Volf and Punk Bands – the Cornerstone Experience

Post a Comment » Written on June 11th, 2008     
Filed under: News
BUSHNELL, IL (June 11, 2008) – Only at the Cornerstone Festival could a person sit in seminars under a canopy tent, led by one of the world’s leading theologians, Yale Professor Miroslav Volf, and then rock to the sounds of the punk band, The Scurvies.

It is that eclectic mixture that has continued to make the pioneering festival an event like no other in the country since 1983. This year, the festival celebrates its 25-year anniversary from June 30 to July 5.

Corner-1At least two major bands are reuniting for the festival. More than 650 bands are scheduled to play on 10 festival-sponsored stages as well as other stages sponsored by groups such as Compassion International. Also scheduled are more than 225 hours of seminars covering topics ranging from sex and dating to Hungarian film.

As many as 20,000 people attend the extravaganza each year. Jesus People USA Covenant Church first held the festival on fairgrounds in northern Illinois, but moved the event seven years ago to this rural community in south-central Illinois when they bought the 579-acres of property.

John Herrin, who is the festival director, came up with the idea for the festival while a drummer with Resurrection Band (Rez), one of the first hard rock Christian bands in the country and a ministry of Jesus People. The group made the rounds of the usual festivals at the time, but found they were nothing like the tame fare generally offered.

“All the other bands were the Imperials, Sandi Patti, Dallas Holm,” Herrin says laughing. “We were the odd man out.”

And so were a lot of the young people at the festival. Other than when Rez played, “Most of the kids were out playing Frisbee or doing something else,” Herrin recalls.

“We thought there ought to be something between a church conference and Woodstock,” Herrin says. To catch more of the flavor of the event, visit Cornerstone photos (taken during previous events).

It has succeeded. An article in a 2003 issue of Christianity Today magazine referred to the event as “Jesus’ Woodstock.”

Corner-2The festival is known for the breadth of musical offerings, ranging from singer-songwriter to Goth bands. Many of Christian music biggest groups – as well as popular mainstream bands – once played on the new band showcase stage. P.O.D., Switchfoot, Third Day, and Sixpence None the Richer all were basically unknown acts when they first appeared.

The band DeGarmo & Key is reuniting for the festival as is Rez. Other longtime favorites such as Charlie Peacock and the Lost Dogs also will appear.

Organizers were determined that the festival would be about more than the music, however. Herrin says the seminars are even more important. Speakers at the event have included John Perkins, Ron Sider, Jean Vanier, and Brian McLaren.

“I think the speakers get as much out of it as the people attending the seminars,” says Glenn Kaiser, the lead singer for Rez and one of the Jesus People pastors. He laughs as he relates that more than one presenter has said, “I can’t believe a guy with a huge Mohawk is taking notes!”

Because of the cutting edge nature of the festival, some parents and youth groups are reluctant to bring their teens, while others see the event as a great opportunity to expose people to an expression of Christianity that is not well-known.

“We have a lot of parents who bring their kids because they don’t have anywhere else to turn,” says Herrin. Speaking of the groups and fans who show off their tattoos, piercings and outlandish clothes, he says, “It doesn’t matter what they look like; it matters what’s inside.”

Many of the thousands who attend each year are regulars and use the festival as a chance to reconnect with friends from across the country. “There will be people come and set up their own tent communities,” says Kaiser.

“There’s so much genuine agape,” he adds.

For more information or to register, visit the festival website.

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