SBC DIGEST: Point of Grace & LifeWay partner for new albums; conf. center leader Taylor caps 38 yrs. of service; Boyce College team treks to Houston flood zone
Point of Grace partners with LifeWay for new albums
"Sing Noël," Point of Grace's first album with LifeWay, features 10 new arrangements of beloved carols and Christmas favorites, including "Angels from the Realms of Glory," "Mary, Did You Know?" and "What Child Is This?"
"It has been several years since we have recorded a Christmas project, and this one is really special," Point of Grace's Shelley Breen said. "It has a central focus on the carols of Christmas."
In January the group will begin recording a second album with LifeWay featuring a collection of best-loved hymns and worship songs.
Point of Grace has received three Grammy nominations, most recently for "Directions Home (Songs We Love, Songs You Know)" in 2015. The group has won multiple Dove Awards and sold more than 8 million recordings in their 25-year history.
The new projects come through an exclusive partnership with LifeWay, said Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship.
"Sing Noël has been a wonderful Christmas journey for all of us at LifeWay Worship," Harland said. "As fans, we love it. As friends, we are so proud of who they are and what they have created here. And as ministry partners, we are blessed beyond description to share in the creation of this Kingdom project with true servants of the church in song."
After meeting Harland and others at LifeWay, Breen said, "We became a family. ... We're now proud to tell others we have an exclusive partnership with LifeWay and that our record is only sold at LifeWay."
Breen said she feels the new Christmas album captures the spirit of the season.
"It was so fun to sit around together in the beginning stages of the record with our old Baptist hymnals and realize just how many classic carols we had not recorded," she said. "Our producers and LifeWay Worship were amazing in helping us find our own 'spin' on these songs."
LifeWay employees, retirees and guests were among the first to hear Point of Grace in a live performance of most songs on Sing Noël, along with a few classic songs from their albums throughout the decades. Three chapel services were offered Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 12-13.
"Their rendition of 'O Holy Night' absolutely captivated me and let me experience a sweet moment of holy stillness," said Bekah Stoneking, Explore the Bible for Kids content editor. "I am grateful to work in a place that gives my heart room to worship."
Sing Noël is available as a CD exclusively at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com for $5 this Christmas season. It is also available for digital download on iTunes.
Conf. center leader grateful for 38 years of service
He will retire Dec. 31 as Shocco's executive director, a posted he has held since 1989, succeeding its first executive director, George Ricker.
"It was not an intentional thing," Taylor said of the long tenure he and his wife Mary have had at Shocco. "We both felt we had been called into the ministry as teenagers, and this was an opportunity to do something different from church ministry for a few years. I never realized it would be a lifelong career."
When he came to Shocco in 1979, Taylor found that the way God changed lives was "eye-opening": "We were out there plunging toilets, raking leaves and making sure people weren't hot or cold. We and others on staff called ourselves 'distraction eliminators' -- we wanted to keep everything out of the way that could distract them from hearing God while they were there."
And in the 38 years Taylor has been at Shocco, thousands have heard from God; about 38,000 made decisions for Christ, either for the first time, to rededicate their lives or to commit to serve in ministry.
The face of Shocco changed significantly as well. Twenty new buildings were constructed. The grounds expanded to 800-plus acres. The annual budget is six times what it was in 1979. The camp sustained a long partnership with Camp Carabobo, a sister conference center in Venezuela.
And in a months-long process in 1999, Shocco transitioned from being owned by the Alabama Baptist State Convention to becoming a convention entity.
"That was one of the biggest challenges to walk through," Taylor said, yet he used the experience to help counsel other camps in Southern Baptist life in similar transitions.
As Taylor thinks back over his decades at Shocco, he keeps coming back to people. "One word keeps coming to mind -- grateful," he said. "I'm grateful for all the people we have been able to do life with."
Taylor said it will be hard to walk away from Shocco but he has "no qualms" about turning the reigns over to the new leader, Russell Klinner. "We've got a great staff that caught the vision. They know what it is to serve people like Jesus served and to provide Christ-like hospitality."
Boyce College team treks to Houston's flood zone
HOUSTON (BP) -- Lia Kaiser was devastated soon after arriving in Houston to help with disaster recovery from Hurricane Harvey. The collegian thought her team would do mostly clean-up, but she didn't realize how much of damage still remains from Harvey's Aug. 25 landfall and massive flooding.
"There were just sacks upon sacks of people's lives out in the street," said Kaiser, an education major at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. "You see drywall, you see wood that has to be thrown away. You see personal things like beds and mattresses and shoes and clothes that were thrown out. … These people lost everything."
Southern's Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization commissioned the 12-member team led by Justin Fountain of Houston, a master of divinity student at the seminary.
The team partnered with the North American Mission Board, which provided cots, showers and meals for their Oct. 2-6 mission in Houston. The trip was student-prompted and student-organized, Fountain said, encompassing team members who had inquired at the Bevin Center whether they could help in one of the hurricane relief areas.
Fountain described each day's work as long, arduous and filthy.
"[W]e would work about nine hours every day at different locations around the city basically helping anyone that needed help," Fountain said. "The homes there were completely destroyed. ... The students did outstanding work, had really good attitudes, and were very open to helping and doing what was necessary."
In their Gospel witness to flood survivors, Kaiser said, "We might not have been able to form a relationship with them, but we at least talked to them about their beliefs or their religion."
Many relief organizations have exited the damage zone in Houston and southeast Texas, but those affected by Harvey still need help, with Fountain noting, "Even if you have insurance, you are looking at a six-to-nine-month time frame. Right now everybody is slammed, anybody who does construction work is overloaded. The city is going to take quite a while to recover."