By Melissa Quinn
The Virginia Theological Seminary shook up the usual routine over the weekend, hosting a Christian rock festival in hopes of giving adherents and attendees a different view of the Episcopal Church.
Though the seminary is better known for hosting lectures and convocations, the Rev. Ian Markham, the dean and president of the seminary, said event organizers believe the rock concert will remind attendees that Christianity can be attractive and interesting.
“We’re trying to promote the vitality and relevance of faith,” Markham said.
While the Episcopal Church is typically cast as being very formal, he said, his wish is that people will see a different side.
“The hope is an event of this nature will make people think, ‘OK, the Episcopal Church is that way, and tradition can be good and sublime,’” Markham said. “But the Episcopal Church is also something where you can listen to rock music and you can do something very alternative.”
The free event was open to people of all faiths and ages, but Markham looked to strengthen the relationship between the church and young people.
“There is no faith without young people,” he said. “There is no church without the young staying in touch with the church, and we need to make sure that young people realize the church is for them, too.”
The festival served as the seminary’s first foray into hosting an event of such large proportions — an important step in reaching out to teens and young adults. And Markham is confident the concert changed people’s perspectives on the church and its operations.
“We wanted people to come away with … if you’re not a Christian and don’t want to participate in the church … come away seeing the church differently,” Markham said. “The Episcopal Church is a happening denomination.”
Though seminary officials do not have a final count of attendees, more than 1,700 registered for the event, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. They believe it was the largest gathering held at the 190-year-old seminary.
More than 600 spectators gathered for a quidditch tournament — the game popularized by the Harry Potter series — earlier in the day. Following the competition, guests were treated to 10 hours of music from some of the biggest names in Christian rock, including headliner Five Iron Frenzy, the Letter Black and the Sloan River Project.
Festival-goers also had the opportunity to chat with band members through various meet-and-greets. It was the first of its kind on the campus, which offers theological classes to more than 3,000 students.
“This is important for us to recognize what we’re doing here,” Markham said. “We were invited to rise to the challenge.”