Rock and roll worship services at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Lake Ronkonkoma started on Sunday nights over a decade ago with talented members of the congregation forming a house band of sorts. The church’s professional multimedia system, excellent acoustics, and seating for over 300 made it an ideal venue for rock services. After Pastor Claudia Raggie introduced singer-songwriters Eileen Hill and Charlie Ward to one another, they began to write and record together as Hill & Ward, eventually taking their message of grace and faith out into the Long Island community. Networking with other Christian artists led to collaborations and friendships, and The Christian Artist Alliance (CALL) became a natural next step.
"Our desire through CALL is to help Christian artists of all kinds hone their skills and then provide a venue for them to share their giftedness," says Pr. Raggie. Started in 2012, The CALL is a community environment for artists to come together in praise and worship, fellowship, and mutual encouragement. The third Friday evening of each month is either a hangout or a concert night at Holy Cross. The informal "hangouts" usually attract up to 30 people, primarily musicians, singer-songwriters, and the occasional poet, as well as supporters and enthusiasts. For artists in the early stages of development, or for the more casual artists and seekers, the CALL hangouts provide a safe haven where they can experiment, grow, and be mentored in their art, or simply just be part of the experience. For more accomplished artists, the hangouts are a place where they can share their gifts and encourage others.
Promoted through social media, radio ads and community flyers, the CALL concerts are high-energy performances, providing a venue for broader ministry and exposure. Concert admission is free, with artists donating their time and talent. Food donations for the Holy Cross community pantry are always welcome, but completely optional. In addition to congregation members who enjoy supplementing their worship experience with more diverse forms of music, CALL concerts have attracted people from other congregations and people who might not otherwise come through the church doors. Featured artists at CALL concerts have included Jeannie Ortega, Paul Paoli, Sam Powell, Rev 7, Trinity Express, Gracious Vine, Mercy Seat, The Found Cats, AnnMarie Jimenez, Keith Nieves and the Roadside Prophets, Spirit Lifters, Reason 413, Stacy Lugo, Joyful Noise, Charles Roberts, Billy’s Kitchen, and home-team regulars Hill & Ward. Their songs "I Believe in You" and "Don’t Let the Devil Get You Down" have been getting airtime on Christian radio.
In 2014, the CALL is starting to hold open mic nights, and working to complete the God Is Real recording project. Says musician Charlie Ward, "I feel that the CALL is important because art--and for me, especially music-- in an inclusive and supportive spiritual setting is a very accessible way for all people grow closer to each other and more open to a stronger, deeper relationship with God."
See videos on YouTube, or visit facebook.com/ChristianArtistAlliance for more information.