Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cabaret Church--A Gala Reimaging for a New Era and New Generation

The very future of church as it has long been practiced is a hot topic in religious circles these days.  Church membership, attendance, and identification are all in steep decline across denominations.  More people than ever are not identifying themselves with any faith in national surveys and younger people seem most alienated from traditional faith life.
The Rev. Sean Parker Dennison of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry, Illinois has been one of the many searching for new ways to make religion and church meaningful to those who are not connected to traditional worship.  Last year he had a vision, he called it the Cabaret Church.  This Sunday on the grounds of the congregation at 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry that vision is becoming a reality.   People from across Northern Illinois and even farther will be gathering for a 21st Century revival without the hellfire and damnation.

Cabaret Church will be celebrated from noon to dusk on Sunday, May 31.  It will celebrate three aspects of a new and vital church—art, compassion, and resistance.  The arts are an expression of spirituality made concrete and thus the day will feature performers in many styles and genres.  Compassion is the heart of religion which calls on the recognition of the common humanity of all.  Resistance is enacting compassion to make the world a healthier and fairer place against all the social conventions that seek to separate people and set them against each other.
Rev. Sean Parker Dennison of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry.

Last year Rev. Dennison was inspired by the cutting edge performer and cultural icon Amanda Palmer. “Truth be told,” he wrote “I love all of it: the uninhibited self-expression; the nakedness of body, mind, and soul; the unabashed insistence that the power of art can change us and therefore change the world. ‘We are the Media!’ Amanda Palmer sings.  I want to add: ‘And we are the Church!’ Or maybe: ‘We are the Sacred! We are the Holy! We are Everything That Matters and everything beautiful and ordinary and amazing…”
He was also inspired by Palmer’s famous and fabulously successful Kickstarter appeal directly to her loyal fan base to finance her next album outside of the regular music industry loop.  Maybe, Dennison thought, a similar approach could be made to raise the funds necessary to put on a living laboratory of the Cabaret Church.  It worked.  Money was raised by individual pledges from excited individuals around the country and matched by a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program.

The arts will be at the heart of the celebration.  Among the noted performers participating are nationally known folk rock recording artist Namoli Brenett; spoken word artist Christopher D. Sims a/k/a UniverSouLove; singer songwriter Lindsay Katt; the performance art group Environmental Encroachment, a not-your-grandfather’s marching band;  Rune the Lion, one of the Chicago area’s most exciting and original pop rock bands; the youthful hip hop artist and rapper Zigga;  and singer, composer, and activist Jim Scott’s jazz and world music inspired sound.  In addition on the grounds and in the church building will be hands-on art activities all day long for adults and for children.
Namoli Brenett
A number of ministers including Dennison, Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, Rev. Meg Riley of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and Rev. Chip Roush of the First Unitarian Church of South Bend will participate through the day with what might be called un-sermons, short ten minute chats modeled on Ted Talks.  Their non-sectarian topics will challenge people to integrate the spiritual into their daily lives and live out a personally developed faith in the real world.
Local vendors will have healthy vegetarian and some vegan food options including pita pizzas, falafel, sandwiches, cookies, and other items for sale. Water will be available and soft drinks for sale. Cabaret Church is a substance-free event and no alcohol will be permitted.


The entire event is free and open to the public.  Families and children are particularly welcome.
There will be parking in the church lot and overflow parking in two nearby lots.  Volunteers will help visitors find spaces.
For more information contact Tree of Life Congregation at 815 322-2464 or visit the Cabaret Church website at .







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