Emceeing the Pier Ministry all week was the colorful Samuel Baptista, who sported a purple–sequin jacket and passionately connected with the audience of vacationers.
“I love coming here to the Pier and experiencing a different aspect of The Salvation Army with friends and family and doing something different from what I usually do,” he said. “This is certainly out of the ordinary.”
Baptista, the son of Majors Danilo and Raquel Baptista, is the worship and youth leader at the Bronx, N.Y., Tremont Corps. His day job is selling real estate and he and his wife, Jaimie, also run a luxurious marriage proposals company, but he seemed right at home on stage.
“It’s joyful and enjoyable and there’s a point in the show where I can just be myself,” Baptista says. “I want them to understand, ‘Hey we’re Christians, we’re Salvationists, and most of the time we wear a uniform, but this is me. There is no judgment zone here. Everyone is free to come to us and understand our message is just all about the love of God.
“The feedback is great. Every time we say it, people start cheering and they understand that we’re putting this beautiful show together and hundreds of young people together for only one objective—and that’s to show how much we love you and that love is not really coming from us, but it stems from God because we have been loved by God first. That message is just so powerful and being able to express it in my own words is wonderful.”
Baptista took a lighthearted approach as the emcee said he tries to show people that Christians can cut loose and tell jokes, laugh, dance, sing, and generally have fun.
“It’s easier to connect with them once your expose yourself in that way,” he said.
A ministry of modern sound
UNBOUND, the Salvation Army Eastern Territory’s contemporary worship band, is one of the pier ministry’s most popular acts. Their covers of songs such as “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, combined with a message of God’s love, make both children and adults dance, and even sing along to lyrics that are both new and familiar.
“When UNBOUND performs here at Old Orchard Beach, I think the heart we put into performances is as strong as it is at any other show we do. But here, there’s a big difference in that we are going directly to the people, just as Jesus did. He never waited for the people to come to Him,” says Envoy Felipe Concha, a member of UNBOUND who, with his wife, Envoy Annabel do Santos, are in charge of the corps in Red Bank, N.J.
Worship music, says Felipe, is like an airhorn that loudly and clearly announces the message of The Salvation Army. But when the worship is combined with contemporary, familiar pop, and rock music, it becomes a technique that connects and welcomes people that goes back to the days of the biblical apostles.
“I love the story about Paul going to Athens, Greece, to talk with the wise scholars and philosophers,” says Felipe. “As he met with them, Paul said, ‘You have so many statues to so many gods. I even saw a statue to a god with no name, so let me tell you about this unknown God…’”
“Paul used the language and environment he found himself in to introduce others to the one true Lord. He spoke at their level so they would be more willing to listen. This is what UNBOUND does. We create a set of songs from familiar artists such as Bon Jovi, Journey, and Dua Lipa, and put God’s message in the words.”
Though this style of worship music may seem modern, it can be traced back to the Army’s roots in London, where Army bands took the jovial, traditional songs that were being played in bars and changed the lyrics to present Christ to that audience.
“We never know how one song might inspire someone to seek more about the Army, or connect with a church of their own, which is great too, because that also helps expand the Kingdom of Heaven,” says Felipe. “This is a type of ministry that we should be doing more often. It’s a huge investment that involves a lot of planning, but you can’t put a price on the evangelism that we’re doing here at the Pier,” says Felipe.
Musicians Israel Doria and Soldier Jacob Sleus flew in from Texas and Canada to support UNBOUND on guitar and drums. Having known the members for years, they were honored to take part in the festivities.
“This has been a unique experience,” says Jacob. “There’s been so much talent on stage and interaction with audiences. It’s so essential to connect with the local community at events like this!”
“For me, it was special to see the audience gather at the Pavilion,” says Israel. “Of course, you always see tourists and families at the Pier, but I loved seeing Salvationists really get back together as a group to worship.”
A concert to remember
The New York Staff Band (NYSB) and Eastern Territorial Staff Songsters (ETSS) produced a concert on the final evening of OOB Camp Meetings that left the audience feeling moved and satisfied in a way that was deeply spiritual and beyond mere words. It was a mixture of singing, banding, imaging, and narrating that kept everyone listening, looking, and feeling.
The night sky allowed the Pavilion stage lights to brilliantly illuminate the brass instruments and artists who played them. On two big screens symmetrically above the platform, images of God’s creation; people, animals, earth, wind, and fire—constantly unfolded in a continuous display of motion and majesty.
The ETSS, under the careful direction of Songster Leader Erik Jones, rendered several heartfelt items: “Revival In The Land,” “Great Are You Lord,” “Amazing God,” and “Healing Christ.”
‘The Creation Story’
As music, composed by Dorothy Gates and under the direction of Bandmaster Derek Lance, played, the lyrics appeared in sync, captioned below the seamless video presentations. The voice of Colonel Richard Munn filled the Pavilion’s wings as he eloquently narrated “The Creation Story,” a sensitively written script by Major Lauren Hodgson.
In addition to the audio/visual wonders orchestrated by Creative Arts Director, Carol Jaudes and Media Creator Major Jason Knaggs, there was nature itself that helped set a tone for the evening; a cool breeze, the quiet stillness, and the people of God gathered with one accord, combined to create a special time like no other.
“I don’t remember anything quite like it,” said Major Ernie Cox. “It was the blend of so many gifts that sharpened our praise to the Lord! The program was just thrilling. The music was great, the helpfulness of words with the songs, was continually praising God. What a night of praise! We’ll carry the thoughts with us for a long time, a long time!”
Craig Evans agreed, “It was a scintillating, spiritual journey. Besides being epic musically, it had a depth of spirituality. It was filled with whimsey, as well as contemplative moments. It was that journey we all experience and I was glad to be part of it.”
The Chief of the Staff’s (CoS) brief devotional message, which came following the “Creation Story” presentation, challenged his audience to take this moment of divine and anointed inspiration from their ears and hearts to the lost souls of the world.
“I feel my heart pounding. I feel like I’ve viewed something incredibly sacred as we’ve worshipped and praised the God of our creation,” said the CoS. “The psalmist said, ‘let everything that has breath praise the Lord.’ We’ve been doing that. It’s what we were made for. We were created to give honor and glory to God, and He wants to celebrate with us.
“But we must take it beyond here,” he continued. “On our lips, in our conversations with our family. People need to hear us give glory and praise to God. Let us be the people who say to the Lord, ‘how great thou art!”
In quiet reverence to the Lord, The ETSS and NYSB performed a musical benediction to close the meeting, entitled “The Lord Is Gracious.”