Contemporary Christian music artist Matt Maher wows Fargo crowd

by Paul Braun | New Earth

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Matt Maher uses his musical platform as a way to evangelize and spread the Gospel of Christ around the world. (Kristina Lahr/New Earth)

It took a year of planning, but the hard work of the staff of the Diocese of Fargo paid off on Aug. 12 when contemporary Christian musician Matt Maher and his band took the stage at Scheels Arena in Fargo to bring their brand of music and worship to an enthusiastic crowd of 1,800.

The Fargo Diocese sponsored the concert as a way to reach out to Catholics, Protestants and non-denominational Christians in a spirit of ecumenical praise and worship, and to raise money for two very important charities in the region – Catholic Charities North Dakota and Churches United for the Homeless.

“It was wonderful to be able to partner with the diocese and Catholic Charities on this event,” said Pastor Sue Koesterman, Executive Director for Churches United. “To have the opportunity to explain what our organization does, and to praise God and sing together as one, was awe-inspiring.”

Earlier in the day, Matt Maher made a visit to the Churches United shelter in Moorhead, Minn, where he met with staff, clients, and did a little volunteer work.

“The whole day was truly a wonderful experience,” said Maher. “The opportunity to spend time seeing the work Churches United is doing and to hear the stories of people impacted was my favorite part of the day, along with moving mattresses of course!”

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Matt Maher helps to change newly donated mattresses at the Churches United for the Homeless shelter in Moorhead, Minn. before the concert. (Kristina Lahr/New Earth)

Before he took the stage, Matt expanded on his thoughts of what that afternoon’s experience meant to him.

“I’m still thinking about it,” said Maher. “How alienated poverty makes people, and how that must lead to so much risk and vulnerability towards isolation and detachment from one another. We must, as Christians, fight that tendency.”

Bishop John Folda opened the night with a blessing for the crowd and for the success of the event itself. Sonar, a praise band from the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul, kicked off the show with 25-minutes of high-energy music. A new Christian music artist, Jamison Strain, brought the crowd to their feet with his blend of gospel hymns and contemporary Christian music. However, it was Matt Maher the crowd came to see, and he didn’t disappoint. He and his band took the crowd through 90 minutes of music, prayer, and reflection. At times it was just Matt on stage alone, performing some of his best-known songs acapella and sharing with the audience his message of unity and solidarity in Christ.

“I absolutely loved the ecumenical nature of it,” said Maher. “It is paramount that these sorts of efforts be not about one denomination but about the entire Body of Christ (as fractured as it is) working together to address larger systemic problems in our society and communities.”

That “Body of Christ” came through for the two charities involved in the show. Ticket sales took care of the costs of bringing Maher to Fargo. In addition, a free-will donation collected over $7,200, split evenly between Catholic Charities of North Dakota and Churches United. In addition, some donors wrote checks directly to the charities, and those were distributed to the designated organizations as well.

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Bishop John Folda blesses the more than 18-hundred concert-goers at Scheels Arena Aug. 12. (Kristina Lahr/New Earth)

“The event was excellent, very spiritually uplifting and gave us the opportunity to work together with many people,” said Diane Nechiporenko, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of North Dakota. “The ability to share our mission with such a diverse audience helps us reach our goal of helping those in need no matter what their religious belief.”

Nearly 100 volunteers from the diocesan office, parishes, Catholic Charities, the Knights of Columbus and Churches United, worked as ushers, in concession and merchandise sales, and hospitality throughout the concert. Shanley Deacon football players, Shanley Service Club members, and students from the NDSU St. Paul Newman Center volunteered to haul equipment in and out of Scheels arena and to change sets between bands. As for the event itself, Bishop Folda says the outreach and evangelization effort paid off.

“It was exciting to see so many people gather and enjoy the concert,” said Bishop Folda. “There is a deep spirituality in Matt’s music, and he does a great job of weaving together the Scriptures, stories of the saints, and the daily challenges we all face. His message is full of joy and hope, and we all need these on our journey of faith. I’m glad we were able to bring Matt to the Diocese of Fargo, and I hope he will come again.”

To which Matt replied; “Sure thing – let me know when!”