Last week, I spent 7 days living on a property with about 40 other amazing human beings. We recorded songs that we’ve been writing within our collective for maybe 2 or 3 years. We sang songs that I got the chance to write with friends about equality, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, the beauty found in brokenness and a real longing to be childlike again in our faith and the way in which we view, treat and engage with all humanity. Songs like these aren’t exactly on the ‘hot topic’ list of things for Christians to sing about in worship spaces. I’m not exactly sure why churches, the industry and creatives alike aren’t exploring songs like these more often. I know I’d love it if more spiritual songs examined life, trauma, abuse, racism, loss, indifference, empathy and openness — pretty much all the things relevant to life and culture and what we see happening around [and to] us every single day — through the lens of faith.
If I’m honest, I’m not exactly passionate about Christian music, and I’m usually turned off by the mere thought of even being part of a Christian community. I’m neither scorned nor bitter by Christianity. I’ve just not been interested in Christianity’s role in the ongoing narrative of human oppression, pain, manipulation and abuse. But Common Hymnal feels different to me. When you get a bunch of misfits together who’ve been passed up or just uninterested in being part of ‘the system’ for as long as they can remember, they tend to be more welcoming of others simply because they know what it’s like to be and feel unseen. We aim to be compassionate and gracious when our own personal anxiety, insecurities and frustrations would have us do otherwise. We’re not a group of people sharing the same life experience, views, background and ambitions, but we’ve somehow normalized the idea of having the hard conversations, debates even. I’ve found that most people would rather plant their lives and ideals in echo-chambers because it’s easier to shout your beliefs and views from a distance (like Facebook or the pulpit even) to and about folks you think you already have figured out; folks across the aisle of your safety and contentment. I’ve learned it’s even easier to just not have the conversation at all. But that’s not Common Hymnal.
As a true labor of love, Common Hymnal is willing to do the heart work of filling in the gaps that religious and oppressive rule sadly continues to widen. It’s hard, messy and unpredictable. It takes you on a journey that, at times feels much bigger than yourself, leaving you wondering how you get to even be in the same room with such creative, compassionate and all around decent folks. We’ve learned that we’re strongest when leaning into our fragility, we stand taller when we’re reaching out to one another, and we’re made better when we bring all the pieces of our delicate human existence to the table.
Time and time again, something deeply impactful that lives within the culture of this group, keeps drawing me to these amazing people. It’s as if something that’s been planted within my heart by this group just continues to grow, evolve and take on new meaning each time we gather to create, share, listen, explore and pour out together. That growing thing has heightened my consciousness and way of viewing the world, and my place in it. I’m still trying to find language that truly illustrates the love, awareness, healing and sense of openness that’s taken further root inside me as a result of last weeks gathering, but for now, I’ll just post these photos with hopes that they paint somewhat of a decent picture of the story of our eventful and colorful journey.