Here are the remarks made by Nancy VanReece at the unveiling of the Historic Marker on July 25, 2019
In December of 2018, we tuned in to watch the Kennedy Center Honors. Cher was being honored, Philip Glass, the creators of Hamilton, fellow Oklahoma turned Tennessean Reba McEntire, and Jazz legend, Wayne Shorter.
As the tribute band was being introduced for Wayne I heard; "On Percussion; “ Alex Acuña!”
I turned to my wife and I said, "Alex Acuña— remember him — he was in the band Koinonia! I may still have a blue cassette somewhere ", making a 1980s joke about Sparrow records signature blue cassette tapes.
Joan said, " Koinonia! - that was the coffee house on 16th. I played there once." Quite honestly, in our 31 years of marriage, it was the first time I realized, well, that 31 years had gone by. Time does that.
After our Koinonia flashback, I did some quick searching online to see if there was any history written down. - Thank you, Brian Mason for keeping an archive.
I called Tim Walker at the Metro Historic Commission and asked if there were any markers at all in the city recognizing the cultural and economic impact of CCM and Gospel Music in Nashville.
There was not. When Jesus music came to Nashville, it landed at the corner of 16th & Grand.
I moved to my CCM marketing and radio promotion agency to Nashville in 1986. With all its success, it is easy to forget that CCM evolved out of a movement of people dedicated to being faithfully countercultural. At the time, they were rebels who tested the boundaries of Sunday church with rock-n-roll and long hair, resistant to the idea of being labeled as the “frozen chosen.”
It was a generational movement of young people who inspired renewed relevance of practicing one’s faith, even when it led to cutting against the grains of orthodoxy and tradition.
I was, and still am, very proud of my work in the industry from 1983-1997.
Amy, even though I was a sophomore at your husband's alma mater, Northwest Classen in Oklahoma City at the time, I saw you play in 1980 at Midwest City High School. It changed my life.
Music does that.
It has been my honor to have played a part in the creation of this Historic Marker.
Long before. Taylor Swift had 1989, we had the lyric from a song named “1974"
We were young,
And none of us knew quite what to say,
But the feeling moved
Among us in silence anyway.
Slowly we had made
Quite a change
(lyric by Amy Grant)
Thank you all for being here on this beautiful day.
Mikey Bernal, David Ewing and Michael Burch photographers
Contemporary Christian music changed Nashville, but it's not without shortcomings | Opinion
This week, the Nashville Historical Commission, in partnership with Metro Council and the Gospel Music Association (GMA), unveiled a marker on Music Row which recognizes the musical legacy of Koinonia Coffeehouse, Belmont Church and the Contemporary Christian Music industry (CCM).
Koinonia Coffeehouse proved to be the gathering place of some of the CCM’s most seminal artists and Christian label execs. In that space, many prayed, sang and created with such significance that an entirely new musical genre was born! Can you grasp the significance of that? There’s jazz, rock-n-roll, country, but before then, nothing recognizable as what we call “Christian music” today.
It is only fitting to sincerely recognize and celebrate how consequential CCM has been to both the spirit and economy of Music City. From a small gathering of a few Jesus People, some 50 years ago, CCM evolved into a significant commercial industry. This legacy includes the emergence of a distinct economy and job market that has certainly benefited Nashville. But more profoundly, their path is one which has impacted, if not helped create, our current American Evangelical Christian culture. A culture that is beginning to acknowledge its ugly heritage of religious harm in the form of racism, homophobia, colonization, patriarchy, and more, yet still struggles to break the yoke.
Over the years, thousands have come here, eager to dedicate their lives for something greater than themselves. The faith-based businesses of Nashville have provided many wonderful vocational opportunities beyond clerical ordination. It’s a career path unusual compared to most other professions because being Christian is the implied prerequisite. However understandable this practice appears to be, it has resulted with the unfortunate by-product of fostering discrimination and can be hostile to those who don’t toe the line. More ideological than spiritual in terms of its influential reach, CCM has the capacity to quickly transmit and model some really damaging trends.
The reality is that people lose jobs in this town when they stray too far from the flock, in ways not dissimilar to being excommunicated from church. It’s hard to rock the institutional boat, even if you really want to. The gatekeepers of Christian businesses, musicians, sometimes, all the way down to the mailroom--they all have to be concerned with consumer confidence if they want to remain gainfully employed. This makes it really challenging to move the needle around here.
As the pioneers of CCM’s past and the leaders of today receive this honor from our community, we are hopeful they will remember the spirit of where it all began. Accepting the accolades of this legacy means also accepting responsibility for your influential role in shaping Christian culture as we know it today.
With all its success, it is easy to forget that CCM evolved out of a movement of people dedicated to being faithfully countercultural. At the time, they were rebels who tested the boundaries of Sunday church with rock-n-roll and long hair, resistant to the idea of being labeled as the “frozen chosen.” It was a generational movement of young people who inspired renewed relevance of practicing one’s faith, even when it led to cutting against the grains of orthodoxy and tradition.
Right now, there are plenty faith rebels “out there” shaping the future of religious culture. Some are queer, cuss, drink and have sex. No different really from the generations before, just less apologetic about ruffling feathers. Some of them know the Bible and Christian history better than their pastors, (if they even have one). They are fiercely “woke,” and deadly serious about social justice as seen through the lens of Jesus. And we’re pretty sure they’ll sing you a song. The question is, when will you hand them a mic?