There’s nothing like finding an oasis in the middle of a long journey. For Old Testament travelers, an oasis was usually found at a spring or well in the midst of a desert land, places like Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea (left), or Beersheba in the Judean desert.
When modern travelers think of an oasis, it’s more likely to be a convenience store or fast food restaurant located near an interstate highway. Recognizing that, owners of a combination plaza just off I-95 in Halifax, NC named their busines the “Oasis Travel Center.”
But we run dry in other areas, too, and need to find refreshment. For many years, worship leaders in North Carolina and surrounding states looked forward to a renewing music and worship conference at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Caswell each summer. A few years ago that week was squeezed out by changing school schedules and youth weeks that can fill the assembly with more warm bodies. About the same time, the Baptist State Convention of N.C. cut back on support staff for music and worship, leaving a dry void for those who seek the refreshment of new ideas and new music, along with the fellowship of old friends.
Enter Campbell University Divinity School, which saw an opportunity to provide a needed service while also increasing the visibility of the school. Former dean Mike Cogdill and adjunct music professor Larry Dickens birthed the idea of hosting a conference for music and worship leaders. Church relations director Irma Duke gathered a leadership team. Dan Ridley (left), formerly of the BSCNC and now minister of music at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, came on board to serve as the conference coordinator.
With a lot of help from a lot of people, the “Oasis: Renew for the Journey” conference was held July 19-20, drawing rave reviews from participants. Along with the 150 persons who registered for the conference, many others participated in leadership, including worship services. No less than 38 breakout sessions offered specific helps for age-graded choir leaders, organists and pianists, ministers who plan worship, reading sessions, and ideas for creative worship. A resource center offered space for vendor booths and a bookstore. Five visiting church choirs and a concert by the All-State Youth Choir brought several hundred more persons to Campbell’s increasingly attractive campus.
In an email following the conference, dean Andy Wakefield reported that the 150 registrants represented more than 80 churches, included 17 Methodist churches, 3 Presbyterian, and several other denominations in addition to all the Baptists who attended. Six states were represented, including Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida, in addition to North Carolina.
That’s the appeal of an oasis. When people are thirsty and you can offer refreshment, they’ll come from miles around, and leave with renewed vigor for the good work they feel called to do.
[A similar conference will be held July 17-18, 2012. It will feature composers Joel Rainey, Jane Holstein, and Benji Harlan, a children’s choir camp led by Philip and Susan Morrow, and the Snyder Memorial Baptist Church Orchestra.]