Clergy band plays to fight malaria

A group of United Methodists in Texas is singing "Bennie and the Jets" - and raising some serious "Benjamins" for battling malaria.

Connections, a band made up of clergy and laity from the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference, performs at churches in the area to raise money for two United Methodist causes, Imagine No Malaria and the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

At its most recent show, the band surpassed an impressive milestone: It has now raised more than $100,000 for Imagine No Malaria.

"Hitting this goal is amazing to all of us," said the Rev. Eric Folkerth, senior pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas and one of the band's leaders. "We're just grateful for the chance to play music, provide a great evening for the crowd and be a part of making the world a better place."

Connections was formed after a 2004 clergy retreat, when Folkerth met the Rev. Rusty King, music minister at First United Methodist Church in Allen. Both avid guitarists, they bonded over their common love of the music of Dan Fogelberg and had jam sessions at the clergy retreat each year with other fellow pastors.

Kill the buzz

Imagine No Malaria is proud to be a significant and valued partner in the mission to end preventable deaths from this killer disease by 2015.

If you can spare another minute, please get involved. Saving a life is as close as your mobile phone.

Advocate!Text SWAT to 27722 and sign the petition to save lives

Raise funds! Text MALARIA to 27722 to give $10

Gifts can be made to Imagine No Malaria online or by sending your donation to:
UMC Imagine No Malaria
PO Box 440544
Nashville, TN 37244-0544

The plot thickened when King suggested putting on a Fogelberg tribute concert, which wound up raising almost $2,000 for UMCOR. As most of the band members are United Methodist clergy and laity, the name Connections reflects their Wesleyan bond.

From that original show, the band has developed a number of other themed concerts, celebrating artists such as Chicago, The Eagles, James Taylor, Elton John, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and two different "Super Hits of the '70s" productions. As many as 40 different people participate in various incarnations of the band, which has now performed 40 concerts at United Methodist churches in the North Texas area, raising close to $200,000 so far.

The musicians donate their time, and the host church decides whether the money raised will go to Imagine No Malaria or the UMCOR.

Now that it has surpassed $100,000 for Imagine No Malaria, the band has its eye on the next milestone: $200,000 in total dollars raised.

"It's all but certain that we'll make that goal at the next show," Folkerth said.

"God made plans to take simple efforts and compound them into extraordinary results," said King."When I reflect on how God is using Connections Band, it gives me deep joy!"

*Butler is editor of young adult content for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5105 or [email protected].

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