By Michael J. ARVIZU
The last thing CV Church Pastor Scott Wood wanted you to think about when you walked into his church on the evening of June 24 was God – well, at least for several hours during the church’s annual presentation of Summer Nights.
“We’re specifically looking to develop relationships with ‘un-churched’ people,” Wood said of the show. “That’s just anybody who would come. We want to just expose them to who we are as people at CV Church and that we are here.”
For one night, the church was transformed from worship space to a tropical locale, complete with tiki torches, surfboards and grass huts supported by bamboo poles. Now in its second year, Summer Nights is one of two yearly secular music shows presented at the church, which included covers of songs from artists such as Adele, Jason Mraz, Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen. The show utilized the talents of mostly professional singers and musicians from the CV Church band and “Strings & Beans,” the church’s coffeehouse-style showcase presented every month.
The other show is Lift, and it will be presented Nov. 11. Lift is also in its second year.
Summer Nights is a “community event,” Wood said, where people in the neighborhood can come and listen to secular music in a comfortable environment without having to listen to a sermon or Bible passage or be pressured to join the church. Explicit instructions were given to Summer Nights performers and emcees not to talk about the church or its teachings, Wood said. Only a feedback card was distributed to audience members after the show.
“It makes church not scary. It makes it accessible to everybody,” said CV Church member Monica Nocon. “It makes church just pleasant for anybody from any walk to life to come into these walls. That’s the point of it.”
During last year’s Lift show, a guest performer spoke about faith during an act; and half of the concert was devoted to non-secular music (that is, religious music – contemporary or otherwise – one would hear at a church service). Wood received negative feedback from at least one concertgoer who was expecting a secular event.
“That’s where we messed up on accident the first time,” said Summer Nights performer Joel Simpson. “We did some popular songs and some Christian songs that we knew.”
Orange County resident Nolan Muchow, whose brother is friends with Summer Nights opening act singer Aaron Encinas, had no idea what to expect from the concert, but he wouldn’t have been surprised if it had included sermons and church music.
“My church does this a lot,” said Muchow, who is a member of Mariners Church in Mission Viejo. “I was kind of expecting it. I was surprised to hear the songs that [Encinas] sang. It was great; whatever gets people in through the doors.”
Summer Nights performer and CV Church worship leader Petri Nauha believes it is important not to attach the word “church” to these types of shows.
“When you think of the word ‘church,’ everybody’s got a strong opinion,” said Nauha. “So it serves to let those people come here and just see for themselves what it is that is here.”
“We will not mention the name God; we will not mention the name Jesus,” Wood said. “You come [and] you’ll hear good music and a concert without all the F-bombs and all the sexual innuendos. You just get a good, clean concert.”
According to Simpson, the use of mostly professional artists stems from the church’s desire to present a quality show.
“The cool thing is we want to have musical excellence. I think churches get a staple for not having that. You can just throw anybody up there,” he said. “I’m not saying that we’re picky, but we want to allow everybody to enjoy the music. We just want to get better and better and better.”
The church also held a food drive during Summer Nights to benefit Sue’s Garden, the food bank at First Baptist Church of La Crescenta. Events like Summer Nights are an example, Wood said, of what he hopes are the first steps in determining what the hurts and aches of the community are – in this case, hunger – and what the church can do to address those issues.
CV Church layperson and food drive coordinator Carole Bouchard believes organizing community events like Summer Nights and Lift benefit the food bank greatly because they allow donations to come in from the surrounding area and not just from members of the church.
“I think it was 1,100, 1,200 pounds we collected when we did this eight months ago,” Bouchard said. “It was pretty cool.”
Several months in the making, Summer Nights drew roughly 170 people, according to figures Wood collected during the show.
“Christ commands us to love our neighbor which includes everybody, not just one another – the members of our church, members of our family,” said CV Church layperson and Summer Nights performer Phil Snyder. “We’re here to serve the community.”