Tuesday, August 28, 2007

2007 Fest and Post-Fest Coverage

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH has assembled a terrific page of Cornerstone Festival 2007 coverage from during and after the fest. These include feature articles from major media, online reporting, blogs from attendees and speakers, as well as dozens of podcasts. The podcasts range from interviews with musical artists to a series on "Making a Living as a Musician." There's also a comprehensive "Cornerstone 101" overview of the festival and a series of "Tollbooth Talks" on topics including both film and music.

As a part of the "Cornerstone 101" series, you'll find an in-depth podcast on the 2007 seminars, plus the arts and multimedia programming, including the Imaginarium, Flickerings and Burning Brush. Go behind the scenes and learn about how we put together this year's new-and-improved seminar program, cstoneXchange. Hear juicy details about last year's controversial Imaginarium and the philosophy behind Flickerings. Get the inside scoop on Cornerstone's development of a new "ancient-future" worship venue and the soon-to-be-legendary "Talking Stage".

Meanwhile, back at the official Cornerstone Festival site, there's plenty of "live" coverage posted during the 2007 festival, featuring lots of photos and music performance videos as well as the "Live Coverage Blog." Last, but most certainly not least, be sure to check out the post-fest reports at the respective websites of the fest's three main arts-related venues, Flickerings (independent and international cinema) the Imaginarium (pop culture extravaganza, this year with their very own Elvis impersonator), and Burning Brush (visual arts).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Simple Way Fire

MANY OF OUR CORNERSTONE FESTIVAL community will have already heard about the recent warehouse fire in Philadelphia that destroyed several homes in the neighborhood of the Simple Way Community, including the building where fest speaker Shane Claiborne had lived. Nobody was hurt, but several families were left homeless and there was a tremendous amount of property damage. Shane has let us know he is grateful for everyone' s prayers and that he will be speaking at Cornerstone Festival as scheduled. A fund to support the families has been established. See The Simple Way for more information, and please continue to keep Shane and the Simple Way Community in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Talking Stage Schedule

THE TALKING STAGE SCHEDULE has been posted. The idea here was to move the Press Tent to the main fest midway and create an evening program, wherein seminar speakers and other interesting folks could converse with knowledgeable interviewers in a coffee-house atmosphere. Come and join us each evening at Cornerstone, from 7PM-10PM, for scintillating conversation.

Friday, May 11, 2007

MOYL Cornerstone Schedule Maker

OUR FRIENDS AT THE MOYL (Mustard on your Leg) website have posted their annual Cornerstone Schedule Maker fully-loaded with music, cstoneXchange, Imaginarium, Flickerings and Burning Brush schedule information to help you create your own custom fest program. It's a marvelous and handy planning tool and MOYL has been doing it on an "unofficial" basis for several years. Hats off to them and and web-guru Greg for taking the time to make this terrific organizer for Cornerstone Fest attendees. Spread the word, and plan ahead, so you won't have to make those agonizing schedule decisions at the fest when there are obviously SO MANY better things you could be doing!

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Jesus Movement is Jesus Moving

LAST OCTOBER, Christianity Today published a 50th anniversary issue, featuring an article by historian Mark Noll on Evangelicalism entitled “Where We Are and How We Got Here.” The opening layout featured a double-page photograph which, in such a prominent spot and under such an comprehensive-sounding header, should have been some representation of the length and depth and diversity of the topic at hand. (You'd think.) The historical picture they used featured a motley group of Jesus Freaks, circa 1976, in front of an old Jesus Freak bus, holding evangelistic signs in downtown Chicago. That CT editors would let the Jesus Movement function at least in part as an icon of their movement should inspire all sorts of discussion. I’m not sure I feel qualified to lead that one, but I can talk a little about that particular group of Jesus Freaks, since I know several of them. The photo, in fact, is of a group from our JPUSA community in Chicago.

This topic under consideration with that picture, in this publication, brought up all sorts of reactions and memories in me. I remember, for example, those years we used to send a group from Cornerstone magazine to the Evangelical Press Association convention – in some ways it must have been like setting the Marx Brothers loose at a society ball. One year a bunch of us sat at a table near the front dais of some stuffy plenary session we barely made it through. I watched as this older Evangelical dignitary at our end of the stage kept stealing glances at us merry pranksters (so obviously out of place), all the while smiling and seeming, almost, like he wished he could come down from the platform and join the fun at the hippie table.

I suspect it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the Jesus Movement should necessarily flow into the Evangelical Movement — and I'm not sure all of it did. Indeed, there were wings of the latter who remained resistant if not hostile to Jesus Freaks, their music, their embarrassingly informal ways and impolite table manners. The Charismatics, on the hand, who were generally open to most everything welcomed the Jesus People (our group and the larger movement) like the Prodigals they were. Early Jesus Movement history in its language and style was very Charismatic. Some of Jesus Freaks found a home with them, and became assimilated by that culture and/or vice versa. Others, once they’d gotten in the Evangelical door, continued on their noisy way toward the mainstream. I'm not aware of any hard data on this, but it would be interesting to see the statistics on how many people who identified with the Jesus Movement in the 1970s were identifying a decade later with the Religious Right. There certainly was a mixing of culture and transformations both ways — to the point that Jesus People (in general) drove their bus right onto the front page of a turn-of-the-century history and state-of-the-union of Evangelicaldom.

The state of that union turns out to be fairly precarious just now. And the irony of that particular recognition for this specific group in the photo is that it comes just as their story seems to be back on the bus and moving with the flow of so many others out of Evangelicaldom into — whatever comes next. People don’t seem to know what to call the age following Modernity other than to affix that prefix “post”. But they do know that Modernity is over. And more and more people are feeling the same way about their identification with Evangelicalism; it no longer feels like "home," or as much as it maybe once did. The reasons range across issues cultural to philosophical to theological. There’s no question that the political situation the last few years, along with the invention of the internet, have supercharged the process. In any case, for many of us, the Evangelical word is in play.

The Jesus People (the ones in the picture) never wanted to go it alone. They joined a denomination in the late Eighties: what used to be called the "Swedish Covenant Church" but later became the "Evangelical Covenant Church." And as high profile thinkers in that denomination join the discussion, one wonders if soon enough the E word could even be in play there. So it is with some serious stake in this conversation that Cornerstone Festival has brought the discussion into this year’s festival program. We’ve scheduled a seminar entitled “Engaging the E Words: Emergent, Evangelical, and Ecclesiology.” That first word has become a buzz word and even brand name among certain sectors of postEvangelicaldom. That last is a word is one that can help structure and direct the discussion of church forms and what it means to be the church. The seminar will be led by Vincent Bacote, a professor of theology at Wheaton College, who is inclined to think the Emergents should be careful about discerning baby from bathwater. No doubt he’ll have a broad spectrum of folks to engage those E words with him at Cornerstone, and the conversation will surely not end there.

For like the man sang so long ago, “Something’s happening here. What it is, ain’t exactly clear.” Some say this Emergent thing is just a fad. But then they said the same thing about the Jesus Freaks.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Seminar Schedules

IT'S REALLY NOT THE WORST problem to have, but it’s the classic Cornerstone dilemma – or trilemma, or quadrillemma, etc: choosing among the available options to plan your personal festival schedule. It’s hard enough figuring out what concerts to attend when there’s always music on a dozen and more stages playing simultaneously. But since the music is often spread across a dizzyingly-broad range of genres and styles, it’s usually just a matter of finding your just niche and getting to the show on time. Even then, it’s rarely that simple. And you wouldn’t want to lock down your plans too tight anyway, because there’s always the chance that something that wasn’t even on your radar at this year’s fest turns out to be what grabs you, pulls you in, and doesn’t let you go.

Working out your personal Cornerstone seminar schedule can be just as daunting a prospect. Especially since people who love to learn tend to be interested in EVERYTHING. Some people try to catch a little bit of everything, seminar-hopping their way through the festival. For best results, though, we recommend choosing a topic you’re interested in and digging in for the long haul. But you still have to choose.

At least we’ve provided some advance information to help you decide. There’s a list of cstoneXchange seminars here, and speakers, and we’ve just posted the schedule grids. (There’s also schedules online for the Imaginarium and Flickerings programs as well.)

Take your time (you’ve got just a bit over two months to decide!) We know its difficult, if not monumentally unfair to have to choose between, say a seminar on N. T. Wright and one led by Shane Claiborne. But if you think it’s hard picking which seminars to attend, imagine how hard it is to plan the whole program and not to be able to attend any!! And no we don’t do it that way on purpose with either seminars or bands, but do as much agonizing with the schedule beforehand trying to minimize the agonizing on your part.

In any case, if it were any easier to plan your schedule, it wouldn’t be Cornerstone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Flickerings 2007

THE LATEST ADDITIONS TO the 2007 Flickerings program have been posted, including a list of this year's Film Showcase films and filmmakers, along with a page describing the workshops and discussions. Our idea of what Flickerings is has been evolving over the past six years, in large part through interaction with the participants as we've all discovered together just what people are looking for in this venue. To our surprise, we've acquired several very different and faithful audiences: veteran cinephiles and newbies, novice and working filmmakers, along with fans of the shorts program who are usually curious enough to stick around to see what exotic flavor of subtitled film we'll be playing for the Morning Movie. We've got attendees who are vitally interested in the formal aspects of film -- in the films as film -- and others who are more interested in the content or topics particular films address. We could easily fill the entire program keyed to any one of these individual emphases, and balancing the mix over four days is a real challenge; we think the juxtaposition and diversity is exactly suited to Cornerstone Festival and, like the festival, has become both incredibly fruitful for all of us involved and central to our identity as a film venue.

This year's Flickerings program will be shooting from all sorts of angles. The seminars, workshops and discussions cover a range of aspects of film production and the background of specific films. The Featured Screenings program is probably our most accessible yet, with a focus on "J-Pop!", from anime to peppy teen movies to darker films that express more worrisome aspects of Japanese youth culture. Paul Nethercott will be screening a film and giving a seminar on these broader issues of the culture, both at Flickerings and the Imaginarium. (He'll also be bringing over a case of Manga Messiah to distribute, brand new Gospel manga comics by Japanese artists.) Our 2007 Showcase program will present one of the most diverse and exciting programs yet, and many of the filmmakers plan on being present at the festival. Congratulations to all those filmmakers selected for the Showcase and thanks to everyone who sent a film!

(It's not too early to start thinking about next year's Film Showcase. See the 2007 Entry Info to get an idea of what we're looking for and how it's done.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Famous Monsters on Maple Street

THE IMAGINARIUM program has been posted. Some readers will appreciate the Famous Monsters of Filmland pastiche. FM is right up there with Cornerstone (and Wonder) in being an inspiration and influence for the Cornerstone Festival Imaginarium. The program this year is an eclectic mix (surprise) of several things, not least 50s sci-fi movies, and a consideration of the "Monsters on Maple Street" — to reference a famous Twilight Zone episode, in which the "monsters" turn out to be close to home indeed. Paul Leggett bought the first FM off the newstand, he will tell you with little provocation, in New Jersey, in a snow storm, in the actual 50s, and so brings that sort of Maple street-cred to his seminar this year. He'll be examining the censorship and demagoguery and paranoia often associated with the McCarthy Era, especially in connection with the EC comic books controversy. Classic stuff, and unfortunately still highly relevant. Imaginarium regular John Morehead recently interviewed Paul Leggett at his Theofantastique blog, a terrific conversation that will give you a little taste of the conversation at the Imaginarium, a place about which people already brag they were there, on magical hot summer nights, when the June bugs flew into the projector gate, back in the day.

YOU AXED FOR IT! We’ve updated the Imaginarium site with the design we’d originally planned on using. Jason Seiler is already well-known in The Industry as one of the most promising young caricaturists around. And since he works in the office next door, we thought it’d be great to invite him do a Basil Gogos –style cover for our Famous Monsters spoof. He was eager to participate, but what with all those pesky and proliferating New York (paying) clients, we had to wait our turn to finally replace our temp cover with the real deal. Jason’s cover turned out to be such a knockout we re-did the rest of the site, too. And yes, there will be a t-shirt. Thanks, Jason! And keep up the great work! (4-23-07)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Ancient-Future Festival

KATHLEEN NORRIS IS A POET who has written bestsellers (like The Cloister Walk) on the correlation between the poetic way of seeing and the religious (or devotional) way of seeing. She’s quite popular among Evangelicals who seem to understand that they have blind spots in both areas. Some may already have intuited that their lack in one area may be connected to their lack in the other. I saw her speak some time ago. Her lecture was very un-Evangelical: no charts, diagrams, or proof-texts. It was mostly a recitation of poetry. The setting was itself poetry, a metaphor. A seminary chapel, blisteringly white, with zero art, no color, and no crucifix (just a smooth, blank cross). There was stained glass, but no pictures – except for one, apparently deemed safe enough for Protestants: it was the image of a book. It was into this barren space that the poet had been invited to reintroduce something that had been long absent, even forbidden.

Of course, the poet would be the first to tell us that words can make images. But images can be prosaic, literal and dead – like that stained glass, and the image-less word-privileging culture it represents. Perhaps the Reformers didn’t realize that words become idols just as easily as images. But suddenly, on just these issues, the Reformation seems to be up for renegotiation, a re-reformation. Many Protestants seem to be considering a line-item veto on their tradition(s). In some places, poetry, metaphor and image have begun to return to empty sanctuaries from which they were stripped.

There was a passage in William Dyrness’s Visual Faith that really got my attention, where he talks about how the Jesus Movement (the first TV generation) brought their whole culture into the church – not just their music, but their visual culture – to wide and profound effect. Certainly Cornerstone – magazine or festival – has always presented a very visual faith. Cornerstone’s sponsoring community, Jesus People USA, was born of the Jesus Movement, and has continued on in its own journey to some unexpected places. While the Jesus Movement was often notoriously anti-institutional, informal to a fault, and turned its nose down on liturgies and vestments, JPUSA has lately experimented with liturgical services, incorporation of iconic imagery and participatory elements in services; the pastors have even become known from time to time to wear vestments.

In the same way that JPUSA didn’t realize it was an “intentional community” until someone else pointed it out, we didn’t realize at first realize we were on the same worship journey as many others – until we started hearing about what has been sometimes called the “Ancient-Future” movement in worship. In 2008, Cornerstone will inaugurate a new worship venue at the festival aimed at embodying many of these impulses and bringing together various creative forms of worship that had already been spontaneously occurring in different locations around the grounds. For this year, our visual arts program, “Burning Brush,” will host a program that represents a deliberate marriage of worship and the visual arts, called “Ancient-Future Worship-Arts”. The keynote seminar will be given by Michael Van Horn, Associate Professor of Theology and Worship at North Park Theological Seminary. By coincidence (or perhaps not) that’s the same seminary where I once watched a poet bringing image and metaphor into a sterile, whitewashed chapel.

Semper reformanda.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blossom by Blossom...

LET ME TRY TO DESCRIBE the four seasons of the annual Cornerstone Festival program year.

The first season really begins the week after New Years, when we come back to work and make new blank schedule grids and stare at them for what weeks on end wondering how they will ever be filled. How they do get filled is always a blur, and that’s what makes it a bit intimidating to face that blank page again. But the possibilities gather and build up and generate electricity until finally the lightning strikes.

The second season is happening right now, right this moment, as the artists lay out the finished schedule page-by-page. I go through the proof sheets marveling at how what seemed so contingent and hypothetical for the past three months is now Set in Stone (or as much as anything connected to this festival can be): it looks so REAL. Everyone will be happy to know that it looks like another genuine, classic Cornerstone Festival after all. That is to say, it looks great on paper. Now we have three more months to turn it into 3D reality.

The third season is at the festival, when I’m running around like everyone else with a printed program in my back pocket, trying to make sure my part of the festival goes as much as possible as planned. There I sometimes pause and marvel for a different reason: I feel like I’m riding the Blade of Time itself as I watch moment-by-moment as what had been so long been future events proceed to present then past.

Finally, there is the Morning After, when the Cornerstone Festival program transforms into the status of historical artifact, like the others in my file cabinet. Eventually, a new blank grid will await…

But I get ahead of myself; let’s hop back up on that Blade of Time and try to live in the moment here. As of today, this morning, the 2007 Cornerstone Festival program is nearly ready to send to the printer and mailed in April. Before then, we’ll continue to post bits online. The main seminar program and speakers are listed at cstoneXchange, and yesterday I posted the film schedule for Flickerings. Stay tuned for further blossoming of yet another Cornerstone Spring…

Friday, March 23, 2007

My First Cornerstone

A GUY I KNEW was starting a coffeehouse, in the old YMCA building downtown. I was over there, with some friends, a few weeks before the grand opening. On one of several telephone-wire spool tables (de rigueur for coffeehouses in the 1970s) there lay a few issues of what even this small-town boy could see was an underground newspaper. The countercultural scene at that point was winding up for its long slow sad fade-out – transition, rather, to the mainstream (i.e. people were still writing and recording the soundtrack of future car commercials). A very-late Boomer, I was used to arriving after the party was already over and gone. Not that the counterculture had ever been much of a presence in our Midwestern town – no sit-ins or riots, no concerts other than “C” or “D” level bands at the local college. The religious revival among the hippies, like everything else, seemed to be happening on the other side of the planet, though bits of “the Jesus Movement,” had finally been trickling in via books and music, this soon-to-be Joy of a New Dawn Coffeehouse – and the underground Jesus Freak newspaper I happened upon there.

I’m pretty sure one of the issues I paged through that day was Number 29. The faded yellowed copy I pulled from the archives the other day has a photo inside that I very much remember, of Resurrection Band in front of this huge stack of amps and speakers – something that would have really jumped out and stuck with me. The colors weren’t faded then: not by a long shot. In a few more issues, the paper would switch to full-color, but that summer they were still printed three-color “split-fountain” (as I learned when I was taught to do it myself a few years later, reprinting articles as tracts). It was a half-rainbow as blue faded into yellow into red, with loopy whimsical cover art and that logo in the now-quaint then-hip Arnold Boecklin type-font that still takes my breath away when I see it.

By the time I joined the staff, the art department had outlawed Arnold Boecklin as part of a move to drag the publication – kicking and screaming – into the Eighties. I’m not sure they came to embody the Eighties quite as well (which may not be a bad thing, after all.) But they sure nailed the Seventies. I’ve seen plenty of old underground newspapers since then and I can say with confidence that Cornerstone came to leave them all in the dust. Just by outlasting the competition – for reasons not insignificant – this particular underground newspaper was able to assimilate and perfect the best of an era. The paper became indisputably, as the slogan said, “The National Jesus Paper.”

The moment, for me when I first encountered Cornerstone didn’t seem nearly as significant as it does now, as I strain to try to remember the details. I can just barely picture myself, looking like an extra from That Seventies Show, off to the side of this under-construction coffeehouse, paging through carnival-colored papers – unaware I’d stumbled upon a personal destiny of sorts, a version of the moment when a figure appeared to brothers on a beach and shattered their routine forever with the charge: “Follow me.”

I probably didn’t even read the articles – the media was the message, as in the case of the Incarnation. The message was this: that the Incarnation had really happened. That God had, in fact, really become a human being after all. Cornerstone confirmed a suspicion that I’d nursed through long teenage years in an increasingly alienating church culture that following Christ was not a matter of hiding from the world, or waiting around doing nothing until Jesus took us out of it. Following Jesus meant engaging the culture head-on, mind, body and soul, creatively, with compassion and intelligence, and a paradoxical mix of humility, audacity, seriousness and joy.

That’s a lot to take in at a glance, but it was enough. I’ve been working out the implications of that vision of the Incarnation, and my own implementation of those implications, ever since. Not that it’s been a straight line from there to here – hardly. But through all the hairpin turns, detours and dead-ends, what has brought me back and sent me on my way was the same vision that got me started on this journey. Often the reminder comes in the form of that characteristic audacity, for example, when somebody asked that simple question “What if we turned this magazine into a music and arts festival?”

Indeed – "What if?" We’re still working on our part of the answer – as a part of that ongoing project of working out the implications of the Incarnation. And if many people who have come to know and love Cornerstone Festival have no memories of when Cornerstone was a magazine, or “The National Jesus Paper,” or that typewritten hand-out cobbled together on a magical missionary tour of a busload of Jesus Freaks thirty-five years ago this Spring, it’s all part of the same story – a still-unfolding story that still surprises us, too. Even now, all these years later, the prospect of a new issue of Cornerstone still makes me giddy as a teenager. When we get the program back from the printer, I sit and turn the pages with a very familiar sense of wonder and gratitude. The media is still the message, and the message is still the same: the Incarnation really happened. Joy to the World. The Kingdom of God is upon you. And, as always, "Follow me..."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What If...

. . the world was bigger than advertised? What if there were more to life than consumption, conformity, and the frantic maintenance of a frightened mediocrity-including the religious sort? Even more to the point, what if God were bigger than advertised? And what if it turned out that lots of people were asking these questions?

Since 1984, Cornerstone Festival has been a rite-of-passage for generations for whom this world and the status quo faith that fits so comfortably into it has never been enough. Cornerstone is known for world-class music, seminars, camping, and outdoor activities, but those who've been there know that these things aren't even the half of it. For veteran Cornerstoners, the festival is an annual renewal of vision they can't get anywhere else, and can't imagine doing without. Cornerstone's real draw is a sense of community, diversity, creativity, and worship that shatters the usual and releases the possible. What if you had a glimpse of a bigger world and it changed you forever?

At a time when imaginative vision-that prerequisite to compassion- was never needed more, nor endangered more by values that threaten to doom the world to smallness, Cornerstone Festival turns "What If?" from a simple question into a blueprint for an unforgettable experience. What if you became a part of Cornerstone Festival in 2007?

— 2007 fest promo