2020 – A Year to Remember…. And Forget
No one could list all the events, trips, concerts, gatherings, and other activities both indoors and outdoors which were affected.
Among the casualties were numerous faith-based artistic endeavors. Michigan's two major Christian music multi-day events - Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon and Big Ticket Festival in Gaylord - both were forced off the books until 2021.
Summer concert series such as Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) in Grand Haven, and weekly concerts at places like Maranatha Bible Conference, Sandy Pines Lakeside Chapel and the Christian Reformed Concert Grounds were either cancelled or reduced to a trickle.
WOW officials gamely attempted in-studio virtual concerts for the first two Sundays in the series. But they had to end it when it became apparent that summertime crowds would not be able to gather at the venue at Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.
Various one-night Christian concerts were cancelled or postponed. Those that were postponed had difficulty landing on another date. The Newsboys concert at Fair Haven Ministries in Hudsonville was originally scheduled for April, was moved to August, then changed again to May 1, 2021. Comedian Chonda Pierce had her West Michigan visit postponed once and then cancelled when the replacement date turned out to be a no-go.
Fans recall that Lauren Daigle's March 12 concert at Van Andel Arena was the last event held there before virus precaution clamped everything down.
A SNOWBALLING IMPACT
Just as telling were the COVID coattails on more commonplace activities. Think of all the Christian youth camps (both overnight and day-programs) that had to cancel their summer schedule after they already had staff in place. This hurt the camps financially as well. Vacation Bible Schools - a staple of summertime church activity – had to quickly go virtual or simply be withdrawn. Churches scrambled to hold outdoor worship, many looking for FM radio transmitters so they could broadcast messages to cars in their parking lots. Numerous churches began offering Facebook Live or other online worship forms, a tactic which in some cases gained new viewers.
Community-wide events such as the annual Festival of the Arts and Art Prize, which include many Christian artists presenting their faith-based art expressions, were scuttled leaving both artists and patrons lacking opportunities.
In looking back at the articles I've written over the past 9 months, I tired of seeing how many had to do with cancelled concerts, plays, art exhibits or related events.
Also affected was my "Terry's Picks" column, in which I highlight three events for the upcoming month. It was a tough task to find in-person events that were still on the schedule and likely to actually happen as the date approached. I reluctantly began including virtual program opportunities.
A couple of Christian music artists got a nod in the 40th anniversary celebration video of DeVos Performance Hall. I've seen many Christian concerts through four decades at that downtown Grand Rapids venue. The new official video highlighted both Lauren Daigle and TobyMac for their shows in that distinguished hall - right up there with better known artists such as James Taylor, Diana Ross and John Mellencamp.
See the video online.
ON THE RADIO
There were changes at three area Christian radio stations during 2020.
*WCSG-FM (91.3) moved its studios from the former fire station on the eastern edge of Cornerstone University's campus to a new facility just a bit south of the campus's main entrance on the corner of East Beltline and Bradford St. NE. Station staffers completed the transition without any interruption in its broadcast schedule.
*WFUR-FM's longtime frequency of 102.9 was transferred to the Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN) which began programming June 28 as WYHA-FM. The network airs a number of syndicated Christian talk and teaching programs. (See the schedule online )
Meanwhile, WFUR continues its programming on 1570AM and its "translator" frequency of 92.9FM.
*"Joy Worship" debuted on the air August 31. Formerly known as "The Pledge," WPNW-AM1260 switched from a talk-oriented format to praise music, also heard on its FM translators of 96.5 and 98.9. Now it more closely coincides with its sister station, "Joy99" (WJQK-FM 99.3).
Also.... "Ignite Radio," a program hosted by area pastor JR Pittman, moved down the dial this year. After a format change at Magic 104.9 left him without an on-air home, Ignite Radio landed at the Ride 102.5FM at 3pm each Sunday afternoon. The first program back on the air came in October when Pittman was joined by special guest Grand Rapids-based singer/rapper George Moss of Oxen Team Ministries.