The first indication this is not going to be your average gig is walking in to the venue and finding an audience primarily made up of OAP’s sitting around eating fairy cakes. To be fair I sort of knew the score before hand, but this still surprised me. The audience was typified by one table where the crew sitting around it were from a congregation I had worshipped with/ preached to on Palm Sunday. That church’s Christian Aid rep, (a wonderful woman), had gotten her people out to support this event – I think without any knowledge of the singer in question. I guess many of the other tables were similar – except the one I ended up on which less people on it than the others. We were the “odds ‘n’ sods” table – Third Party (who was doing a sterling job of being staff at the gig and popping off in between things to do her Worship leaders training course in the building next door) had sat me there because she knew I was acquainted with a couple of people at this randomers table and didn’t want me to feel too Billy No Mates.
Anyway I digress. Davies-Jones kicked off with Troubadour taken from his Chasing Light CD. Music wise his set was brilliant; his brand of folk really suits the intimate type of setting which the lower hall in North Road Methodist is. During the first half of the evening listening to him, whilst sat shivering slightly in my damp hoodie; desperate for the loo (but deciding (i) it was too much hassle due to the venue layout and (ii) I would miss too much) I was transported to the Performance cafe at Greenbelt. This was all good.
Then the music stopped for a while and I rushed off to the loo. By the time I returned the weirdness had descended; trays of sandwiches landed on the table along with a team quiz. Whilst there were still a few more songs left to come – most notably Butterfly (from Water and Light) and Upside Down (from Only for a Short While) the rest of the evening was one long multi-media advert for Christian Aid – except there is slightly more to that statement than meets the eye. One sentence sums up was actually happening, and I don’t know who said it or when in the evening. It went along the lines of, “we’ve been too shouty and that’s not gotten us very far, in fact it’s risked alienating some of our long term supporters so now we’re reconnecting – sometimes you get further with a whisper.”
Within this interview she says, ” We’ve realised recently that in reaching out to more and more parts of UK society there’s a risk we don’t give enough focus to the core, churchgoing supporters who most share our gospel vision. As we move forward we will be focusing more on them, celebrating more not less our status as a Christian organisation.”
So it seems like tonight and the rest of the Once and For All tour is really about reconnecting with the core supporters in the run up to this years Christian Aid week, (13th – 19th May). Those of us who might be worried by this apparent toning down of the message will alienate us actually have nothing to worry about as the Christian Aid approved Tax Event at The People’s Bookshop on 23rd March when John Christensen from Tax Justice Network was speaking illustrates.
On the way out we got an activists “goody bag” of postcards, adverts and info which again reassured me that in their attempt to woo back the less radical elements of their Christian core they are not changing too much. At the end of the day Christian Aid – as Minghella says in her EA interview when challenged by the EA to come out as explicitly evangelical – “are and will remain a Christian organisation and cherish the opportunity to help the breadth of the Church end poverty.”
The remaining Davies-Jones North East Once and For All tour days are as follows:
St Gabriels Church, Heaton – Thurs 19th April
St Nicholas Cathedral, Newastle Upon Tyne – Fri 20th April
St Thomas Church Hall, Stanhope – Sat 21st April
Millennium Hall, Riding Mill – Sun 22nd April
St Barnabas, Rowlands Gill – Thurs 26th April
St, Cuthberts, Allendale – Sat 28th April (7.30pm)
St Mary’s, Heworth, Tyne & Wear – Sun 29th April
For bookings and further information please contact the Christian Aid North East office on 0191 228 0115