Flash Mob: (noun) def: “A group of people mobilized to meet in a public place for the purpose of performing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration, and then disperse quickly.”
Skip to Fall 2019 when the Hope Road Gospel Community Choir, organized by Summerland Baptist Church, rehearsed with 60 singers from 7 different churches and the greater South Okanagan community. The express purpose of this short season of only 5 rehearsals was to prepare one strategic flash mob Christmas song to present in as many public venues as possible.
The atmosphere at each rehearsal was electric as vocalists from ages 7 – 89 practiced in anticipation of performing an upbeat, contemporary selection to total strangers in locations seldom, if ever, used to proclaim a bold message of Jesus Christ as the reason for the Christmas season.
Nerves were felt close to the surface, fear was dealt with as a community, and each member memorized music and words with December 7 and 14 highlighted on their calendars.
As I approached the General Managers of 6 different stores in Penticton and West Kelowna about this initiative, I was somewhat apprehensive. I knew that a message stating that Christmas is all about Jesus may not be acceptable and I could be refused an opportunity for the choir to sing. I First approached Walmart in Penticton since we had sung there several years back. The manager was aware of that performance and gave approval for us to make an appearance on December 7 at 11:00 am. Next, I stopped in at the Real Canadian Super Store, where the General Manager was also open to this festive injection of joy and music at his store. Finally, since a previous choir member worked at Canadian Tire, I approached John, the General Manager, about us performing our 3 minute and 12 second selection at his store on the 7… “Absolutely” he responded!
Now to approach those same stores in West Kelowna. In each store, there was a strong hesitation and in one case the Manager said that he would have to call Head Office and get approval from them, but he was not hopeful. Soooo, I played the “your store in Penticton has confirmed our performance on December 7” card. All 3 managers basically said: “Well, if our stores in Penticton are permitting it, then let’s do it here as well!”
So on Saturday, December 7, 50 – 60 choir members with watches synchronized, took their places in the checkout lines, Customer Service area, and any location near the tills at Penticton Walmart and waited for the background music track to start. At the stroke of 11:00 am, music was cued and the ladies placed their red Hope Road scarves outside their winter coats and began to sing. Shortly, all the men joined in right where they were and the sounds of music, joy and celebration filled the store. Initially, cashiers and patrons were shocked and surprised at the sudden interruption to their shopping and scanning, but quickly realized what was happening and broke into smiles, dancing and filming with their phones. At the end of the song, applause, cheers and whistles indicated the appreciation for the choir’s performance. Super Store and Canadian Tire presentations followed that day with ecstatic, appreciative responses. (The choir’s confidence and gusto increased as they sensed God’s hand in this bold undertaking!)
Staff and customers responded with pats on the back, cheers, tears, gratitude and comments such as: “Thank you so much, what you just did made my whole day.” We received emails, texts and phone calls telling us that our boldness had inspired many others to be more forthright in their convictions to share the true meaning of Christmas with others.
Finally, Saturday, December 14 arrived. The choir met at SBC and loaded a graciously provided/donated bus to take the whole group to West Kelowna for our final three flash mob performances. In each store the response was the same as we experienced in Penticton, and possibly even more passionate! At Super Store, one cashier broke into a full dance during the song. One of our members was having her groceries scanned while singing and when it came time to pay, the cashier told her that the woman in front of her had paid for all her groceries! One of the managers at Super Store recorded the performance on his phone and sent it to head office, also posting it on their store Facebook page. (At the time of writing, it has over 60,000 views). After we performed the song at Canadian Tire, one of the Super Store employees who had just gotten off work tracked me down and asked; ‘Who are you guys and how can I get involved?’. She will be joining us for our Winter/Spring season of Hope Road in January! The Canadian Tire Store Manager has already requested us to come back next Christmas!
Who would have thought that publicly presenting a simple song of Truth would garner such a response from a culture that is generally antagonistic to messages of Life, Hope and Joy found in Jesus alone?
Reminds me of a verse: “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen!” Ephesians 3:20-21
Merry Christmas from the Hope Road Gospel Choir!