The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) 2012 General Assembly got underway June 20 with auxiliary meetings and a smoothly joyful “Evening of Music and Celebration” in honor of Dan and Earline Vestal, held at the historic Broadway Baptist Church.

Chinese artist He Qi presented an original painting to the Vestals.Baptist historian and fellow Texan Bill Leonard, who attended junior high, high school, and college with the Vestals, recalled how “Danny” Vestal grew to become “Daniel” Vestal, a strong leader and prime mover behind the emergence of CBF from the Southern Baptist Convention more than 20 years ago.

The well-attended and laid-back evening was punctuated by hymns chosen because they were the Vestals’ favorites, and special music from Broadway’s chapel and chancel choirs, including an anthem written for the occasion by Michael Cox.

Carrie NewcomerThe highlight of the evening was a 45-minute concert by folksinger Carrie Newcomer. She’s no newcomer to the music scene, of course, and won a Grammy for song-writing nearly 10 years ago. After the concert I had to confess to her that I had not been familiar with her music, but she’d won a new fan.

Newcomer, who joked about her quiet Quaker faith, exhibited a gentle spirit in her music and lyrics, as well as in the patter between songs. Every song, in one way or the other, celebrated the simple beauty of the life we share on this earth, and the hope of greater understanding that leads to peace.

I realized, as the evening went on, that this is what I like so much about CBF — stridency and sharp edges are in short supply, and the entire organization is characterized by a gentle spirit that carries over into its meetings and its work.

It felt right, then, that the concert closed with Newcomer leading both choir and congregation to join in on her song “If Not Now,” which includes this verse:

So we’ll work it ’til it’s done,

Every daughter every son,

Every soul that always longed for something better, something brighter …

It will take a change of heart for this to mend,

It will take a change of heart for this to mend,

But miracles do happen every shining now and then,

If not now, tell me when?




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