Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
October 15, 2001
Singers spread God's word
Celebrant Singers touch audience at basilica
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — "Your love for me would only be what held you on the cross," belted Matthew Brunson, 24, in a praise and worship concert at St. Joseph Basilica, Oct. 7.
From Turkey, a country where the name of Jesus cannot be said in public, to war-torn places around the globe, Brunson has sung to people proclaiming the Good News of Jesus.
"The government of Turkey told us that we cannot say Jesus' name in public, but they did not tell us that we cannot sing it," Brunson told close to 200 people who attended the concert.
"We were singing Be Not Afraid, and these people were hearing helicopters in the background," Brunson told the WCR of his experience in Colombia ministering to soldiers, who were preparing to go into combat with guerrillas.
Brunson had always wanted to be a missionary. He did mission works in 1996 but a year ago he decided to use his talents to be a singing ambassador for Christ and joined the Celebrant Singers.
Celebrant Singers is a group founded by Jon Stemkoski in 1977.
While ministering in Poland's cathedrals, Stemkoski, was inspired to take the life-changing-message of Christ throughout the world. In response to God's call, Stemkoski formed Celebrant Singers - a talented, dedicated team of Spirit-filled young adults aged 20 to 35.
Presently, Celebrant Singers has two groups, each composed of 10 singers and a 12-piece orchestra, and lighting and sound technicians chosen from hundreds of international auditions.
Travelling as a missionary team, the members of the group are not salaried, but are responsible for raising about half of the cost of their travel expenses. The remainder comes from concert appearances and record sales.
The group's repertoire ranges from the popular Here I Am, Lord, based from the book of Isaiah, to What Held Him on the Cross, a ballad telling of Jesus' great love for us.
Cathy Smith, 27, attended the concert and was moved by the song What Held Him on the Cross.
"I never thought of that before, that it was Christ's great love for us that held him on the cross and not the nails," Smith said.
In between musical numbers a group member gave a personal testimony while prayers were also uttered.
Before the final song, every group member prayed individually with people who requested prayers.
Kim Harlos, 22, the group's drummer from Calgary, did not know about Celebrant Singer until a friend told her.
"She heard me play drums, and heard my heart for God and she asked me if I wanted to be a travelling musician proclaiming the Good News," Harlos told the WCR.
Harlos couldn't afford to do that, but after thinking for awhile she succumbed to God's call to leave her family, relatives, friends and the comfort of home.
"I told God in one of my prayer times, that if he wanted me to do this, I will," Harlos said. "I knew it right then that he is going to take me into this."
Now she travels with the TransCanada group of Celebrant Singers. As well as ministering across Canada, this group will visit New York before it returns to its base in California.
The ecumenical singing group performs six nights a week and does seven services on the weekend.
Mike Marriott, 35, saw the group perform on 100 Huntley Street on Vision TV.
"I couldn't believe that there is a group of missionaries that uses their musical tools to share the Gospel around the world," Marriott told the WCR. He knew then that he wanted to do the same.
The experience that stands out the most for him took place in India. A young man asked him, "Can you tell me, is it possible to serve both Jesus Christ and Buddha?"
Marriott took aside the young man and talked with him about the Bible.
"The man had heard different stories about Christianity but always wondered if they were true," Marriott said.
The young man knew his family would disown him if he accepted Jesus, said the singer from Ontario. "But then he said in the end, 'I need to accept Jesus.'"
Brunson, director of the TransCanada group, said, "over half of our 2,000 services annually are in Catholic churches throughout the U.S. and Canada."
Since its inception in 1977, Celebrant Singers has ministered in 92 countries to more than six million people.
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