SAWM: Tell us how Unbound started.
Doug: Ten or twelve years ago I had started writing some songs and Dorothy Gates, who is our resident composer here in the Eastern Territory, heard some of it and thought I should put together a group to record some of those songs. So I got some of my musician friends together and we put down an album. Eventually they wanted a name for the group and they wanted to call it the Doug Berry Band, but it seemed very wrong to me. So we came up with the name Unbound. It comes from the book of Daniel where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into the fire and came out unscathed and unbound. That group started playing at some territorial events when a worship team was needed and two years ago they decided to make Unbound the official Territorial Worship Band.
SAWM: You have members spread out all over your territory; they are not only based in New York. How does that work?
Doug: My vision for the group was to have a lot of worship leaders involved. If you look at the big church worship teams like Hillsong or Bethel, there isn’t just one face of the group. I liked that. I wanted to get a lot of great worship leaders involved but they didn’t all live in New York, so when I first pitched the idea of how the group would run, I thought there would be a core group based in New York that would rehearse and then we would add other members for events. That never came to fruition, so now we get together for events. We get together the day before and rehearse.
SAWM: How far away do you have people coming from?
Doug: Well we have two members from Puerto Rico, so that is a plane ride away. Other than that, we are kind of local. We have people from New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and that general area.
SAWM: You have done some pretty unique events. We ran the story about the rooftop service that you did in our first edition. It was very Beatles-esque of you. How did that come about?
Doug: Yeah, I am a huge Beatles fan so I think the genesis of that idea probably did come from them. But I just thought that in the middle of Manhattan, in the middle of a city full of sin, that there could be this loud worship happening. That was a dream that was two years in the making. We had a plan and a date set and the city decided to do construction on the building that we planned to use. There were wires and scaffolding and we had to cancel it and postpone for a year. So that dream took a while to come true but it was really worth doing.
SAWM: The live stream of that was great because it increased the reach of the event so far beyond Manhattan. Was that something that you were intentionally aware of when you did that?
Doug: It was our hope, but you never know. I received emails from people in England and Australia that heard it. I think it is great that we are able to worship with people all over the world at the one time. And even now it exists as a download; someone could watch it and participate in that worship. We were just hoping that people would be motivated to pray for where they live, pray for their city. We were hoping, in our territory, that people would gather and pray for their city, for what God is calling them to do in their place of residence, and for their corps.
SAWM: That’s great! Unbound has just had the opportunity to head to Japan. You don’t hear about a lot of worship teams going on tour in The Salvation Army. Tell us how that worked out.
Doug: We were fortunate that the Program Secretary, who was here (USA East) when we were formed, had the vision for us to become the territorial worship team. He moved to Japan as the Territorial Commander. We have a good relationship because we worked hard together at getting this group off the ground. He believes in our vision and what we are doing and he wanted some of that for the people of Japan. He wanted them to experience something that was a little less refined, because they are a very refined country. Everything is organized and put in a box. So that is why he brought us over; to try and break some of those barriers in worship in Japan. And that is our mission; to try and break down, not the norms or traditions, but the walls that would hinder anyone worshipping freely.
SAWM: Those are some great opportunities that Unbound have had. One of the coolest things I have seen you do is the pier at Old Orchard Beach. That is a yearly event for the USA Eastern Territory and Unbound is a huge part of the ministry in that week. Can you talk to us a bit about how that all works and how it has developed?
Doug: Well, The Salvation Army has been doing evangelism down on that pier for years. It started with one microphone and one person on a guitar or a band playing and people sharing their testimonies. It has grown exponentially and that really happened with Envoys Steve and Sharon Bussey who head up a department at THQ called the Salvation Factory. They have just injected holy steroids into this week with a huge stage and crazy lighting and audio. The purpose of the week is to attract non-believers to the Gospel. So they came to us to be a focal point of that week and work out how we can reach people who are coming out of bars or walking around. What we came up with is just what William Booth was doing in the 1800’s; playing the popular music of the day so to attract a crowd and then share a shot of the gospel, a short what Jesus is doing in my life. So we play songs like Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N’ Roses or others by Bon Jovi to attract this kind of crowd. They come to hear a crazy guitar solo and they get the word of Jesus.
SAWM: That sounds great. This is a week long event that the town knows as Salvation Army Week. How does the week work for Unbound?
Doug: So we will usually come up on the Wednesday to rehearse for two days. We don’t usually play Guns N’ Roses, Earth, Wind & Fire or Chicago, so we figure out how we are going to do that. The first weekend is really for The Salvation Army. There is a pavilion nearby that Salvationists come to for Bible teaching and camp meetings and we will support worship there. Then at night we head to the pier and do our thing every night that week.
SAWM: It seems that outreach is a big part of the Unbound calendar every year. How has that affected the way you do ministry? You mentioned you aren’t playing Christian music at the pier; that you are focused on playing music for people who don’t know the gospel. How does that impact the rest of your ministry?
Doug: I think it centres us. For me particularly, I can be in a Salvation Army meeting and I wonder… are we just doing this for ourselves or just reaching people in our buildings? And doing a whole week of hardcore evangelism just sets us up for the year. Because we still believe that The Salvation Army is still about that, about getting out there, that week gives us more fire to believe in what we are doing and the organization we are doing it with. So that the times when we are in meetings that are just for Salvationists, we still know that we are plugged into that original calling of The Salvation Army and the calling to spread the gospel. And honestly, it is just so much fun. Playing on the beach and having a total change of pace is great.
SAWM: What would you suggest to leaders who want to get their worship team out and do some outreach and evangelism?What are some of the lessons you have learned?
Doug: We don’t just pick a random song that is popular. Most popular music that is out there for a long time says something. It reaches people. So if you find the right song that reaches people because of the lyrics and the story, you don’t have to change it that much. We will have to tweak a little bit, but if a song reaches the average person, you can relate that to how Jesus has been real in your life. So I’ll use the Bon Jovi song that we do, Livin’ on a Prayer, as an example. It is about two people who are struggling, just holding on to a prayer, to an idea in their life and hoping things get better. And what we would say is that we know that you can put your faith in the Lord. If you are faithful in prayer, even through affliction, life is not hopeless. So I would say to leaders definitely pick secular songs with a good story and then put in your own testimony. It is a good way to relate to the average person. I think “Amazing Grace” can relate to everybody but there isn’t 100 different Amazing Grace songs in the church that we can use that have the same level of recognition and could reach someone that is just walking by.