Pastor Tobias Anderson has been organizing an annual Christmastime Concert through the New Paltz Musicales, a community music ministry of the Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, as a benefit for Family of New Paltz for four years now. During that period, his congregation has raised “over $15,000 for Family — mostly from concerts,” Anderson says. The next such event, titled “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding!” takes place this Friday, December 2 in the church’s sanctuary, located at 90 Route 32 South.
Partly because they benefit a secular not-for-profit organization that serves the hungry and homeless, runaway youth and domestic violence survivors in our community regardless of religious affiliation, these popular musical events bring out a diverse crowd, according to Anderson: “Many people come who aren’t Christian. It has become a place to radiate hope for the world.”
In the wake of the recent presidential election, this local pastor has been finding many of his flock feeling “overwhelmed” with worry about the future of racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, women and LGBT people in this country. And he believes that it is the responsibility of Christian congregations to champion and defend oppressed people, rather than to divide and marginalize them in the name of religion. “Despite our brokenness, we can do the right thing,” Anderson says. “When we become less fearful and more secure in our own beliefs, we can make the world more beautiful together.”
“That’s part of what Family has been doing,” he elaborates. “We are these people. We need to ask ourselves, ‘How do we stand in solidarity with them?’ People are looking for a ray of sunshine — for visible signs of hope. So it makes sense for us as a congregation to do this kind of thing.” He notes that for organizations like Family, “Government funding comes and goes” with the changes in political climate. “That’s why efforts like this concert are so important: They provide unrestricted funds, enabling Family to go on doing what needs to be done.”
Then there’s the appeal of the music itself, which is an important focus in Anderson’s ministry. He’s a vocalist who will be performing at the December 2 concert in a jazz/gospel trio with pianist William Norman and upright bassist Robert Bard. The headliners will be local favorite enviro-folk quartet Betty and the Baby Boomers. Singer/bassist Rachel Loshak, who has just recorded a new album of children’s songs with Grammy-winner Dean Jones, will be performing as well. Also on the program will be the fourth- and fifth-graders of the Mountain Laurel Youth Choir, who also performed at Redeemer Lutheran last year. “Those kids will blow people’s socks off,” Anderson promises. All in all, he calls the planned concert “a wonderful mix of styles.”
So you can go to this Christmas concert to have a rollicking good musical time, or to support a provider of essential services to our neediest neighbors, or to recharge your spiritual batteries by surrounding yourself with folks who are determined to “build for long-term common ground,” in the pastor’s words. He recalls the feeling of uplift at the end of last year’s concert: “We linked arms with our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, and with neighbors who aren’t sure what they believe. People spontaneously broke into applause at that.” Pastor Anderson urges his congregants and others throughout the community not to lose heart this year, regardless of political affiliation. “Our work today is the same as it is every day. We don’t return hate for hate. We stand up for justice.”
Admission to “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding!” will be by a suggested donation of $15 per adult, $5 per child aged 12 and under. One hundred percent of all donations will be given to Family of Woodstock, Inc., for use in the New Paltz community. Light refreshments will be served during intermissions. The concert begins at 7 p.m. For more information, call (845) 255-0051, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://redeemernewpaltz.org or www.facebook.com/redeemernewpaltz.