‘Relevant’ OASIS conference helping church leaders find renewal for 5 years

BUIES CREEK — Becky Marshall has led a children’s choir for 30 years. With that many years of service, she said, “it’s important to get inspiration” every year to keep going for another year.
She has found that inspiration during Campbell Divinity School’s 2015 OASIS: Renew for the Journey church music conference held July 13-15. Neither she nor her husband, Joel, associate pastor of worship and music at the First Baptist Church of Burlington, have missed an OASIS conference since Campbell Divinity debuted the three-day event five years ago.
“I always come and get some nugget or inspiration — renewal for another year,” said Becky Marshall, who sings in the adult choir, leads the children’s choir, and is part of the hand bells team at First Baptist Church of Burlington.
For years, organizations and groups like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBF) have held music festivals for children and youth and have provided resources for worship and church leaders in North Carolina and the region, said Rick Jordan, CBF’s church relations coordinator.
But there was never a conference where the leaders of those music festivals received training, he added. “There wasn’t anything like OASIS.”
At this year’s OASIS, for example, around 150 participants are attending worship services, choral readings, and workshops led by nationally-known church leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of the Duke Chapel; Randy Edwards, founder and director of programs at YouthCUE, Michael J. Glasgow, minister of music at North Raleigh United Methodist Church; and Dora Ann Purdy, preschool design editor and music editor for “Growing in Grace” children’s music curriculum.
This year’s OASIS has also featured three public concerts held in Butler Chapel that conclude each day. Monday night featured the Lincoln at Lillington concert written and directed by Pepper Choplin, composer, conductor and humorist. That concert was a presentation of the cantata “Our Father,” an encore performance of the concert held at the Lincoln Center.
The Tuesday evening concert, Festival Choir Concert, featured Campbell students and other church singers with the Snyder Memorial Baptist Church Orchestra. The N.C. Baptist All-State Youth Choir Alumni Concert will close out the conference Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Butler.
The same conductors, composers and musicians appearing in these concerts are also leading sessions throughout the conference. On Tuesday, Choplin held a choral reading session in which he shared with conference attendees his best new pieces and anthems.
“OASIS brings in good people like Pepper Choplin,” Jordan said. “These are the people whom you are singing and playing their works on a weekly basis or regularly. You’re getting at least some small group interaction with these people. That’s a draw for ministers.”
Becky Marshall also likes that the sessions are led by some of the same clinicians year after year. That includes Ran Whitley, professor of music education at Campbell, she said. One year he shared how he has a set of bass tubes that he made from PVC pipes for $5. The Marshalls took the specifications of those tubes home and asked a carpenter friend to make several of them so they could give them to children to use as inexpensive instruments. The Marshalls have also incorporated pieces they’ve heard at choral readings into their own ministry.
“OASIS provides what people are looking for: classes, training, and concerts,” said Joel Marshall. “It is geared toward what people are looking to use in their own churches.”
This year Whitley’s sessions focus on leading a children’s choir chime group and providing resources for liturgical worship planning, for example. Topics led by other clinicians include how to more effectively use technology in ministry, how to live out and model true peacemaking during times of conflict, and how to implement learning activities related to worship for children in grades four through six.
Powery, dean of the Duke Chapel, delivered the messages at the worship services and led several sessions, including a two-part interactive series on “Praying with the Spirituals.” These sessions explored how African American spirituals can serve as a fruitful resource for prayers.
“OASIS is relevant and gives you the opportunity to learn from and fellowship with those who are doing similar work as you,” Joel Marshall said. “That’s refreshing and renewing.”
Those are also the reasons why OASIS has flourished for five years, Jordan said. “As Scripture says, ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ This conference allows you to get with people who are sharpening iron. That’s a great thing.”