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Matt Maher: Amarillo's loss is Fargo's gain

FARGO - While living in Amarillo, Texas, in 2015, Paul Braun hoped to raise funds for area youth and his local Knights of Columbus council by inviting Christian musician Matt Maher to perform a concert there.Though Maher's crew was receptive, log...

Christian musician Matt Maher plays Scheel's Arena Aug. 12. Special to The Forum
Christian musician Matt Maher plays Scheel's Arena Aug. 12. Special to The Forum

FARGO - While living in Amarillo, Texas, in 2015, Paul Braun hoped to raise funds for area youth and his local Knights of Columbus council by inviting Christian musician Matt Maher to perform a concert there.

Though Maher's crew was receptive, logistics pulled the plug on the Amarillo gig. "You owe me one," Braun told them.

After he began work the following year for the Fargo Diocese, Amarillo's loss became Fargo's gain.

Maher's performance at the Fargo Scheel's Arena Aug. 12 will mark his second touch-down in North Dakota, following a Bismarck concert in 2015.

"So much about the people, the land, the agriculture, the history is so special and such an integral part of our nation as a whole," Maher shared in an email interview. "I'm just glad to have the opportunity to visit again."

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The event will benefit Catholic Charities of North Dakota and Churches United for the Homeless.

"Both do a lot of good work for people all over North Dakota, not just Catholics," Braun noted. "We'll use ticket sales plus good-will donations, and bring together people of all faiths, with one of Christian music's A-list artists."

Unity of the faithful is a priority to Maher, who reminded that "the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy."

"Part of that is igniting division among believers," he added. "My hope is that through the songs I write and the music we play, we can encourage unity so that we can forward the Kingdom of God and truly love one another well."

Melissa Hund-Cerna, youth ministry coordinator for St. Joseph's parish in Moorhead, said Maher's performances, though drawing many, are "intimate" in approach.

At a previous concert she attended, Maher admitted he was a sleep-deprived father. "I was a new mom, and it was the first time I'd left my daughter at home," she said. "His voice was going out so his band took over, and it was so humbling hearing him talk about how much he was struggling in front of a huge crowd."

Abby Paul, also a Maher fan, said his music, and Christian music in general, has helped her cope from anxiety. "(Christian) music helps you feel your emotions even more," she said. "It's an easy way to let yourself just cry or mourn if you need to."

Often, there's a message attached. Maher said that lately, the idea of protesting has been on his heart - not "making a fuss over something you are for or against, but rather how love is the ultimate protest."

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Love, he continued, "is the ultimate way to make a statement. To love God and love others as God has loved you. If we lead with that, we are truly embodying the heart of God."

Recently, he felt encouraged by a visit to Rome, where Pope Francis said, "Teach your children to sing praise and worship God. It is the purest form of prayer ... praise is prayer with no self-interest."

"It says in the Bible to 'praise him with the lute and harp, the drums and tambourine,'" Braun added. "We need to reach out to (young people especially) in a language they understand and respond to, and use that to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ."

If You Go

What: Christian musician Matt Maher fundraising concert, with guests Sonar and Jamison Strain, to benefit Churches United for the Homeless and Catholic Charities of North Dakota

When: 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 12

Where: Scheel's Arena, 5225 31st Ave. S., Fargo

Contact: Tickets available at tickets300.com or the Scheel's Arena box office

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Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com .

Christian musician Matt Maher plays Scheel's Arena Aug. 12. Special to The Forum
Roxane Salonen, columnist

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