In the fall of 2016, a friend from a local church approached me about writing a worship song on Mary’s Magnificat for her church’s upcoming Advent series. While I have been writing songs since I started playing music and having been worship directing professionally since 2010, I had never considered writing worship music. With the overwhelming amount of worship music that is already flooding the internet, I did not know what my voice might add. Until that particular season. That fall, I was overwhelmed by the events that filled my newsfeed—police brutality; the Flint water crisis; the North Dakota Access Pipeline; mass incarceration; white supremacy marches; violence and threats against Muslims, Jews, refugees, and the LGBTQ+ community; hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric and plans to build a wall. And, like many others, I found myself asking, Where is the Church in all this? Why weren’t American Christians standing up for God’s children and against these acts of injustice? What had become of Mary’s fervent song of God’s justice for the oppressed?
These are the worship songs that are missing in the church—songs of God’s love and desire for justice for all creation; songs that name the realities of a broken world while also pointing to God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of justice, equity, and peace. Since writing “Magnificat,” I have written many more in order to make an album of worship songs and resources for the Church that address these issues in light of the Biblical witness.
As a white male, I recognize the precariousness of a white voice trying to dominate a conversation on justice, which is why many of these songs discuss privilege and often take on a posture of confession and dedication. Rev. Yolanda Norton, Womanist Scholar, Professor of Old Testament, and the H. Eugene Farlough Chair for Black Church Studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary, helped guide me in my research and writing process, and her influence is heard throughout the song lyrics. The album itself will also feature musicians and voices from marginalized communities.
Producing the album is Isaac Wardell, founder of Bifrost Arts and Porter’s Gate Worship Project. Isaac is the Director for Worship Arts at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, VA, and has produced for dozens of worship artists including Sandra McCracken, David Gungor from The Brilliance, Liz Vice, The Welcome Wagon, Stuart Townend, Josh Garrels, Audrey Assad, and Derek Webb.
Contributors on the album also include session and touring drummer for dozens of artists, James McAlister; Grammy-nominated gospel artist, Carolyn Anderson; New York and Berlin-based contemporary string quartet, Osso; and multi-platinum mixing engineer, Russ Long.
Two years after the inspiration for the project, I entered the studio with friends, who had already contributed so much of their time and energy, to record the album at Tiny Telephone Studios in Oakland, CA.
The album is available now on Bandcamp, Apple, Spotify, and Amazon. For churches to dive deeper into these songs, issues, and the Biblical text, get the Songbook for the album and keep your eye out for an upcoming curriculum. My hope is that these songs and resources will support church’s dialogue around these issues, which can often be sensitive and challenging to navigate.
Thank you for your support.