Asbury Park Press (app.com) has issued the following report from John Vandiver:
The name and website of a local rock band - DIVINITY DESTROYED - sparked enough worry about sacrilege that leaders of St. Mary's parish in Barnegat canceled a long-planned charity concert meant to benefit the terminally ill and disabled.
The sudden cancellation of Friday's concert, set to be performed at the parish center in Stafford, is provoking talk of petition drives and angry words from the church youth group members who organized the benefit show.
"It's hypocrisy. They always say turn the other cheek. It's our job to give everyone a second chance," said 13-year-old Briana Taylor, a youth group member who helped organize the event.
For St. Mary's pastor Ken Tuzeneu, the decision to cancel the concert was made reluctantly and with the sense of a disconnect between himself and the youth culture.
"I worry about that," the pastor said. "It's not my music."
Tuzeneu said he learned last week about the band and its website, which "had some things that weren't appropriate. We were concerned about the message we were sending."
With only a week before the concert, Tuzeneu said their wasn't enough time to investigate whether all the different bands participating were appropriate for a church atmosphere setting.
"If we had more time, maybe we'd be able to work something out," Tuzeneu said.
For months, St. Mary's teenagers have been making plans for the benefit concert, with the aim of raising more than $5,000 for the Sunshine Foundation — an organization that helps grant the wishes of terminally ill children. About seven bands were slated to perform, and more than 500 people were expected to attend, organizers said.
Youth Minister Carmine Dubiel, 45, was perplexed by the church's decision to cancel the event, which he says was a chance to build closer ties with young people.
"Is that the way of the church, to shut something down and put up a wall?" he said.
Dubiel said he's received about 100 e-mails and phone calls from parents and teenagers upset about the decision to cancel.
"It's really wrong that they won't hold a charity event," said youth group member Tara Frelund, 15. "They (Divinity Destroyed) play at other churches and they've never had a problem. We're trying to keep the show on."
On Sunday, Mark Ward, lead singer of the Dover Township-based quintet, was in the process of organizing a petition drive and scheduling radio appearances.
"We have a petition ready to go. Word is spreading," said Ward, 24. "We're a metal band and we're extremely spiritual. A couple of the guys in the band are very religious. We're no threat."
Ward, a 2000 graduate of Monsignor Donovan High School, said he met with Tuzeneu on Wednesday in an effort to alleviate any concerns the pastor had about the group. Tuzeneu and another priest had expressed reservations about inappropriate language posted on the band's website. Ward said that material was taken down a day later. "They kept saying they want to preserve the integrity of their church. What does that mean? They're turning their back on the youth that looks up to them," said Ward, who noted that all five band members graduated from Catholic school.
Tuzeneu said many of his concerns about Divinity Destroyed were eased after meeting Ward.
"I was very impressed with him. He seemed like a fine young man," Tuzeneu said.
Still, the pastor said he wasn't comfortable allowing the concert to proceed.
"It breaks my heart. It was for a good cause," he said.
Though youth group members are hoping that church leaders will reconsider, they're searching for a new venue.
"We'll probably do it in September someplace else. I'm not going to let this hard work go to waste," said youth group member Taylor, who volunteers with the Sunshine Foundation. "We need to refocus our energy and turn a negative into a positive."
Dubiel, who ministers to more than 150 youth group members at the church, speculated that the source of the conflict may be generational.
"Father Ken is a wonderful man. He's a legend at the church. Mark (Ward), he's a wonderful kid. He, too, has inspired me as an individual," Dubiel said. "It was going to be a great night."
In relation to the above story, Mark Ward has contacted BW&BK with the following:
"Every Jersey radio station is talking about it and a number of different communities are buzzing about it - anyone fighting for the 1st Amendment, the underground music community, the handicapped, religious communities, non-profit organizations, etc... A petition was also started a couple days ago and just reached 1,000 signatures."
The petition can be found at this location