“There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world's mortal insufficiency to us.”
-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
I don’t really like church music. I don’t really think that’s a hot take, except that I was in a band for several years, traveling around the country playing church music at youth and young adult conferences. And before that I was a church music leader at several churches, plus some pseudo-churches in college. I went to church and played music with people who dominate that industry now. And when it was all said and done… there was a lingering, unpleasant taste in my mouth. If I were to create my ideal church, music wouldn’t be a part of the service. So that’s my starting point.
All of that being said, I happened to one day write a “church song” and did not for the life of me know what to do with it. It wasn’t something that would fit in to any of my own projects by any stretch, and when I presented it to my denomination at the time, they not only rejected it, but forbid my friends from playing it in their church music bands. So I was stuck. I had this thing that I had made that seemed to have no way of getting out in to the world in any meaningful way. But, for some reason, I didn’t want to just let it go. So, after some conversations with my friends, I decided to try an experiment and invite some friends from all different musical backgrounds and spiritual experiences to write on the sacraments (since my original song was about baptism, the theme seemed apropos). I didn’t really know what I would end up with in the end, or if the project would even ever get off the ground. But several months later, it’s here. And it’s better than I could have ever imagined.
I’m so extremely lucky to know so many amazing musicians who are each going through their own journey to find spiritual meaning in life, and although that’s not something I talk about much in my other personal projects, being able to share something I believe is truly authentic. One of the things that turns me off from regular church music is the constant feeling of hiding true emotion and experience. In church- the very place we should be willing to bare our weaknesses, doubt, and shortcomings- we instead sing songs that play in to a fake version of ourselves. Maybe that’s just a personal hangup of mine. But I’ve found that within these songs is represented a large portion of the true spiritual experience: faith and doubt and hope and longing and fear and the prophetic. Out of many traditions and experiences, many hopes and fears, this one experiment is something we offer to ourselves as much as to you.
I don’t mean to hype this too much. But I think you might really like it. And I hope this is the first of many projects where we here at Chroma can partner with our friends and make something bigger than ourselves.
Evan Kunze (Foxhollow, everett)
Laura McElroy (Comrades)
with beautiful original cover art by Charity Taylor