. At the beginning of last year, as they looked at the talents in the group, they saw that their main asset was voices. They sought therefore to adapt their music to this strength. They admit however, that they are still very strongly influenced by American music.
"I think we can contribute an Australian way of communicating with Australians, but this is something we have to wrestle with," John said. "There are very few people, I believe, who have really hit the Australian nerve." One way they do see of hitting that nerve is to adapt their songs and lyrics to the more pragmatic quality that tends to exist in Australian people.
But the whole question of communication is something they still haven't come to grips with. It is something that John personally is hoping to explore further during this year. He should be getting that opportunity, for during 1978 Liberty has disbanded as a full-time group. "It may seem a backward step, but it's a step backwards to go forward," John explained enigmatically.
He saw this year as a time for consolidation and reflection; a time when each member of the group could weigh-up for themselves where they feel the Lord is leading. Last year showed the possibilities of a full- time singing group; television, schools—the opportunities are. boundless. But to be really effective would require much hard work and dedication. Whether the group is prepared to make that kind of sacrifice, is something each member is having to decide for themselves.
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Youth with a Mission
Thousands are dying in Asia and throughout the Pacific Islands without Christ, because Christians either don't care or don't know. God is challenging us to see many Christians moving out every year into this needy area of the world. We want to challenge you to.... Stop....
and consider God's direction for your life at this time. Maybe God wants.... You....
to be involved in reaching one of the seven thousand islands in the Pacific for himself. Training Programme
Any encounter with the Lord is going to cost us something; our time, money, comforts of home, and even our families. There is a price to be paid. But the question is, are you prepared to pay it?
To prepare you for Christian service worldwide, YWAM— New Zealand is holding the following training schools:
Discipleship Training School
Sept 9, 1978-Jan 13, 1979 and March 17-July 7, 1979
This three-month school deals with a Christian's basic relationship with God. This is followed by about two months of outreach in New Zealand and to various Pacific Islands.
School of Evangelism
Aug 19, 1978-Jan 13, 1979
This takes an in depth look at the messenger, message, and method of evangelism, including a period of outreach.
We would challenge you to pray seriously about these schools and also share the information with a friend. For further details and brochures, write to:
The Dean-YWAM Schools, P.O. Box 13580, Auckland 6, New Zealand.
20 Vision Magazine