One year ago this week, I had a conversation with my friend Tom that wildly changed A New Liturgy. First, I need to tell you that Tom is one of the most brilliantly creative people I’ve ever met. He has been the artistic force behind a number of great projects, and was Rob’s partner in creating Nooma. He’s also legendary for being brutally honest and telling you EXACTLY what he thinks.
So you can imagine how nervous I was, standing in his living room, playing a demo of the first New Liturgy.
When it was done, Tom actually said a couple kind words, but then he let it rip: “Aaron, when it was just music, I loved it. But as soon as you started reading scripture, I hated it. You are using worship voice. And that voice is fine in a big room like Mars Hill or Willow, but if I’m listening to this in the early morning as I pray, I don’t want you yelling at me. Get rid of your worship voice.”
“And while I’m at it”, he continued with a wink, “the God’s Children song sounds like stadium rock. It’s too much. Again, that works fine in an auditorium, but does NOT work for this.”
As his words sunk in, I didn’t even have time to be disappointed. He was completely right!! I was approaching the liturgy in the same way I create worship sets, and it wasn’t translating. At all. Thank God that someone said something before it was too late.
And so I drove back to my home studio and re-imagined the entire approach. First, I invited my family over to re-record all the scripture readings together. Instead of using my worship voice to “perform dramatic readings”, we tried to make them “shared communal readings”…like a dozen of us were praying together in a small prayer chapel. You can especially hear this approach in movement one: God is Love Scripture.
Second, I started God’s Children over from scratch. Even though the recording was 80% done and sounding great, Tom was right and I needed to scrap it. (You can hear the original in With Broken Fists EP (vol 1) – available in the Mega-Bundle.) Instead of the driving rock version – carried by floor toms and trombones – I asked the question “How can it carry the liturgy from the scripture readings to And Can it Be? What approach would best serve this experience?” And so we built the song around a melancholy drone of harmonium and some foot stomps.
I can’t tell you how many times that this New Liturgy project was profoundly improved by a trusted friend’s honest input. I could have never created it alone. Which reminds me to keep lifting up my head, continue humbling myself, and continually submit my work to the fresh eyes and ears of people who also want it to be great. Even if they make fun of my worship voice! Ha!
Do you have any Toms in your life?