Bellingham pastor finds music an ideal way to connect with people

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 23, 2013 

Carl Furlan

Carl Furlan, the worship and arts pastor at Hillcrest Chapel in Fairhaven, celebrates the release of a CD that features musicians from Hillcrest at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 at the church, 1400 Larrabee St. The concert is free, but guests can get $3 off the CD sale with a canned food donation to the church's food bank, and a portion of the sale will also go to the food bank.

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

If you've seen a speedy bicyclist riding through Bellingham singing opera at the top of his lungs, you've experience the zeal that Carlo Furlan feels for his music.

Furlan is the worship and arts pastor at Hillcrest Chapel in Fairhaven, and he's performed with Bellingham's Opera Popolare, which presents accessible performances of short operas on a regular basis.

Furlan celebrates the release of a CD that features musicians from Hillcrest at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the church, 1400 Larrabee St. The concert is free, but guests can get $3 off the CD sale with a canned food donation to the church's food bank, and a portion of the sale will also go to the food bank.

Listen to some of the songs on Facebook; search Hillcrest Chapel Arts.

He'll also perform Nov. 9 in a dinner-concert fundraising event for Assumption Church's capital campaign.

Here's more about him:

Question: What was your childhood like?

Answer: My parents were both jazz musicians in Seattle. Piano lessons with mom were not optional (and were a battle). When I was 5, they handed me a trumpet and this instrument became a special source of connection with my dad. By the time I got to high school our house had become a practice space for my dad's jazz bands, my oldest brother's rock bands and my own venture into rock music - on the bass.

I had spent my early years attending a big Catholic church with folk music, but in middle school we switched to a church that featured a lively black gospel groove. As I explored the Christian faith, my rock band turned to song writing and we began performing at churches and youth events.

As I look back I can see the impact my parents had on me to play and enjoy many musical styles. The CD project and church where I serve demonstrate this diversity.

Q: How did you happen to come to Hillcrest Chapel?

A: I came to Hillcrest six years ago after serving in two Northwest churches for several years. My family (wife and three kids) was looking to make a change and found that Hillcrest and Bellingham really fit us.

Q: How did you decide to become a pastor?

A: As for my journey to pastoral work, ironically, I started college at Western Washington with the desire to work with disadvantaged youth. I wanted to be a Christian who was pumped about Jesus but still cared about the poor. (I had experienced a disconnect there). One night at the Fairhaven dorms I realized that the church could be a powerful vehicle for compassion and felt like God was pointing me there.

But first, I had a lot of me. Transferring to the University of Washington, I settled on the philosophy major, and through much intellectual wrestling was ultimately strengthened in my faith and ability to think critically about life. The hope was that this degree would be a good foundation for further education and the eventual role as a preacher.

However, the guitar kept finding its way into my hands and it wasn't long after graduating that I landed my first church pastorate almost accidently, with a natural role of music and arts ministry.

Q: How do you see music as a tool or gift to reach others?

A: Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher said, "Give me the songs of a nation and I care not who writes its laws." Music can go beyond the reach of mere words, helping us lower our guard and consider ideas, stirring our emotions and our souls with the whispers of God.

I delight in creating music that engages people with spirituality, poverty, love, grace and forgiveness: life.

Q: Why do you enjoy singing opera while you ride your bike through Bellingham?

A: I have found it to be a great way to practice within my crammed schedule. It is also a kick to turn heads down the street and get a bewildered smile from my fellow Bellinghamsters.

Q: What's your new CD all about?

A: This is the second multi-artist CD we have put together at Hillcrest. It features seven artists performing quality original songs from pop to folk, hip hop to classical and reflects hours and hours in our little studio at Hillcrest. Several of us will perform in our Oct. 24 CD release concert.

The Nov. 9 concert is my first paying opera gig. My performances will be part of a classical and show tune fundraiser for Assumption Church.

Q: What do you like about living in Bellingham?

A: I love how family-friendly and bike-able this town is. My favorite leisure activities are hanging with my family (soccer, board games, wrestling, dates and movies) and playing disc golf with buddies in Cornwall Park.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Follow Bellingham Entertainment on Facebook or @bhamentertainme on Twitter.

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