Monday, October 19, 2009


Was I allowed to have favorites?
That is, among our musicians?
I did.
If you have read this blog for the past year, you have seen an amazing list of musicians and other performers. Some were more effective than others. Some we scheduled many, many times, others appeared only once. Some were requested by others and I could never understand why. Others were some of my personal favorites. Below I'm going to list a few of my favorites and why they were my favorites. If your name or your favorite artist is not listed, that only means you did not make the list this time, I might do this again in the future.

Anyone who has attended the reunions has probably heard that John Gould played the Jesus House more than any other artist. One reason is because he played through out the 14 years of the ministry.

A few days ago, I was wondering which artist played the Jesus House in the most different incarnations. Dave Workman would qualify since he played as a soloist, as a member of the Paul & Dave Band, as a member of Pridigal (as bass player and drummer) and also, as a drummer for one incarnation of the Terry Fisher Band!

Deny Brigance certainly qualifies because he played as a soloist, as a member of Monk, a member of Steffens-Brigance plus several other bands he assembled for one-time concerts.

I believe Rick Marksberry probably takes the prize. Rick played at the House in a wide-variety of musical incarnations. He played as a soloist, as a back-up musician for people like Jim Bankowski, Tony Ross, Terry Fisher and probably many others I'm forgetting. He was a member of at least three bands; 'Cinnnati, Windfall and, the ever lovable, Dead Rat Road Band. Rick also performed with his wife, Diane. One of the reasons Rick performed with so many people was his versatility as a musician. He played guitar, fiddle, peddle steel, and banjo. He also plays piano & drums but I do not remember him playing either of those instruments at the House. If you attended the last reunion, you saw Rick & Diane in charge of the sound for the day, plus he played in the Super Group (see Youtube). Rick was also instrumental in recording & mixing many of the tracks for the JHCD besides singing and playing various instruments.

So now that I have that musing out of the way, on to my list of some of my favorite performers. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list, just six I chose for today:

6. Deny Brigance. Besides being the second performer to bring a set of drums to the House, Deny consistently showed that he had a deep love of music and a deep love for Jesus. He brought variety, new music, and one of the best rock & roll screams ever! Besides all that, Deny provided us with some of the best harmonies to flow through our sound system.
5. John Gould. Yes, he played more often than anyone, but besides that, John was musical perfection. Vocally and instrumentally, John was always in tune, a major accomplishment for many of us in those days, but also brought a depth of message that few others could equal.
4. Rick Mullins. Sure, sometimes Rich was hard to work with and at least one time he completely bombed! Hard to believe. Of all the great song writers we had, and we had great ones, Rich had more music flowing out of him than anyone. He was hard on our piano, but I always felt bad we didn't have a better instrument for him to play. At least the last time he played at the house, on an off night during our final year, when he happened to be in Cincinnati we were able to provide him with an electric grand so finally we heard him play an instrument worthy of his ability. Rich's creativity inspired the rest of us to greater heights.
3. Randy Matthews. He started it all. There was never a voice with more passion, intensity and energy. For those around in the early months, you had the pleasure of hearing him nearly every week. Randy was the first. Years later, every time he visited he was powerful. Among all the soloists with a guitar in the Kingdom, Randy was the only one who achieved the intensity and volume of a band all by himself.
2. Prodigal/Crossroads. They started as Crossroads but changed their name when they began recording; too many other Christian bands named Crossroads. Though it took them awhile to finalize a solid line up, especially filling that pesky bass player role, once Rick, Loyd, Mike & Dave became the band we knew as Prodigal they were an incredible musical and spiritual force. One of my favorite bands to preach after. I also loved opening for them. When we could no longer have them at the House (their sound system would not fit) it left a ministry hole. Fortunately that hole was filled by the next band.
1. The Willoughby-Wilson Band. The other favorite band after whom I loved to speak. They were creative, solid and always exhibited a desire to serve. I was blessed to open for them in many other concert settings. Only once did I have to play after them, at 2:00 am in Washington Court House during an all night youth concert. What were we thinking? One summer they even became a house band at the JH, playing once a month. It was great to have them so consistently.

These six acts consistently reached people at deep spiritual levels, exhibited consistent quality of music and tried hard to fit within the context of the Jesus house Ministry. Rarely were they compensated and most turned it down when we tried. I will forever be grateful to them, and to other artists not mentioned in this list for the willingness to let God use them at the place we called The Jesus House.

NOTE: Some of you might be interested to know that on December 6th, Rick Fields, from Prodigal, and Jim Wilson, from The Willoughby-Wilson Band who sometimes perform together as The Perkolaters will be leading worship at Grace United Methodist Church in Piqua, Ohio. Services are 8:45 am & 11:00 am. Terry Fisher, former runner of things at the Jesus House and currently Lead Pastor of said church, will be speaking. Everyone is invited to visit. The church building is located at 9411 N. Co. Rd. 25-A right off I-75 in Piqua.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

and one more thing...

Okay, I know, I told you I was finished, but, well, you see, things keep popping up that I need to share.

In a recent email, Deny Brigance sent the following observation:

"It struck me this morning that one of the things I like about the legacy of The Jesus House is that, back in those days, it was demonstrably clear that there is only one Church. Only Jesus Christ makes real church members. And now, years later, as we've all gone our semi-separate ways denominationally, or at least with customs and practices if not doctrine, it's nice to have something going on from time to time that points up the reality of the One Church."

Deny's thoughts reminded me of a postcard I received from Sheldon Vanauken in 1987, after the Jesus House was closed. Some of you will remember Vanauken as the author of A Severe Mercy, a popular book around the Jesus House in the late 70's and early 80's. Vanauken wrote a later book titled "Under the Mercy" which chronicled his spiritual journey. One of the experiences he related was his move into the Catholic Church. I was not bothered that he joined the Catholic Church but I wanted him to elaborate on the one of the reasons; which was that he concluded that it was historically the one true church. I've never believed that any of our non-profit organizations we call churches can represent the "one true church" leaving all the others out, so I was surprised that he gave that as one of his reasons. In his response to my question, printed in small writing on both sides of a postcard was, "the Catholic Church is the ancient church, founded by St. Peter in the days of the legions of Rome. It wrote the creeds which include; 'I believe in one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church.' That did not mean some invisible, nice collective of Christians wherever they might be gathered. It meant the church: priest, bishops, sacraments - Above all, sacraments - which require priests. Christ is indeed present when two or three are gathered in His name, of course, but that is not the church, not the sacraments, not the teaching authority of the apostles (bishops)."

Receiving the postcard from Vanauken was an interesting experience for me. I had never previously written one of my favorite authors. Lewis and Tolkien were both gone before I read any of their books. I was amazed he took the time to write. I was also amazed by his response. Since I don't believe you need to have a priest or any ordained person in order to baptize or serve communion, then his point about needing the Catholic church in order to have sacraments would never point me in that direction.

Of course, his reasoning that the Catholic Church was founded by Peter in Rome leaves out the Greek Orthodox Church founded in Constantinople at the same or possibly earlier time. For some years the Bishop of Rome and the Bishop of Constantinople had conflict over who was more powerful and who was really leading the church. Eventually, they stopped trying to work together and the Roman Catholic Church and Greek Orthodox Church grew out of that. Yes, I just simplified a journey of history that took many years to develop, but this is a blog not a history book.

Vanauken found the move into the Catholic Church comforting and an aid to his spiritual growth. I'm glad he found it so, but I'm still perplexed that he was looking for the "one true church" among the organizations that have been started by human beings in our attempt to worship God. Although there were times when we thought we had a little better understanding of God than others, we were usually brought back to the reality that we were human and prone to mistakes, while trying out best to worship God in spirit and truth. Deny's thoughts reminds us that the Jesus House was then and still is an eccentric collection of Christians from a variety of backgrounds. I like that. I hope you do too. If you don't, we'll just disagree on that point, okay? But we will not start a new denomination over it.

Music Update
There is, in the works, a new recording project for JH people. A collection of original Christmas songs will be written, recorded, and released on CD by Christmas 2010. Several songs have already been submitted. Stay tuned for more updates.