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Pickin' Up the Pieces

Richie Furay found something unexpected on his way to country-rock stardom: salvation.

If Furay thought this epiphany would magically repair his marriage, he was soon disabused of the notion: Nancy had pretty much made up her mind that their relationship was over. That left him to do some solitary soul-searching -- and during a walk on a beach in St. Petersburg, Florida, he looked to the sky "and asked God, 'What's going on in my life, and with my wife?' And I heard His voice tell me, 'You made a commitment to Me. Now let's talk about it.'"

Following a pause, Furay says, "People think I'm weird. Well, I admit it: I am weird. But I heard it as clear as anything, and that was when I knew things would be changing in my life."


Praise the Lord, he saw the light: Richie Furay traded the rock-and-roll lifestyle for eternal life.
Praise the Lord, he saw the light: Richie Furay traded the rock-and-roll lifestyle for eternal life.
Richie Furay as he looked in 1969.
Richie Furay as he looked in 1969.

Assistant pastor Patrick makes several announcements about church projects before tossing the ball to Pastor Richie, who bounds to the lectern like a man with springs for shoes. "Morning, and welcome to the gymnasium!" he says. "That's what we're going to start calling the church: the gymnasium, where we get spiritual exercise! And when the bell rings, that means I have to stop."

As if on cue, the bell rings. Pastor Richie pulls a face. "You got that backwards!" he says over the laughter resounding through the room.

But that's where the levity ends. Today's readings are from the Book of Revelation, a section of the Bible that makes even some Christians uncomfortable, as Pastor Richie acknowledges. "It's a book of the future, and not very far in the future from where we are now, I might add," he says. "It documents the end of the world as we know it today. It is the unveiling of Jesus Christ not as the suffering savior, but as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords here to judge us in righteousness!"

To prove it, Pastor Richie reads all 24 verses of Revelation, chapter 18, sprinkling the prose with personal commentary and references to additional biblical verses that cause churchgoers to flip frantically through their own dog-earned copies. But he's cautious not to omit any of Revelation's vividly portrayed imagery. He waves his arms in sweeping gestures to illustrate the fiery text:

"Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgement come...And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying, 'Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all'...And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth."

Strong words, these, and Pastor Richie's interpretation of their meaning does nothing to weaken them.

"We have the word of God, and set it against what men and women might say," he points out in a rising voice, shaking his Bible in one hand. "And if we're wrong about the Bible being the living word, then we're all in the same boat. But if we're right that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light, then those who have willfully chosen to reject Him will have all eternity to reflect on the consequences!"


After he'd wandered in the wilderness for seven months, a miracle took place: The Furay marriage was healed -- and the quarter-century since has only deepened the bond between Furay and his family. He and Nancy have four daughters -- Timmie, Katie, Polly and Jesse -- between the ages of 21 and 30, as well as two grandchildren whom they adore.

Life in the music business hasn't gone nearly as smoothly. After patching up things with Nancy, Furay wanted to create a solo album that would chronicle what they'd just gone through as openly as possible -- which meant sharing his religious breakthrough. Asylum's Geffen, who had signed Furay as a solo artist, gave him the go-ahead, but Furay didn't take this as permission to proselytize on vinyl. "I don't think the name 'Jesus' is anywhere on the album," he says of 1976's I've Got a Reason. "Which offended the Christian community. If they didn't hear 'Jesus loves me, this I know,' they weren't happy. And the secular community wasn't happy because I was alluding to Jesus. I couldn't win."

This pattern repeated itself again and again. Solo albums such as Dance a Little failed to win over listeners and radio programmers suspicious that Furay was trying to sneak that old-time religion past them, and his attempt to work the other side of the fence with Seasons of Change, made for the gospel imprint Myrrh, didn't make him a hero to Christians, either. That left him with some decisions to make. Although he still wanted to make music, he had to earn a living; his royalty statements were nice, but as he concedes, "I didn't write 'For What It's Worth.'" At his wit's end, he returned to Boulder, started his Bible study group, and unexpectedly found a calling that would allow him to play, sing and extol the wisdom of God from morning until night.

He hasn't completely left the business of music behind. In 1997 he put out In My Father's House, an inspirational CD, on a label dubbed Calvary Chapel Music, and when Poco comes to town, he often sits in. Indeed, the band, which continues to be anchored by Rusty Young, George Grantham and Paul Cotton, has scheduled a visit to the Grizzly Rose on Friday, October 27, and Furay will be there. He's sure he'll have a good time, too. But at this stage of his life, even taking a stage in front of a keyed-up throng can't quite match the buzz he gets from his day job.

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