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SmallFest Presents: Mercyland Concert Series & Pilgrimage Pairings


There are few things that get me more excited than when I find myself at the intersection where music and social activism cross paths.

Since Jars of Clay began our extended hiatus from touring, I have been dreaming about how to cultivate a place where I can be the guy wearing the sandwich board or flipping the arrow sign around while art and creativity come to add weight to the stories of nonprofit organizations doing great work in the world.

I know, firsthand, the way a good story can capture the heart and mind of an artist and open up a path toward more meaningful living and more purposeful art. And I also know that when great artists focus their attention on describing a place where poverty or struggle exists unchallenged, that those spaces gain advocates and servants and world changers and we are all the better for it.

If you ever have the chance to step into the Blood:Water office, the first thing you may notice is a quote by Mother Teresa written on the wall. It says, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”


I love so many things about this quote, but mostly it is that call to stay human-sized. It is the small voice reminding me that I must steward the stories of Africans with great care and humility because those stories are powerful enough to set fire to entire generations. Those stories have the ability to break a heart or turn it to stone. We can’t take those stories for granted or see them as just another story in a pile of stories that all point to the same tragic problem of HIV/AIDS or unsafe water. The risk of doing so would give us permission to make crass generalizations about “those poor people.” It would activate a kind of decay that ends in crises of compassion, scarcity of purpose, and dilution of meaning. So keep the stories small and human and keep the work small and human.

That is what I have learned and why it is with great joy that I introduce you to, “SmallFest Nashville.”

What is SmallFest Nashville? It is an umbrella under which many small events will live. Not just any events; events that refocus. SmallFest events refocus celebrity into humanity, artistry into connectivity, and the consumer mentality into generous community.

Perhaps Mother Teresa was right, size does matter. Small is better. Small is intentional. Small is moveable and teachable. Small is HUGE.


The first events under the banner of SmallFest begin September 1 with the collaboration with singer/songwriter, Phil Madeira and the Mercyland Concert Series.This series of concerts boasts an amazing lineup curated by Madeira including the ever-captivating and lyrically masterful, Matthew Perryman Jones, the stunningly beautiful songstress, Ruby Amanfu, the legendary guitarist, Phil Keaggy, and veteran songwriter, performer, Gordon Kennedy. What makes these “SmallFest-able” is that they will have an audience of only 100 people. So pick up your tickets now.


The second event is coming September 24 in Franklin, Tenn. We have paired the wonderfully creative Evie Coates (chef/food architect) with musical guests, John Paul White and The Secret Sisters, to create a musically inspired multi-course meal followed by an exclusive concert experience in a beautiful historic home.

We call this event, The Pilgrimage Pairings.” Tickets for this exclusive event will go FAST.

Remember to follow SmallFest Nashville on Twitter: @SmallFestNash and keep your eye on the Blood:Water socials for more exciting events and opportunities.

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