Reflection From A Common Hymnal Writing Camp


Reflection From A Common Hymnal Writing Camp


I recently spent a week alongside Common Hymnal creatives as they gathered together in LA in an endeavour to cross pollinate the community and cowrite some songs. As the week slowly fades into hindsight, the reasons I knew I needed to be there have become abundantly clear.

Firstly, to rest in the act of service. Long ago the Lord taught me that there’s a particular rest in the self-forgetfulness of service. So, coming and being a (sometimes loud) fly on the wall was an incredible privilege that provided a most welcome reprieve from my life at home and the up-close learning I longed for of this ‘thing’ called Common Hymnal (CH). I spent most of my time cooking, cleaning, filming and photographing to help things run smoothly and free up some of the creatives to have more time to create.

Secondly, and most importantly, back home I’ve heard a groaning that is intensifying to swelling cry. Listening to her (the church in Ottawa, Canada, that is, in many different forms) I recognize this groaning to be the labour pains of something needing to be birthed among us. And with CH I’ve found a model for a midwife of what is within us, and certainly other creatives.

What I’ve seen in CH is a group who have not lost sight of the right “why” of what they are doing. Gathering together to participate in the practice of collaborative creativity, commissioned to use your gifts with raw honesty as ambassadors of the voiceless and untold stories of the Christian underground, they hold steadfastly to the heart of the gospel: relationship. As they gather, the love shared among them for their work, and supremely so for each other, is evident. Having all the clumsiness and chaos that marks any family, the sweet fruit of their labour shines through: beautiful art that rises as incense of worship despite its often unconventional form.

As the profitability of social activism and diversity grow exponentially, it doesn’t surprise me that what they are doing has rightfully gained the attention of the music industry. These recognizable successes are inevitable and welcome, but those that are celebrated are found in the less conspicuous: the letters, comments and personal stories that follow everything they have released. I saw the happiness and excitement of the community when mainstream recognitions came in, but I took note of the reverence and awe they gave to the stories of individual people being impacted. At the margins of Christianity, people are being healed by their art.

Among Christians tucked somewhere in the middle of culture, there are those who are growing increasingly uncomfortable with a curated faith, hungry for a sound that echos from the true messiness of the Body, finding CH to be a way to wade out to the fringes. Many who try and reproduce aspects of CH in order to perhaps commercialize the concept into the mainstream have stripped from it the right “why”, that is, unexploited relationship and alliances in their ‘conciled and reconciled state. I trust the product will simply add to the already clanging gong of popular Christian culture and I don’t expect “christianity” stained by colonialism to do anything more than re-exploit vulnerable voices into a new niche for the purpose of profit masked as ministry.

For me, a nobody from Canada, what is reproducible about CH is crystal clear. It isn’t an up-and-coming christian music brand or label, it’s the permission to not wait on the powers that be to create something that resonates with the diverse realties we live in; it’s an actual picture of a priesthood of believers. The charge I have is to see my local community commissioned in their creativity to be prophetic voices to our local church as a part of a broader community doing the same. I think this, too, is the charge to anyone wanting to get involved. What I know the church needs isn’t another group gaining christian mainstream market success. What we need is the life found here in the evenings spent sharing in honest art, dancing and laughter, in moments of silence and tears as what has been suppressed is allowed to bubble to the surface.

Asha Kaye



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