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Article 2:
Troupe squeezes the stuffiness from church

By Kathrin Chavez, Staff Writer for The Tennessean
Monday, 2/21/05

      BRENTWOOD Four musicians who see Christianity stifled by legalism are fighting back the way they know best through laughter and song.
      Billing themselves as a group that puts ''the fun in fundamental,'' the Glory Bugles strive to gently skewer the self-righteous.
      A favorite target is legalism which group members say prescribes how to be Christian.'' Every denomination has its own set of rules. If you don't do this, then you don't go to heaven. I grew up totally terrified that if I didn't do what the church said to do, I would go to hell. I didn't understand mercy and grace until I grew up and my life went to pieces,'' member Bonnie Keen said.
      Christianity is more simple, member Nan Gurley said.
      ''We make up rules about who belongs to the body of Christ, when the body of Christ is really those who profess Christ as their lord and savior,'' Gurley said.
      The song If Jesus Walked the Earth Today, Where Would  He Go to Church? on their new CD is an example of what the Bugles see happening around them. A sample verse:
      ''Would he sing a cappella or play an instrument or two?
      ''Would he stand up and raise his hands or stay down in his pew?
      ''Would the Lord be sprinkled or immersed?
       ''He might not find religion without some help from me

       ''He'd find the one true fellowship and go to church with me.''
      Gurley says the song demonstrates the blindness some Christians have about their religion.  ''The singer is totally missing the fact that Jesus is the church. If Jesus were here, we would be with him, not sitting in our own pews somewhere,'' she said.
      Nine of the 12 songs on their CD, Get Right or Get Left, were written by Bugles members. Songs include a wistful church woman's hope that the pastor's wife will notice her casserole in O Wednesday Night, to the tune of O Holy Night.
      Their work is influenced by the Christian comedy group Greater Tuna, but whereas the Tuna's performances are skit-driven, the Bugles' performances are music-driven.
      The four members are all accomplished musicians. Gurley and Keen have won Dove awards. Keen has also been nominated for a Grammy. Newest member Stevan Pippin is a Grammy winner, and Wayne Gurley has been in numerous theater productions and sings with the Nashville Symphony.
      ''If we all didn't sing, we couldn't do this. You have to be able to sing well to do it this badly,'' Keen said.
      In the 20-odd years since the quartet started, it has had problems holding on to a tenor character kind of like the drummer in Spinal Tap until signing on Pippin a couple of years ago.
''I met with them and the rest is history. The minute I saw them I thought, 'This is hilarious. I've got to be a part of this,' '' he said.
      After a recent record deal fell through, the group decided to produce an album themselves. They're attracting interest around the world, and the director of Michael W. Smith's recent movie is coming to tape an upcoming performance as a potential film.
      Pippin says their humor has an edge to fit their purpose.
      ''We understand we're putting our toes right on that line. The arc has to be pulled out. If we don't, people won't think about it. If we bring it back to a safe zone, they're not going to be challenged,'' he said.
Still, their performances are good-hearted, Nan Gurley said.
      ''We are spoofing legalism and bad theology. We're all church-going, God-fearing people who love the Lord Jesus. We are truly not mean-spirited. We aren't trying to hurt anybody. It's a celebration of freedom and grace.''
 
If you go...
The Glory Bugles will perform at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 and 26 in the chapel on the west side of Brentwood Baptist Church. Tickets are $12.50 each and may be obtained on the Web site www.glorybugles.com. Seating is limited. CDs are also available on the Web site.

The cast...
      The basic premise of the Glory Bugles is that they are a wannabe gospel quartet, but their talent doesn't quite cut it. They all come from fictitious Box Springs, Tenn., and they each have developed their own rural Southern characters.
      Stevan Pippin is Harley E. Never, an animal analyst specializing in swine. He's also known as the Pig Whisperer.
      Nan Gurley is Queenie Delphine, director of the Box Springs Fine Arts Center.
      Her husband, Wayne, is Farley T. Byrd III, director of sinus affairs at the local industrial ammonia plant.
      Bonnie Keen's character, Beulah Byrd, is even more complicated. She runs the Curl Up and Dye beauty salon and is the beautician for the local funeral home. She also works part time prettying up dogs at The House of Poodles and as a price-slasher and greeter at the local discount store.