Saturday, September 22nd marked a unique event at The Upper Room. The first half of the evening was dedicated to a music concert and the second half featured a talk on how to share Christ with Muslims.
Opening the concert, which started at 7:30 pm, was an amusing movie trivia challenge where audience members attempted to stump Movie Boy. Surprisingly, Ernest Borgnine appeared in nearly every movie mentioned.
The concert began in earnest when Chris Lizotte took the stage. Immediately establishing the intimate mood that characterized the entire set, Lizotte sat in a chair, played his guitar and sang “Power in Weakness.” Lizotte’s longtime friend, keyboardist John Andrew Schreiner, joined him on the gorgeous ballad “The Harbor.”
After performing a couple songs with Schreiner, Lizotte introduced singer Kirsten Ford and musician Larry Meyers, who alternated between playing violin, mandolin and cello for the remainder of the concert. With the band fully assembled, Lizotte’s rich melodies and poetic lyrics took on a deeper dimension.
“All My Tears” was a toe-tapper that had a distinct Credence Clearwater Revival vibe. Lizotte’s soulful vocals were prominently featured during the “I’m in love” refrain of “Sweet Mercy.” Another concert highlight was “Shadow of Your Love.” For that song, Schreiner broke out his accordion and Meyers played the cello; an unusual combo that created a unique musical experience.
Lizotte invited the audience to join him on the worship song “I Love Your Ways.” Ford sang lead on “Have You Ever Seen This Place,” and Meyers played the mandolin on “Peace in the Middle of the Storm.” Lizotte closed out the concert by singing “Stay Close to Me” as a blessing over the audience.
Lizotte packed an impressive number of songs into his mostly mellow hour-long set. His honest and heartfelt songs, which contained tinges or folk, country and blues, recalled an earlier, simpler time when music was more about expression and meaning than style and sensationalism. Lizotte’s concert was memorable for many reasons including the progressive assemblage of the band, the deeply-affecting melodies and superb musicianship.
The second half of the evening got underway when founder and host, Ron Strand, introduced speaker Maged Atalla from Leading the Way ministries. After a brief greeting, Atalla familiarized the audience with basic Muslim terms. He then gave an overview of the origins and precepts of Islam.
Atalla identified the different types of Muslims that exist in the Middle East and America today. He referenced a statistic that 99% of Muslims don’t read the Qur’an, which means the majority of adherents to the religion don’t know what they believe. Since many Muslims are seekers, Christians have a prime opportunity to reach them with the truth of the Gospel.
Atalla equipped the audience with the tools necessary to evangelize Muslims. He concluded his talk by sharing his experience of leading a Muslim taxi cab driver to Christ in the middle of NYC.
Part concert, part seminar, the joint event at The Upper Room was an inspirational, educational and unforgettable evening.