Cornerstone 2012 Reflection #1 – Being There

Several weeks ago I was blessed to be a part of a group that traveled to Cornerstone
Music Festival in Bushnell, Illinois to spend a week in the heat (and it was hot – very,
very hot) with concertgoers, artists, friends, and self-described pilgrims and seekers
of all sort. For the second year in a row our group manned a table in the exhibition
tent alongside booths representing a variety of causes, bands, bible colleges, and
ministries. Our booth was stocked with Orthodox books, pamphlets, CDs and t-shirts.
The materials provided a point of entry for conversation, as well as something folks
who stopped by could take home with them. The real work of the week, though, was the
interaction, the face to face contact and conversation with the people who stopped by,
not only at the booth, but also at the morning and evening prayer service/discussion
sessions, and just walking around the festival.
It was quickly clear upon arriving this year that our little group had already become a
welcomed “fixture” at the festival. Folks who we met last year came by, expressing their
joy at seeing us again. The Orthodox festival-goers, including members of several of the
bands that played during the week, were happy for the chance to go to prayers and just
to have an Orthodox presence at the primarily protestant event. We talked with people
with whom we had spoken last year about Orthodoxy. Some had read the material we
gave them last year and returned with follow-up questions. At least half a dozen seekers expressed definite plans to visit their local Orthodox parish when they returned home.
The beauty of being present at Cornerstone Festival, several of us reflected on the last
day, is that, in many ways, it is easy. Not that it is not hard work; it is a nearly constant
stream of answering questions, explaining the faith, of really listening and learning
people’s stories. At the end of the day it is impossible not to be drained. But it is easy in
that the Festival itself seems to attract people serious about seeking Christ and finding
an authentic relationship with Him. They want to know about the Ancient Church.
There is a certain counter-cultural appeal to Orthodoxy, as it does not fit into the
categories of western denominations. Mostly though, there is an openness to learn and
be challenged that makes it easy to begin a discussion.
I left Cornerstone this year, like last year, both exhausted and energized. Exhausted
from the work, and, did I mention it was hot? Energized because of the relationships
formed, the excitement that the faithful and the seekers alike had about learning more
about the Orthodox Faith. We were sad to learn that this year may be the final year that
Cornerstone Festival happens. Whatever the fate of Cornerstone, I am firmly convinced
of the importance and need for this type of ministry. I look forward to seeing what will
come of it in the years to come.
Padre Joel