By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- As Ventura County, and most of the rest of the state closed its doors on July 4th weekend, First Presbyterian Church in Oxnard respected social distancing needs and hosted an America the Beautiful Concert in its parking lot.
The event featured inspirational music from Mark and Kayla Bailey, as attendees could sit outside with a lawn chair or relax in their car and celebrate the freedoms that America enjoys.
Pastor Ted Brandt said his church started holding drive-in services on March 29, and this event adds to that offering.
"We have people safely in their cars on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. worshipping God, and we have the band on stage," he said. "We thought we would do some special events in the summer because there is a lack of anything going on here."
Brandt was pleased that Mark and Kayla Bailey offered to help at the event.
"We've known them for a bunch of years," Brandt said. "Mark has been in Christian ministry for years and also has been in country music for a long time. He's the perfect person to do this."
COVID-19 shut the church down over Easter, but Randy, who worked the front gate, wrote protocols that allowed them to reopen with a drive-in format.
"We submitted them to the county, and they adopted them," Brandt said. "That was pretty cool."
Through all the drama and chaos, Ted said the Jesus watches over everyone and is for everyone. That is part of what's going on in the United States.
"We finally realize what's been going on under the surface for years," he said. "This Fourth of July is different, and some are complaining about it, but I think it's a Fourth of July we need to have. We've not treated people well who are on the fringes and not like the majority. That's unfortunate, and we need to repent of that. Jesus can guide the way and make it true there is liberty and justice for all our people."
Brandt said everyone is welcome at First Presbyterian Church, and you don't need any religious background.
"It's tough to make connections right now (because of COVID-19), and we are trying to do that at drive-in church," he said. "We get them started by giving them the word and giving them a chance to worship God. I publish my cell phone number online so people can call me at any time."
Songwriter Mark Bailey said every songwriter has a different process they write with.
"For me, it starts in my head," he said. "I usually have some idea of what the tune is, and what the message and music is going to be. It goes simultaneously because you want the message to match the music. You can't do a rock song."
His daughter, Kayla Bailey, said she does not belong to First Presbyterian Church in Oxnard, but her dad leads worship and praise at the location.
"He loves working with the people in this community and spreading the Holy Spirit through music," she said. "He's worked in worship ministries for over 25 years. That's one of his passions."
The duo performed a mixture of original songs and favorites.
"You're going to hear some familiar folk tunes that you know and love from Bob Dylan, Peter Paul, and Mary and John Denver, but dad does throw in some original pieces," she said.
She aids her dad in the writing process because inspiration can occur anywhere.
"I got him a set of notebooks last year, so he can write anywhere he can," Kayla said. "He also writes on napkins, or whatever is around when inspiration strikes. Somehow, he's got the formula down when it comes to contemporary Christian music."
She admits that people can feel locked down through what has become the second wave of COVID-19.
"People have to remember that we should exercise social distancing precautions, wear a mask in public, and do the best we can to stay safe and healthy," she said. "We still need community and take care of our emotional health, as well. Spreading music will spread joy, love, and a sense of fellowship. Doing this concert will help do that and help out my dad. We haven't performed together for a few years."
Church Elder Annette Tarin said they are practicing safety protocols, and they can celebrate the birth of the United States.
"This gives us a chance to get together in a safe environment, follow all the safety protocols, yet celebrate our nation, country, and all the great things," she said. "It's a beautiful night, and we are excited about this."
The evening started coming together in April when they started holding its drive-in church.
"Our gather team was meeting, and they wanted to do something," she said. "We decided that it would be fun to have Mark and Kayla Bailey come and sing. He is our worship leader and available."
COVID-19 has shut Tarin down because of health issues.
"I did work remotely for a while, but I am still working," she said. "I am usually a stay at home person, so I'm doing okay."
Tracy Camargo brought her husband, kids, and dog to the concert and said the music is excellent.
"I saw this on Facebook," she said." We have four kids and a dog, and we thought it would be great to come out."
She doesn't attend the church but loves their effort to make the COVID-19 blues a little easier to take.
"This makes a difference mentally, spiritually, and patriotic, she said. "With four school-age kids, COVID-19 has been tough. We're trying to make the best of it with outdoor events, like this, and the beach. It's hard to have the beach closed this weekend. We also have to stay outside, enjoy this beautiful creation, and hear music.
First Presbyterian Church in Oxnard is located at 850 Ivywood Drive.