August 2018 will be the 25th anniversary of my first involvement with the Mountain T.O.P. ministry. Over those years, I’ve sung the “Mountain Top Song” more times than I can count.
The song was not written for the ministry. It was just written as a song. Brown Bannister, who produced many, many albums for Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman and others, wrote the song, and it was recorded both by Amy Grant and by Chris Christian. I heard Chris Christian’s version years before I had any connection to Mountain T.O.P.
The song fit the Mountain T.O.P. ministry so perfectly that someone associated with the ministry who had contacts in the music business approached Bannister and asked him if he minded if Mountain T.O.P. used the song in its camps. He graciously agreed. It’s been sung at every Mountain T.O.P. camp event since. We sing it a little more up-tempo than Chris or Amy did, and we have motions to go with some of the lyrics. In our Adults In Ministry summer camps, the song is introduced on the first day of camp, sung at other times during the week, sung during the big communion service on Friday night and then sometimes sung at closing circle on Saturday morning.
Tonight, I drove to Nashville for “An Awkward Evening With Charlie Peacock” at Lipscomb University. Steve Taylor, whom regular readers know has been one of my favorite singer-songwriters since I was in college in the early 1980s, interviewed Peacock, another Christian singer-songwriter whose work I discovered during that time and have admired since.
I was under the impression that both Steve and Charlie were on faculty at Lipscomb — Steve in the film department and Charlie in the music department. Charlie founded the university’s contemporary music program and later took over the whole music department.
But I didn’t realize that Charlie had actually stepped down from that post this past fall. He’s still a friend of the program, but during tonight’s presentation they mentioned that he had given up the chair and had been succeeded by … Brown Bannister. This is particularly appropriate because Charlie had been talking earlier in the evening about the mentor role Brown played when Charlie first moved to Nashville. Steve noted that Brown was in the audience and asked him to come up and say a few words.
It turns out that he was sitting two seats down from me. I was actually sitting right next to Mrs. Bannister. I had no idea.
When the event ended, I immediately turned to Bannister (who had gone back to his seat at some point) and told him of my involvement with Mountain T.O.P. and how much his song has meant to us over the years. He seemed genuinely delighted by this, and when I asked him for a photo he even handed his phone to Mrs. Bannister and had her take one with his phone as well as mine.
This thrilled me to no end.
After that, I rushed over to catch Nick Barre, Steve Taylor’s (ex-?) manager, who had admired my and Kendall Durfey’s comedy writing when we were both students at Oral Roberts University and who arranged for me to go to that Steve Taylor concert three years ago. I was still talking to Nick when Steve walked over to hug Nick, whom he apparently hadn’t seen in a while. Nick introduced me to Steve, just as he’d done three years ago, and so I got to shake Steve’s hand again tonight. Nick also introduced me to another ORU alumnus — from just after my time in Tulsa.
The program, by the way, was excellent. It began with a funny biographical video, with Steve’s fingerprints all over it, comparing Charlie Peacock to other human-beast hybrids such as the centaur and The Little Mermaid. The interview was fascinating. Some Lipscomb students, including the daughter of Nick’s ORU friend, performed a medley of Charlie Peacock songs and were delightful, and then at the end of the evening Charlie performed a new song he’d written especially for the occasion.
All in all, a great evening.