On a Friday evening in late March, patrons of the Cupbearer Cafe, 138 E. 7th St., Auburn, Indiana, were graced by a performance by Nancy Honeytree Miller. Known as Honeytree, Miller is a pioneer of the Jesus Movement, a musical phenomenon that served as a precursor to today’s contemporary Christian music scene. Miller performed with a cadre of guitarists and a percussionist to bring hymns and modern classics to life.
Nancy Miller Honeytree and the Jesus Movement
To grasp the idea of the Jesus Movement, it is as one patron at the Cupbearer described it, “When hippies got saved.” And that is it, essentially. But how it happened is a little more detailed.
The Jesus Movement grew out of the Summer of Love. People were dropping acid and exploring various types of spirituality. It was only a matter of time before Christianity was re-discovered. A contingent of so-called hippies formed the Jesus People and on the west coast of the US. They were people who still identified with parts of the counterculture lifestyle (long hair, hippie-esque style choices) but rejected its drugs, sexual promiscuity, and occultism.
The movement began in Evangelical churches on the west coast in the late 1960s. By the early 1970s, the Movement was everywhere, including the Midwest. People began identifying as “Jesus freaks” two decades before DC Talk had a song that made it sound hip and cool to be such.
Another important aspect was the rejection of consumerism and the ideologies of middle-class Christianity (according to www.the conversation.com) With a simple approach to worship and a significant number of acoustic guitars, a movement continued to grow.
One of those participants was Nancy Honeytree, now Nancy Honeytree Miller. I asked Miller about the Jesus Movement and her involvement in it.
“The [Christian] music industry was super blessed by the phenomenon called the Jesus Movement. Among those of us who came to know Jesus in those days were some very creative musicians. We began writing songs to express our love for the Lord and to share the Gospel message.”
Miller points out that the Jesus Movement involved a variety of genres. Even though the plethora of acoustic guitars might lead people to assume that folk or folk rock was the only genre in the Movement.
“There was a great variety from folk to rock to pop and it all had a unique sound that wasn’t churchy but was 100 percent sold out to Jesus,” Miller explains.
For Miller, getting involved with the Jesus Movement came almost naturally.
“I love music!” she exclaims about her reason for performing professionally. “But I also think God gave me a musical brain and heart.”
For Miller, singing came before playing guitar. She wrote her first song before age 7, and by 7 had begun to pick up the guitar. A book by Pete Seeger and records by Joan Baez were influential to the budding performer. By the time she was a senior in high school, Miller, was a born again Christian. Her new faith coupled with her musical ability made her a good fit for the Jesus Movement.
While Miller and her husband are active in a large congregation in Fort Wayne, Indiana, their outreach stretches around the globe and encompasses a variety of Christian denominations.
“In the future I hope to record some new songs I have written. I’m working in Spanish as the worship leader of the Spanish-speaking part of First Assembly of God. And I’m learning some of my songs in Arabic.”
Miller explains that she and her husband are going on a mission trip to Jordan in May. “We will be working with Christian families who are refugees from northern Iraq and are living in Amman, Jordan. I look forward to singing for them in Arabic.”
Music and faith seem to go hand-in-hand for Miller. “The Lord has made it possible all these years and opened wonderful doors for music ministry all over the world. It’s great to sing for Jesus. I can’t think of a higher honor.”