Monday, December 13, 2010

Edmonton's Singing Christmas Tree, formerly a Christian presentation, is now thoroughly secular

The Singing Christmas Tree, a tradition in Edmonton, Alberta, was first presented in the 1960s by and at Central Pentecostal Tabernacle, and was an explicitly Christian presentation. The church moved to new quarters in 2005 and was renamed North Pointe Community Church. The original facility was demolished in 2007, and the Singing Christmas Tree disappeared.

It was revived in 2009, and is back in 2010--as a thoroughly secular event, now held at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The 2010 Media Release mentions the presence of dancing men in Santa Claus suits and members of David Foster’s band (with impressive credentials in the popular music business), and is promoted as a Broadway-scale production. In years past, there were no Santas, and all the artists came from the church.

The vision of The Tree is to give families and individuals a holiday performance to celebrate and attend and most importantly an opportunity to give back to the community. In 2009, The Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree Foundation was pleased to donate all net proceeds ($30,900) to Santas Anonymous.

Santas Anonymous is a long-running Edmonton charity created and operated by radio station CHED to distribute toys to poor children. I don’t object to it as a charity, but it’s a completely secular charity. The reader will notice that in the paragraph cited above that no reason is given for the holiday that the performance is celebrating.

There are still Christians involved in the Singing Christmas Tree (North Pointe's senior pastor, Bob Jones, is on the board of directors, but isn't the chairman of the board), but there no longer seems to be anything distinctively Christian about it--not from their publicity, at least. The Singing Christmas Tree has become so secular that in the current Media Kit, there isn’t even one mention of Jesus Christ. So goes the North American "evangelical" church in 2010.

December 5, 2011 update: The link to the 2010 Media Kit is no longer valid, but you can see the November 10, 2011 Media Release. Once again, no mention of Jesus Christ. As if that isn't secular enough, check out their media advisory from October 27, 2011 where they boast about having Santas carolling door-to-door--on Halloween. The advertisement for the SCT running on Edmonton radio stations in 2011 features the very secular song The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

January 6, 2014 update: It was more of the same for 2013, with advertisements being displayed at the Churchill Light Rail Transit station downtown promoting the SCT as an entertainment spectacular, with nothing about the Lord Jesus Christ. From their current (2013) website (bold in original, link added by blogger):

Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree Foundation
The Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree Foundation (ESCTF) is a non-profit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors. The primary purpose of the foundation is to help local charities and showcase local talent while bringing a Christmas spectacular to Edmontonians and visitors every year.

The foundation owns the tree structure, provides overall direction to The Singing Christmas Tree production team, and annually selects local charities to support through the proceeds raised at The Singing Christmas Tree and other events.

Throughout the year, the Foundation continues to help feed the mind, body, and spirit of our local youth by providing music enrichment experiences to underprivileged children in socially vulnerable communities that have been hit by a decrease in government funding.

This year, the ESCTF donated a complete set of new instruments for three elementary schools, as well as funding field trips for students to take in a musical experience in our city. A portion of The Singing Christmas Tree tickets are also donated to youth in our community to continue to inspire them and introduce them to live music and performing arts.

Over the past four years, ESCTF has donated a combined total of $392,000 to local charities such as Santas Anonymous and Edmonton’s Food Bank! This year, in addition to working with established local and global charities, proceeds from your ticket will go to individual causes throughout the City as a way of bringing Christmas year round to children in need through gifts, food and music education...

...FAQ – We’ve Got the Answer.

Q) What will the proceeds go towards?

A) All net proceeds from The Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree 2013 will go to The Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree Foundation. A portion of the proceeds go to local charities such 630 CHED Santas Anonymous and Christmas Bureau, and the Foundation then works closely with other individual causes and organizations to bring Christmas year round to children in need through gifts, food and music education.
The following quote, from the top of the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree home page, speaks volumes as to the current direction of the SCT (bold in original):

"I moved to Edmonton in December 2011 and at that time I had no idea how lucky I was to be invited to the Singing Christmas Tree. I accepted the invitation without really knowing what the show's concept was all about. The Singing Christmas Tree turned out to be the most original, genuine, heartwarming show that I have ever experienced. The unique icon of a giant tree, dressed with real singers, is visually stunning and spectacular in sound. The performance draws your heart and soul through an emotional journey that truly reflects the spirit of Christmas.

I returned in 2012, this time with very high expectations, and again, I was truly moved by the performance.

I guarantee anybody who has yet to attend, that by the time you leave the performance, you will come out a better person. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?"--Len Rhodes, President & CEO, Edmonton Eskimos
Well, Mr. Rhodes, that may be what "Christmas" is all about, but it isn't what the birth of Jesus Christ was all about. As those of us who've seen the television special A Charlie Brown Christmas will recall (as spoken by Linus in that program):

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:8-14

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown Mr. Rhodes.

December 4, 2015 update: I notice a couple of differences this year:

1/There seem to be more local performers among the soloists, and are connected with the church. This seems to indicate that the event may be moving back toward the Christian event that it used to be; however, the content seems unchanged from recent years.

2/Unfortunately, one of the "Frendship Sponsors" (sic) is River Cree Resort & Casino in Enoch. The reader may come to his own conclusions as to the propriety of welcoming a casino as a sponsor of an ostensibly Christian event.

December 15, 2017 update: From the ECST's About the Show page:

Imagine a stage decorated with whimsy, a 35-foot singing Christmas tree, and an audience in wonder!

Imagine dancing Santas! Beautiful ballerinas! Amazing acrobats! Stupendous singers! Colourful costumes and breathtaking sets – coming together to make spirits bright!

Imagine a stage adorned with thousands of glimmering lights, filled with a choir of 150 talented singers, all accompanied by a live orchestra in the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

At least there are no casinos listed among the sponsors for 2017; that's an improvement.

1 comment:

  1. So sad that it has become secular!!