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For Macon, Ga., community, Americana music is holy liturgy

Storytelling ProjectsIf Americana music is sacred, Macon, Ga., is hallowed ground — a consecrated destination that offers spiritual awakening to any devoted pilgrim.

Pray at the City Auditorium, where Little Richard broke onto the stage for his first ever public performance. Go to confession in front of the abandoned Macon Hilton, where Elvis Presley stayed in the penthouse suite and Prince crashed the 1980 First Presbyterian Day School prom. Nobody will hear you — it’s abandoned. Take a communion of fried chicken and collards at the historic H&H restaurant, where the Allman Brothers and Wet Willie used to enjoy lunch.

Gospel Gothic/ Photo Jenna Eason

The Creek 100.9 FM studio is decorated with memorabilia and signatures from previous artists. Gospel Gothic, recorded in The Creek’s studio and aired on The Creek every Sunday, is hosted by Jake Hall and discusses faith through the theme of Americana music.

Afterward, recite the sacred words to James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please,” spun for the first time at the former WIBB radio headquarters, and meditate just upstairs where Phil Walden founded Artists and Promotions, managing the likes of Otis Redding and Johnny Jenkins, and went on to establish Capricorn Records, the birthplace of Southern Rock. Convene with the departed saints at Rose Hill Cemetery where the Allman Brothers Band took refuge, wrote their first two albums and now lay buried.

Finally, when Sunday morning arrives and it’s time to worship with other believers, grab a hot cup of coffee and tune into Gospel Gothic on 100.9 FM The Creek, where the songs of Mavis Staples and Jason Isbell are holy liturgy. And you don’t even have to watch your language.

“All music is sacred, if you let it be,” Jake Hall, host of Gospel Gothic and pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, says.

“Inside the church, we get stuck in these genre distinctions about what is and is not worshipful, and I don’t know what that means anymore. All of that seems so very dated and foreign to me now. When I look at a Gospel Gothic setlist and consider the conversations we have, it feels like a holy and secular, profound and profane liturgy.”

Since 2016, that liturgy of roots music and candid conversation about faith has distinguished Hall’s Sunday morning radio program Gospel Gothic as an unlikely yet utterly compatible force among Macon’s most devout church-goers as well as its most resolved agnostics. Hall and his executive producer Keith Gammons, both leaders in religious life, proudly admit that, despite being inspired by the church lectionary and centuries of Christian theology, they are ultimately speaking Macon’s first language in music.

“Something happens when music and honest conversation come together. It draws out a sense of the sacred in any music, especially when you intentionally allow that music to be an interpretive lens for what you were just talking about,” Hall explains. “The music then carries not only the inherent meaning that the songwriter intended, but the context of the conversation then allows you to hear different harmonics within that song, and meaning happens between table, talk, artist and song in a way that couldn’t otherwise with any of those things missing.”

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason

Brad Evans (middle) grabs Jake Hall’s hand (left) while talking about previous episodes of Gospel Gothic with Hall in a meeting with Wes Griffith (right) to discuss the topic of this week’s Gospel Gothic show on The Creek 100.9 FM in their office on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.

It’s 15 minutes until showtime on Wednesday morning, which means Hall is still editing the day’s playlist on his MacBook outside the studio. Divine inspiration must be fluid, he laughs, perhaps more fluid than he’d wish. His co-hosts and owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, join Hall at the board table for the chat before the chat — Lent is about to begin and this year Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Jokes abound but are promptly met with a recurrent refrain: Save it for the studio!

After a quick sound check, the trio settles in front of their studio mics to examine the nature of gritty, authentic love versus the cheap, drug-store variety that comes wrapped in plastic every Feb. 14. But first, Fat Tuesday.

“I mean, I’m ready for Tuesday now,” Hall declares, after Professor Longhair’s boisterous piano blues number “Go To the Mardi Gras” fades to silence.

“So what do you two think about this spiritual tradition of the faithful to call you to one night of sinning before you repent the next day?” Hall asks Evans and Griffith, the resident skeptics of the Christian church and its frequently misguided attempts at love and right living.

“I like to spread my sinning out throughout the year, Jake. I sin fairly consistently from Jan. 1 through to Dec. 31,” Evans quips.

“Everybody needs an outlet. It’s not good to bottle things up,” Griffith adds.

Hall continues to parse the meaning behind the infamous day of debauchery, but not before the Wood Brothers chime in with their 2015 cut “I Got Loaded.” And no, they aren’t singing about money.

“There’s something about this exploration of human nature that happens on Mardi Gras,” he adds.

“It’s a little bit of soft debauchery that’s supposed to remind us of some larger darkness in the world. We have a little bit of playful, soft excess, but we’re playing around with some deadly things. Those soft sins can lead you down a pretty dark road, and a culture of excess can be bad for a whole community and not just a hangover for you the next day. So if you’re looking for it, Mardi Gras is a great lesson, in that it’s more than just your personal sins on display. It’s the frailty of the world writ large, and if you allow it to be a spiritual lens for the season to follow, Mardi Gras can be a tool for faithfulness.

At the punch of a spacebar, Sturgill Simpson’s sonorous growl breaks through the headphone feed with a familiar ‘Two, three, four!” and we all drift into hillbilly heaven as Simpson thanks God for “this here life of sin.”

“All music is sacred, if you let it be” – Jake Hall

Ultimately, crafting a meaningful liturgy with Gospel Gothic means resonating with the real lives and honest faith of the Macon community, executive producer, and Highland Hills member Gammons says. In doing so, Gospel Gothic holds two mutually indispensable forces in tension. Americana music without the unpacking of an ever-complicated religious environment is available 24 hours a day, and faith talk without the redemptive lens of celebrated roots music is redundant at best. Yet, combining the two offers a spiritual connection to those who rarely find religious ground holy or even safe, Gammons explains.

“A lot of our listeners are the unchurched, the de-churched, the ‘nones’ and the ‘dones.’”

“I think this gives them a place where they can connect to a spiritual life, whether or not they come to Highland Hills or any other church. Macon is seeing a real renaissance downtown through a rich history and connection with music, from Little Richard to Otis Redding to the Allman Brothers. We see this as a way for Highland Hills to connect to that and share in what’s kind of the common language in Macon, which is this love of music. Gospel Gothic interlaces the music they love with an honest conversation that asks questions they might be asking and explores issues they might be considering.”

Nearly every Gospel Gothic listener can recall moments that felt more transcendent perhaps than any church service they’ve attended, such as the episode following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. On a Sunday when words struggled to suffice, the prophetic liturgy of Woody Guthrie’s “All You Fascists Bound to Lose,” Mandolin Orange’s “Wildfire” and Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer’s “Not Dark Yet” spoke healing and redemptive power into Macon’s collective heart, Gammons says.

Music has become so transcendent, in fact, that some of Gospel Gothic’s favorite artists have now acquired sainthood — an achievement of which Hall of Fame singer Mavis Staples was notified during her last visit to Macon. And that’s St. Mavis to you.

Back in the studio, Hall, Evans and Griffith have all but expelled their memories about past Fat Tuesdays and hazy Ash Wednesdays. Yet, conversation about sin has rarely, if ever, been redemptive for Evans, Griffith and countless other listeners.

Gospel Gothic/ Photo Jenna Eason

Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, records this week’s episode of Gospel Gothic for The Creek 100.9 FM on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 in The Creek’s recording studio.

“So Ash Wednesday is a day of confession, that should remind us of redemption,” Hall continues.

“But too often, the church, especially in the South, has stressed our brokenness and our inability to do anything to make our own lives better. Were you called a beautiful child of God from those pulpits or were you called a wretch, Wes and Brad?”

“There’s no doubt,” Evans says. “It’s all about, ‘Oh God, what have I done?’”

“What kind of shadow was cast over you by Southern evangelists and sweaty preachers?” Hall continues.

“It was fear for me,” Evans admits. “It made me afraid. It made me worry that there was nothing I could do to stop what was coming for me and for everyone around me, that we were never going to be good enough to escape damnation or hell. That kept me worried and frightened, and eventually caused me to run as far away as I could from the church.”

“Well, imagine if, in your spiritual history, someone told you that you were a wretch and sinful and broken,” Hall says, ‘but also told you that you were beautiful and blessed and worthy.”

“That’s a paradox, but it’s the space between both of those things that this very week reminds us of, right? That’s a lesson that can help us take a step in our own path of redemption in our lives and for this world, because then you’re not just broken and helpless, only waiting on a passive reception of grace. You have an opportunity to be a part of your own redemption and the redemption of the world. So maybe there is a way back to Eden after all.”

“Where were you when I was 5?” Evans asks.

“I was 4 when you were 5,” Hall laughs.

As the Americana pastor turns back to the mic and invites all to hear the good news of grace and redemption, the soft shakers and tambourines commence Blackberry Smoke’s “No Way Back to Eden.”

“Bless my old black dirty heart,” they sing. “Throw these memories away / I’ll watch the sky for that morning star / And I will let it light my way.”

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason

Jake Hall, Wes Griffith and Brad Evans (left to right) record this week’s episode of Gospel Gothic for The Creek 100.9 FM on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. Gospel Gothic is hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, and discusses faith through the theme of Americana music.

 


View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

Listen to their archives or explore the show on the Gospel Gothic site.

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




The Christ-haunted hosts of Gospel Gothic

Storytelling Projects“Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive.”

When Flannery O’Connor left behind these veracious words following her untimely death in 1964, she wasn’t telling spooky stories. She wasn’t invoking images of antebellum ruins, squalid Confederate headstones or the Spanish moss drooping ominously overhead. She wasn’t even conjuring the tortured specter of one her novel’s murderous characters. She was talking about Jesus.

“I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted,” O’Connor wrote.

“I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” – Flannery O’Connor

That is, the Christ on which every last corner of Southern society was supposed to be based but infamously failed to live up to over centuries of slavery and festering anger; or perhaps the graceless, resentful Christ spewed from the mouths of countless sweaty preachers demanding blame for an unjust death on the cross; or, just maybe, the real living Christ — the one who still dwells and dreams with every last haunted Southerner, refusing to let the most wounded denier or overly-faithful pastor settle for anything less than boundless grace and real redemption.

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason

Wes Griffith, Jake Hall and Brad Evans (left to right) meet to discuss the topic of this week’s Gospel Gothic show on The Creek 100.9 FM in their office on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. Gospel Gothic is hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, and discusses faith through the theme of Americana music.

Since 2016, the hosts of the Gospel Gothic radio hour — Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., as well as Wes Griffith and Brad Evans, local entrepreneurs and owners of 100.9 FM The Creek — have invited Macon and listeners around the country to join them each Sunday morning in exploring “faith, music and meaning in the Christ-haunted South.” Yet, as the unlikely trio unpacks O’Connor’s chilling assessment of Southern Christianity in search of redemption, they do so not from a distant, cerebral perch, safe from the Christ-shaped ghosts.

Brad Evans, co-owner of 100.9 FM The Creek and a long-time publisher in Macon, grew up immersed in the fiery fundamentalism of Dooly County, Ga. Following his baptism by hot-headed evangelists preaching damnation, he explains, a deep fear began to creep into his heart. What about all of his friends and family who weren’t baptized, namely his own father?

“I just became obsessed with the fact that my father wasn’t baptized,” Evans says.

“And then he wouldn’t get baptized, so that was very scary. Then I became obsessed with the fact that maybe everyone I knew hadn’t been baptized, so I was always trying to find that out. Then it turned into cutting obituaries from newspapers, putting them in scrapbooks and praying over them for hours at night to make sure they were going to be saved. And this was all until I was about 20 years old.”

Eventually, drugs became the only force powerful enough to quiet the deep-seated fear and worry, Evans explains, which led to years of addiction. Eventually Evans emerged from his substance abuse after spending time at Green Gulch Zen Retreat in California and returned to Macon, where he and his wife founded The 11th Hour, a Macon-centered arts and culture magazine. Though fear and addiction had passed, Evans says, his anger and bitterness toward the church was only beginning.

Nevertheless, as publisher of The 11th Hour Evans soon met a young writer named Wes Griffith, who had also returned to Macon with big dreams for investing in the cultural heart of his community. Griffith, whose grandfather even knew Flannery O’Connor as an English professor at Mercer University, says his experience of Christ-hauntedness was not a result of a misguided upbringing in the church. Instead, he and his wife were well into adulthood, Griffith explains, when they discovered that most churches in Macon did not share their commitment to loving and transforming the community they called home.

“My wife and I live downtown and one morning we said, ‘Let’s go to church next door,’ right around the corner from us,” Griffith says.

“I’ve never been all that judgmental, but we went and the whole sermon was, ‘We’ve got to go down to the deepest depths of the Amazon rainforest and convert these indigenous people and show them the way.’ That really clashed with my sense of community. We’re here in downtown Macon and you’re telling me that your house is so in order and there’s so little to do in this community that you’re going to spend the whole hour talking about how we need to get down to the rainforest and convert people?”

Griffith, now one of Macon’s leading investors, says he was profoundly troubled by the church’s deliberate rejection of its own community’s needs and assets, not to mention its centuries-old colonialist outlook on faith. Consequently, Griffith proceeded to found Moonhanger Group, which seeded the wildly popular Rookery, Dovetail and H&H restaurants and set off a firestorm of renewal in the formerly-floundering downtown district. Eventually, Evans and Griffith’s momentum in Macon inspired them to purchase a failing radio station and plant the missing piece of the new puzzle — Macon’s love for Americana music.

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason

Brad Evans, Jake Hall and Wes Griffith (left to right) record this week’s episode of Gospel Gothic for The Creek 100.9 FM on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.

As with most of their ventures, the roots radio station soon turned to gold and 100.9 FM The Creek was garnering unheard-of ratings by the middle of 2016. That’s when the duo received an email from a local pastor quoting Flannery O’Connor and pitching an idea for a Sunday-morning radio show that would “explore music and meaning in the Christ-Haunted South.”

“I don’t think either of us had stepped foot inside a church in the last couple decades,” Evans says of the day he and Griffith received Hall’s email. Nevertheless, the two literally collided in the hallway attempting to tell each other about Hall’s proposal.

Against their Christ-haunted instincts as well as their own general manager’s wishes, Evans and Griffith miraculously met with that pastor — Jake Hall from Highland Hills Baptist Church — and to their astonishment, he had a Christ-haunted story of his own. The Christ who lived and dreamed in the vibrant, everyday lives of people like Evans and Griffith just wouldn’t let him sit and plan another Advent series for the faithful, Hall laughs.

“Gospel Gothic was born from me being tired of the show, the machine, and its, at times, ineffectual mission strategies felt impotent for real life,” Hall says.

“I also got really tired of any veil between who I am and what I do. I have been a licensed minister since I was 19 years old and moved from a religion major at Samford University to seminary to a residency to the pastorate and here I am. I’m heading towards 40, I have a kid and it’s time to reflect on where the arc is leading. Am I comfortable serving a church that’s physically isolated here, feeling emotionally isolated from the kind of ministry that gives me life? I was restless enough that it was worth doing any of these things we’ve been up to lately because I just don’t care about that pretense anymore.”

While most people do not imagine a successful pastor of a 65-year-old Baptist church being Christ-haunted, Hall says, there was something about the true Jesus that he had missed over years of aspiring to be the “expert behind the podium,” and he knew it.

“That’s not how you love people, and that’s not how you learn what they love and what they care about,” Hall says.

Thankfully, he adds, the Highland Hills congregation knew it too and was experiencing a similar haunting by a Jesus that called them to invest authentically in downtown Macon. One of those members was Gammons, who after returning from a church hiatus to fight leukemia, needed something else to do. When Gospel Gothic received the green light from Evans and Griffith, Gammons became executive producer for the show and Hall’s partner in creating monthly “Beer and Hymns” events as well as live recordings of Gospel Gothic at popular venues in Macon.

After journeying together for nearly two years with Gospel Gothic, Hall, Griffith and Evans all affirm that they primarily produce Gospel Gothic for the countless Christ-haunted among the Macon community and beyond — those who, for whatever reason, cannot participate in organized religion, Griffith adds.

“We want this to be a spiritual moment for them,” Griffith says. “And that’s the kind of outreach I can get behind, breaking down the barriers of the preconceptions of organized religion and church, and getting down to a more essential, spiritual process of communication.”

Yet, as they continue to engage music and meaning in the Christ-haunted South, the hosts of Gospel Gothic prove that there’s more than one way to be Christ-haunted. In fact, Hall says, the same space that offers thoughtful critique and healing to those haunted by the church is the space that has become absolutely central to his calling as a pastor and person of faith. Indeed, ghosts can be very fierce and instructive, not to mention redemptive.

“Inside or outside the church,” Hall says, “it’s still a specter.”

 

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason

Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, records this week’s episode of Gospel Gothic for The Creek 100.9 FM on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 in The Creek’s recording studio. Gospel Gothic is hosted by Jake Hall and discusses faith through the theme of Americana music.

 


 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

Listen to their archives or explore the show on the Gospel Gothic site.

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.

 

 

 




Down to the river: A pastor’s journey toward real life, real sin and real redemption

Storytelling ProjectsThe day Jake Hall discovered 100.9 FM The Creek, he nearly plowed through a red light into oncoming traffic.

He hadn’t touched the radio dial once in six years of owning his Chevy Volt. But this Sunday morning was different. Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, two beloved entrepreneurs and music lovers, had just purchased a failing radio station and turned it into genuine Americana gold. As Hall approached the Spring Street bridge in Macon, Ga., to pass over the Ocmulgee River, Darrell Scott’s “Down to the River” suddenly broke through his humdrum focus with communion of another kind, Hall says.

“Now me and some buddies were down by the river,” Scott sings. “There were drinkers and dopers and abstainers by choice / There was red wine and white lines, blue smoke and good times / But when we all sang, we had us one voice singing.”

Hall barely wrenched himself out of transcendence in time to slam on the brakes and continue safely to Highland Hills Baptist Church where he serves as pastor. But that moment by the riverside was undeniable — it was time to act on the restlessness growing in his heart and sense of calling.

“The Creek caught me at a vulnerable moment when I didn’t expect it to,” Hall says.

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason

Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, preaches to his congregation on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

“Every Sunday I suit up, put on that stole and I’m on until the day is over, and experiencing transcendence is sometimes rare in seasons of pastoral life. But Scott’s song was about real life, real sin and the real redemption that comes with years. That was a singular moment for me. I had decided it was time for me to reach out beyond the circle of Highland Hills and to forge new friendships, though I didn’t yet know that would become a new partnership for me or for the church.”

The following day, Hall crafted an email to Evans and Griffith expressing his unique gratitude for 100.9 FM The Creek as well as his vision for a show that would engage that tender space of music and meaning in the “Christ-haunted South.” Quotation of central Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor was all it took to get a lunch meeting, Griffith would later admit fondly. Yet Hall’s poignant humility and infectious grace — qualities that neither Griffith nor Evans were accustomed to in a pastor — would ultimately seal the deal for Gospel Gothic.

As Gospel Gothic found a foothold in Macon, the generous space Hall had offered himself in seeking new ground began to reflect around him, he says. Rather than recoil at Hall’s audacious enterprise, the Highland Hills congregation engaged the project with deep resonance and financial support, even producing the show’s executive producer Keith Gammons, who had perhaps become as restless as Hall.

“A kind of permission of the Spirit took over,” Hall explains, “and it couldn’t have happened without a church that was ready to try something new, without Keith Gammons, who after returning from a church hiatus to fight leukemia, needed something else to do, or without a lot of people at least seeing what could be and valuing the ‘what if,’ whether they understood it or not.”

Gospel Gothic/ Photo Jenna Eason

Keith Gammons, executive producer and music director at Gospel Gothic, and Jake Hall, host of Gospel Gothic, discuss future events at The Society Garden on Ingleside Avenue on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.

As Hall’s permissive spirit spread, Gospel Gothic began to cultivate a candid and generous table at which an entire downtown community could engage real faith, not to mention their often haunted histories with the church. By sharing level ground and being open to people’s doubts, skepticism or hostility toward the church, Hall says, he effectively became a pastor for those who were decidedly not looking for a pastor. And at the end of the day, he adds, friendship became a holy gift that ultimately bulldozed the wall between ‘sacred’ and ‘profane,’ ‘church person’ and ‘non-church person,” not to mention demolished Hall’s long-held desire to be the “expert behind the podium.”

“That’s not what pastors do and it’s not who I am,” Hall says. “I am much more passionate about exegeting the human document, of parsing out what’s behind someone’s story than I am about returning to the marginalia of sacred texts.”

Since Gospel Gothic’s inception in 2016, the Highland Hills congregation has journeyed alongside Hall in discarding attractional attitudes about church and sought solidarity with the larger community. Yet, there is nothing unique to Macon — even 100.9 FM The Creek — that makes such a shift any more accessible than in other communities, Hall says. Breaking free from that posture does not mean the adoption of some other unique strategy, he explains, but instead simply heeding the restlessness in you that craves real life, real sin and the real redemption that comes in joining the community around you.

“If I’m not making a difference in my community in a peculiar and particular way, using the gifts that I have, I’m not living a life that is life-giving to me” – Jake Hall

“If I’m not making a difference in my community in a peculiar and particular way, using the gifts that I have, I’m not living a life that is life-giving to me,” Hall says.

“Being a ‘good Baptist pastor’ and climbing the ladder in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is not enough for me, and that pedigree is no longer a measure of my success. That meant silencing those voices and expectations of being a ‘professional minister’ and doing things a certain way and giving myself permission to do what I’m good at, where I am. We’re called to share the good news, but that looks more like sitting down at a table with someone, asking for their unvarnished opinion and listening. For my own sake and sanity and calling, I had to make those connections, and I am very thankful that I’m in a community that sees that as a part of what we do together. I feel more alive as a minister because of it.”

Gospel Gothic/ Photo Jenna Eason

Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, records this week’s episode of Gospel Gothic for The Creek 100.9 FM on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 in The Creek’s recording studio. Gospel Gothic is hosted by Jake Hall and discusses faith through the theme of Americana music.

 


View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

Misogyny in Ministry

Listen to their archives or explore the show on the Gospel Gothic site.

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




What is Gospel Gothic?

Storytelling ProjectsGospel Gothic is a Sunday-morning radio program of 100.9 FM The Creek in Macon, Ga., that explores faith through the themes of Americana music. Hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., Gospel Gothic airs each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Co-hosting with Hall each week are Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek and self-confessed skeptics of Southern Christianity’s often misguided attempts at love and right living. Together, the trio unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. In doing so, they cultivate a growing audience in Macon and across the country for whom Americana music is holy and forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

In 2016, Gospel Gothic took hold as two dynamic forces converged in their community — an undeniable cultural revival in Macon centering on its deep musical heritage as well as Hall and his executive producer Keith Gammons’ longing to expand their calling beyond the church and join in that revival. As 100.9 FM The Creek encountered near-overnight success that same year, Hall and Gammons, with support and inspiration from Highland Hills Baptist Church, initiated a relationship and pitched their idea for a show about music and meaning in the Christ-haunted South. Since its inception, the Gospel Gothic partnership has grown its footprint and relevance with monthly “Beer and Hymns” events as well as periodic live tapings of the show at local breweries and venues in Macon.

To learn more about Gospel Gothic and listen to current and past episodes, visit thecreekfm.com/shows/gospel-gothic or listen to 110.9 FM The Creek Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

 


View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

Listen to their archives or explore the show on the Gospel Gothic site.

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.

 




Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start

Storytelling Projects

 

Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic

Storytelling Projects

 

Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon

Storytelling Projects

 

Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic

 

Storytelling ProjectsGospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Photo Gallery: Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic in photos 

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.




Photo Gallery: Jake Hall, Gospel Gothic, Music and Radio

All photos taken in this photo gallery of Jake Hall and Gospel Gothic are by Jenna Eason.

Gospel Gothic/Photo Jenna Eason
Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church, preaches to his congregation on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Jake Hall hosts the radio show Gospel Gothic, which discusses faith through the theme of Americana music on The Creek 100.9 FM on Sunday mornings.
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Storytelling ProjectsIn this ‘Signature Ministries’ series, Gospel Gothic, a Sunday-morning radio show hosted by Jake Hall, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, G.A., features candid conversation about faith in the Christ-haunted South interlaced with celebrated roots music.

 

Together, Jake Hall with Brad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of 100.9 FM The Creek, unpacks scars and scripture, theology and thoughtful critique in search of redemption, all with soulful help from Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and more. Weekly they demonstrate how Americana music is holy and a forthright discussion of religion has become a healing centerpiece.

 

View more in the Jake Hall: Gospel Gothic Series 

Down to the River: A Pastor’s Journey Toward Real Life, Real Sin and Real Redemption

The Christ-Haunted Hosts of Gospel Gothic

For Macon community, Americana music is holy liturgy

What is Gospel Gothic?

Video: How Gospel Gothic got its start 

Video: Jake Hall remembers most profound moments on Gospel Gothic 

Video: Why use music for outreach in Macon 

Video: How the magic is made at Gospel Gothic 

 

 

Related Commentary:

Signature Ministries: “The art of human contacts” by Bill Leonard

 

Related audio:

http://bit.ly/2t7ErFf

http://bit.ly/2H6iRDW

 

This series in the “Signature Ministries” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects Initiative. By studying ministers or churches who practice “Signature Ministries,” we learn from communities who respond to the needs around them, engaging and energizing members in specific ministries that turn them outward on the world. We will specifically profile ministers who lead through their passion and zeal for an interest or a skill that connects with their community outside of the role they would normally play as pastor, leading their congregants to see Christ in others and reaching the needs of the world around them.

 


Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.