Crescent Fort Rouge United Church

Stewardship message – Bill Gillis

Stewardship message – Bill Gillis

Hospitality to the Arts

For many years CFR has opened our doors to the arts mainly as a place for performance – choral and instrumental. In the old days when CBC had money and did live music recordings for broadcast this was one of their favourite venues because of the marvelous acoustics. So we have a long and glorious tradition of being welcoming of the arts. In the last few years we have expanded that and have made a determined effort not just to be a venue that could be rented for concerts but a place that offered genuine “hospitality to the arts”. We still welcome the many choral concerts. We hosted the International Cello Festival a few years ago and welcomed the renowned and eccentric Charlemagne Palestine to our organ bench. Last year we hosted our first ARTSFest which was a resounding success and broadened our scope to include many art forms including the visual arts. A large number of artists, some of whom who would have limited opportunity to show their work found a place here to proudly display what they created. The ARTSFest is happening again this year and will be expanded. Last Sunday those who were here heard a presentation from Steven Ratzlaff about his play Reservations which has been in rehearsal here for several weeks and he spoke of the uniqueness of this building as an hospitable place to work.

From time to time you may see in the calendar of events “All Ages Concerts” . These are generally very noisy events – the music is generally not very melodic – in addition to being loud it can often be dissonant and even harsh. Generally the performers are young people. Many have never even been inside a church before. Every time they are amazed that CFR opens its doors to them – accepts them warts and all. There was one such concert recently. Let me quickly tell you about one of the musicians. He is in his early 20’s – he had performed here a couple of times before and had asked to meet with me for coffee sometime later. When we met he told me something of his life story. From childhood he could never get it right with his dad. He was called stupid, lazy all those derogatory terms. His dad laughed at his music and said he had no talent. You will not be surprised to learn that he did not do well at school, got involved in drugs, considered suicide. Friday night he told us all that he is on the road of recovery. He has been “clean” for almost a year. He is a member of NA. He has his many struggles of course but he thanked the people of CFR for accepting and allowing him to perform in this space. The hospitality of this place was a factor in his starting to turn his life around. It has been a privilege for me these past 7 or 8 years to represent this congregation and be your face in this way. I grew up in a family which believed in supporting the church financially and by volunteering. I have had my vocation in the church. We continue to support this congregation financially and otherwise because we have our spiritual lives nourished here, because it provides a warm community of compassion and because our congregation opens the doors and because it welcomes even those who are more used to having doors slammed shut because they don’t “measure up”.

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