The Grand Ole Opry
There in the center of the stage is a circle of hardwood, stained a lighter color than the rest of the floor, on which the performer stands and entertains. It is a section of the floor of the Ryman Auditorium, where the Opry called home for 31 years, that was moved to the new home back in 1974 in order to expand and allow for more people to enjoy this national treasure. It is one of the ways the leadership of the Opry House sought to keep traditions while keeping up with the times.
Julie and I attended the Grand Ole Opry for their Friday show this past weekend, and were treated to amazing performances and timeless acts. The show is still essentially a radio program, like its first days 85 years ago. We sat in pews, like every audience has since 1943 when it moved to a converted worship center. We saw country stars like Vince Gill and Terri Clark and the legend Little Jimmy Dickens. He joined the Opry in 1948 and turned 90 a couple of months ago!
Apart from the great music, the thing I found most interesting was how the Opry’s love of tradition has not prevented innovation from adding to the experience. There are lots of examples:
- Three large projection screens are found prominently on stage
- HD lighting along the back wall to enhance video-taping and the TV broadcasts
- State of the art audio-visual equipment so the sound is always first-class
- Every radio commercial ended the same way – pointing people to the website of whichever sponsor was hosting that half hour.
The timeless value of the Grand Ole Opry is not that things have stayed exactly the same for 85 years — it is that for 85 years they have kept the vision of entertaining audiences and selling radio commercials in exactly the center of what they do. They will add and take away whatever is not working to keep that vision from dying which has meant that the Opry remains as alive as ever throughout the massive changes in society and our world.
These are the very things I was thinking about sitting in that hallowed hall in Nashville on Friday night. In truth, I could not get my mind off the church and God’s great desires for it. You see, I believe we are also called to cling tightly to what is most important, while adding and subtracting the other parts that are intended only to enhance and not detract. What is most important? We are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.