We are shaped by the songs we sing and the stories we tell.
When A Rocha’s work in Nashville began to take shape several years ago, it became clear that music would play a role. Sandra McCracken, Nashville A Rocha Arts Director, says, “When we think about conservation in A Rocha, before we initiate any efforts we ask the question, ‘What are the unique resources and challenges in our particular place?’ In our Nashville community, we have a lot of artists and songwriters.”
Nashville A Rocha hosted our first songwriting retreat in 2013. Artists gathered for dinner, conversation, and storytelling about creation and our place in it, then broke up into groups to write songs in response. From Smallest Seed, the first volume of A Rocha songs, was released in late 2014 as the outflow of the first of these gatherings.
From there, the involvement of songwriting and the arts in Nashville A Rocha’s work has continued to grow. In April of 2016, we hosted an arts retreat, and invited visual artists into the conversation. The retreat provided time and space to gather and think together about creation care and its implications for artistic vocations.
Rebekka Seale, one of the visual artists who participated in that retreat, painted the artwork for the second volume of A Rocha songs, Together in the Harvest. This album, released in September 2016, continues the themes of wonder, repentance, and hope found on the first album. Sandra McCracken sings the title track, which she co-wrote with Kellie Haddock and Tiffany Thompson. “The text of the song is essentially a prayer,” Sandra says, “asking God to make our lives like teachable soil, ready for the planting, ready for the harvest.”
“While music isn’t the source of hope, it’s certainly a significant vehicle to circulate hope,” Sandra says. “Music is the soundtrack as the habits of our heart continue to open more and more toward the love and care of people and place.” Music is also a way to begin conversations, hopefully stirring the church to a deeper care for creation.
Jill Phillips, who has been part of A Rocha’s work in Nashville from the very beginning and sings “Beauty in the Trying” on the latest album, put it this way: “I love that the work and community of A Rocha uniquely fits each of its locations worldwide . . . We want to be paying attention to what [God] is doing in our midst, even our backyards, and then tell the story through music.”
Through A Rocha Arts programs, that is exactly what artists have an opportunity to do: tell the story of God’s work in their place and among their people.
Together in the Harvest is available on NoiseTrade, iTunes, and Bandcamp. Physical copies of From Smallest Seed are available from our friends at The Rabbit Room. The album can also be downloaded there or through NoiseTrade, iTunes, or Bandcamp.