By: Laura Bennett
Whether listening to their albums or seeing them live, Northern Irish folk rock band Rend Collective is known for an energy and dedication to joy that’s hard to match, and great to witness.
But when lead singer Chris Llewellyn’s son was diagnosed with autism in 2020, he needed songs of another kind.
Looking across the landscape of worship music, Chris noticed “a lot of it tends to be very victory focused, and very triumph focused” and “skipped over the challenges” in way that “feels really uncomfortable”.
“[The diagnosis] was really heavy for our family and continues to be,” Chris said in an interview. I was trying to process what kind of worship song I would want in this season and couldn’t really find it.”
The band’s latest single Hallelujah Anyway is their answer to that problem.
“This song tries to sit in the idea that in this world we’ll have trouble – that’s what Jesus says – and I wanted to acknowledge that and let that sit for a second,” Chris said.
“But at the same time engage with hope and try to take strides forward and toward Jesus.”
Stylistically the song doesn’t depart from the identity Rend Collective has built with fans, but points to their every-increasing desire to convey the full reality of a Christian life, not just the highlights.
“[The song points to] the full reality of a Christian life, not just the highlights.”
Once we’ve built a collection of diverse life experiences, fellow bandmate Gareth Gikeson believes we have to explore our faith in new ways so it doesn’t fade out.
“The longer we go through life the more we experience and the more our brains have all these different angles on things to take in,” Gareth said.
“As your faith growths if you’re not pursuing that authenticity in every step, I think you’ll just lose your faith.
“You can’t keep the faith that you had in your mid-20s when you’re in your mid-30s or early 40s: it just doesn’t work because your experiences are different, your issues are different.”
To be able to write worship songs that allow grief to show, and that explore the questions we ask of God is something Chris sees as important to our ability to have that truly authentic relationship with Him.
“Sometimes we’re afraid of our authentic thoughts and we’re afraid of our authentic selves,” Chris said.
“We worry if we really brought our real selves, ‘Would God love us and would the people around us accept us?’.
“I think that’s a question that fundamentally haunts all relationships: the idea that if I really was myself, if you really knew me, would you love me?
“The authentic version of faith where you ask the question that’s awkward in the room, or you keep wrestling until you’re satisfied is a harder road but I think it’s the only one that leads to a real faith. Otherwise, you’re constantly living in fear.”
“I think that’s a question that fundamentally haunts all relationships: the idea that if I really was myself, if you really knew me, would you love me?”
Asking questions may mean our view on God and faith isn’t as black and white as it once was, but both Gareth and Chris think that’s OK.
“You really need to get to that place where you realise God is in the grey,” Gareth said.
“A God that we could fully understand isn’t really one that would be worthy of worship – that’s the dilemma you’re in,” Chris said.
“As soon as I’ve got God into a tidy box, you can be 100 per cent confident that that god is not real: the definition of ‘God’ would be that He would be the kind of thing I can’t contain.”
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
About the Author: Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.