Anthem Worship, resident at Loma Linda University Church, has been teasing new material for a while now, while also finding ways to stay on top of their responsibilities as worship leaders during the thick of the pandemic. Now, with more public spaces across the United States being populated by people eager to return to some sense of "normal," Anthem is able to host a release show for their debut album, Universal Hearts, on Saturday, July 31, 2021.
The Haystack got in touch with band leader and worship pastor Josh Jamieson to talk all things Universal Hearts.
Haystack: Tell us a bit about the significance of the title, Universal Hearts. How did you all land on that name, and what do you want people to take from it?
Josh Jamieson: The title of the Album came from one of the songs off the Album entitled Universal Hearts. The song speaks to the idea of God being present and alive in the here and now. The question we ask our congregation every week at our worship gathering is, “Do you truly believe that God is alive and well, and that he can work right here and right now?” We leave space for that to happen and then we sing this anthem believing that something can happen right there in that room. We want to instill this belief into the very framework of our culture and community. Sometimes I wonder if we, as a church, truly believe that when we come to worship that a miracle can happen, a situation can be improved, that a life can be changed, that Jesus is really there with us.
Some of the lyrics from the song go like this,
“God of all galaxies
Fill the universe of my heart
God of all history
Come be in this moment
God of great miracles
Come work inside this room
Creator of the heart beat
Take this old life and make it new.”
HS: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the process of creating the album and preparing for its release?
JJ: The biggest challenge was trying to go through the album making process during the pandemic. There were many times where we had to cancel recording sessions due to new restrictions that were constantly coming and going.
HS: Who are some of the musical influences that have shaped the band?
JJ: This is a tough one! Honestly it’s an amalgamation of sounds that we thought sounded unique. But If I really had to answer that question I'd say there is definitely an influence from artists such as Kygo, Zoe Worship, Young & Free, The Strike, and Dua Lipa.
HS: One thing that stands out about Anthem is the way that you are incorporating a lot of electronic elements into your sound. Tell us about the rationale behind that - whether practical, artistic, or theological - and how have people responded? How much of that can we expect to hear on the new album?
JJ: This is a great question! From the very beginnings of Anthem we wanted to try and create something that was unique, different, up to date, and also resonated with the up and coming Gen Z. I myself am a millennial and much of the things of my generation, including the worship music I listen too, has become outdated. For this new generation, "traditional worship" no longer means organ and hymns. Rather, to them "traditional worship" refers to what my generation has been worshiping to: Acoustic ballads with big reverby electric guitars, etc. Whereas, the popular music of today has a lot more electronic elements incorporated into the sound. My personal opinion is that “modern” worship music has stopped evolving. Therefore, our goal at Anthem is to experiment, create, and journey beyond the boundaries that have been set by what is traditionally seen as “contemporary” worship. For these reasons, when it came to the making of the album, we wanted to experiment with different sounds, arrangements, and song structure that didn’t necessarily fit the traditional bill.
HS: Church Song has been floating around online in some form for a while now. What inspired that song and what do you hope people take from it? What message do you think Anthem Worship has for the Church at large? And as a worship leader, what is your biggest hope/wish for the Adventist Church?
JJ: At each of our weekly Anthem services, we take our congregation through a structured liturgy. First we come into the presence of God with adoration, second we refocus our eyes on Christ, Thirdly we celebrate the Gospel and assurance of salvation, Fourthly, we hear the word, and then last but not least we are sent out into the world to bring light to the darkness. Church Song was born out of this idea of the sending. Our church needed a strong anthem that we could sing together that would remind us at the end of our gathering our worship didn’t stop there but that as the body of Christ we were commissioned to step out beyond the walls of that physical space, to step out into the world to bring light to the darkness, strength to the weak, and healing to the sick. The lyric from the chorus of the song go like this:
We are the church stepping out
Beyond these walls
Tear them down
We are the fight and we’re bringing it out
Moving like no tomorrow
You can’t help but feel a sense of passion and urgency when you sing this song. And that is what we hope happens to our congregation when they sing it, and when they come to worship. We hope that they are transformed by the Gospel through the Holy Spirit and are sent out beyond these walls to change the world. I’ll add to that by saying, as a worship leader my biggest hope for the Adventist church is that we would stop living in our own little worship camps of conservative, liberal, traditional, or contemporary, and stop fighting about which is better or more holy. I believe there is a different worship camp that we ought to be living in. A worship camp that is not defined by style but rather is defined by the principles of worship found in the Bible. When we move from those other camps into this camp, I believe the church would find a lot more unity and harmony within its walls. When our worship is no longer formed by style but rather by the gospel content that permeates throughout it.
HS: Any final thoughts for anyone reading this?
JJ: To those reading this interview. Don't be afraid to step out beyond your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Don’t be afraid to step into what God is calling you too even though it might be seen as unacceptable and even though others may judge you. Maybe you are that person who has been feeling God calling you to something new, something revolutionary, or something that just might change the church and even the world. I’d encourage you not to hesitate, to move forward into that calling with passion and confidence. I promise you that it will be the most uncomfortable, exciting and scary adventure of your life, but you just might change the world.