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Three New Communities & A Songwriter

Blogger Brian Hehn is the Director of The Center for Congregational Song.

 

One of the things I love about my job is that it is my responsibility to find new great resources, artists, and communities who are doing the work of creating, leading, and encouraging congregational song. Below are three new communities and a songwriter that I want to make sure you are aware of. Like many  who write new songs, they are doing work with specific goals and communities in mind, responding to that group’s perceived needs and/or distinct calling. So, if you look at one of these and think “this isn’t for me,” that’s okay! You might know someone else for whom it might be perfect, so please share it with them.

 

Community of Peace

Inspired by the Taize community in France, this new (founded in 2021!) community in central Virginia will “offer a warm welcome to all, a beautiful sung prayer, a dialogue for peace and racial reconciliation, solidarity with and service to the most vulnerable in society.” Led by song leader Brother Stefan Andre Waligur, this community promises to be a shining light and a place where song flourishes.

https://www.communityofpeace.org/

 

The Meek Squad

Based out of Durham, North Carolina, this community is committed to living together as friends and worshiping together as siblings in Christ with differing abilities. They recently teamed up with a producer to record an album of the songs that were born out of their lives together. I’ll be interviewing this group soon to talk about their album and their worship community. Watch for more details soon!

https://www.meeksquad.org/about

 

Q Worship Collective

This group describes themselves as “a fierce collective of divergent artists who have experienced parallel spiritual journeys delving into the intersection of holy and queer creative expression.” For Christ followers, churches, and denominations who are LGBTQ+ affirming, there is certainly a need for more and curated resources that speak with an authentic voice. This group is taking it upon themselves to fill that need.

https://www.qworshipcollective.com/

 

Beverly Song Burton

I got an email from Beverly Song Burton about the new hymn she had written and recorded. These types of emails are not uncommon in my inbox! This song caught my eye and struck me as something immediately useful to a wide variety of churches. While the song is produced firmly within the black gospel genre, because of its strophic and four-part harmony structure this hymn could also be utilized in congregations who sing a capella or with a simple organ accompaniment. With Christ the King Sunday coming up in the liturgical year, this song would be a perfect fit.

https://music.apple.com/us/artist/beverly-song-burton/1455541001

 

Are there other communities and artists we should know about? Leave a link in the comments!

 

The Context

Within the first 30 seconds of this album, my attention was completely arrested. Although the first track is a simple, brief chorus, I heard a voice I have never heard represented in a recording of songs for congregations to sing—it was deeply moving. The voice I heard was Sloan Meek’s, whose name is the source of the band’s moniker. The Meek Squad consists of Sloan, Suvya Carroll, and Lee Anderson; three friends who love to sing together. They all live in the North Street neighborhood of Durham, NC, part of a community supported by Reality Ministries, whose mission is to “create opportunities for adults with and without developmental disabilities to experience belonging, kinship, and the life-changing reality of Christ’s love.” Sloan Meek and Suvya Carroll both have cerebral palsy. Sloan also has spastic quadriplegia and cortical blindness—but none of that hinders the joy in Sloan’s voice as he sings, which is what captivated me. This album was begun in 2019 and released in March of 2020.

 

The Content

The songs on this album are built around Lee Anderson’s acoustic guitar and folksy tenor voice, with other instruments (bass guitar, pads, organ, electric guitar, percussion instruments) layered in for subtle dynamics. Musically, these songs would be relatively easy for congregations of any size to adapt to their context. Carroll and Meek and a chorus of other voices pervade the songs, making it clear that this album is intended to be sung and has emerged from a context where these songs are often used. Melodies are clear and repeated often enough that songs could be learned quickly.

Lyrically, the songs draw liberally from the Gospels and the Psalms, accomplishing exactly what the album’s subtitle indicates—songs that are sung prayers and songs that remind of the peace we have with God through the promises God has made. Just as the melodies are clear and easy to follow, the lyrics are clear and easy to follow as they are repeated often in the chorus-style of the songs. Several songs contain only 4 lines of text, but none of the songs felt ‘repetitive’ as dynamics and added voices help each repeat stay engaging.

Notable songs include: “I Am For You” (the title track), “Teach Us How to Pray” (a chorus that could lead directly into corporate recitation of the Lord’s Prayer), and “Trust in You” (a song that simultaneously is prayer and a source of peace).

 

The Conclusion

If your congregation includes any folks with cerebral palsy or other significant disabilities, I cannot overstate how meaningful this album may be. If your congregation does NOT include any folks with disabilities, I would still encourage you to listen and be reminded that God is pleased by the diverse voices of every one of God’s children. May every church be an encouraging space for the voices of the disabled, and may this album be a resource to stir music leaders to include leaders and voices of all types, who demonstrate hearts of worship.

 

To listen to the album, go to: Apple Music Album Link

 

Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.