Bright City: Pandemic Worshippers in an age of pandemic Change

Monday 1st February 2021

Jonathan Bellamy spoke to Johnny Bird and Henry Milne of Brighton's worship collective BRIGHT CITY

Continued from page 1

Johnny: There's a song "Not To Us" on the new album, which is exactly like Henry said, it started with a little idea that Henry had. There were four of us - me, Henry, my wife Sarah and Paul, our worship pastor. We were writing before the recording and had this little idea and in about 10 minutes the rest of the song came. It's about giving God the glory; it's not about us. It has some of Martin Smith's song "Our God Reigns" in it. It's about putting God first and that song has meant a lot to me, especially in this time.

Henry: I would say the same. The simplicity of that song, which is a song that is directed upwards, it's not about us, has been particularly special in this time. I guess that when we're doing a lot of filming and on camera a lot more than we've been before and you can watch any church's worship on line, it's just so different. A song like that has personally been good for me at this time to think it's not about us.

Jon: You mention Martin. What kind of a difference does he bring to Bright City with all his experience and history?

Johnny: It's great having Martin in our team. It's every church's dream to have Martin Smith on their team. Every song that we write kind of goes through the Martin filter; we take it all to him and say what do you think? Is it any good? And he's usually very kind and shares a lot of ideas. What if you did this? What if you tried that? And getting involved in the writing as well. He calls himself the older uncle of our team. He's brilliant.

Jon: The other thing I was going to ask you, because I think Covid 19 has revealed it even more, that sense of being a global church, worship seems to be very much at the forefront that crosses the boundaries between denominations, different church groups and so on because worship songs get picked up by Christians anywhere and it goes global. You look at something like "The UK Blessing" on a national level. Or the "Blessing Worldwide", some of the songs that get millions of people viewing. That's very significant how worship is breaking down those walls that historically may have been there within the Church. Is that part of what you mean by worship goes first, that worship is making a way for there to be deeper connections with the Church globally?

Henry: Yes, that's amazing, isn't it? Seeing the unity of that video of "The UK Blessing" with different churches that was quite moving, quite emotional. We really hope that that is part of what God is doing, creating unity amongst us as people and this nation. I guess this is another thing that we believe you can do. And to see songs like "Way Maker", which have been so significant for us, picked up. It's been amazing.

Jon: A Cross Rhythms favourite on the album is "Fire's Gonna Fall". Tell me about that.

Johnny: That song actually started with Martin, it was recorded on his latest album, 'Iron Lung'. It's a song we led at church a lot before recording it as well and it really connected with our congregation. We led it at an event last summer that we are part of called Focus and it was a really special song. So we thought it would be a great one to include on the album as it was written by some members of our worship team. It's like a holy riot, that song. I love the songs that talk about the fire of God, the spirit of God falling in that place. In the moment it always feels really special. When we're worshipping we're always hoping that God's gonna move.

Jon: How do you hold that tension? In your Sunday services, your gatherings, how do you hold the tension between ordering it and giving room for God to do things spontaneously? What does a Sunday service look like?

Henry: Good question. We believe God can be in the planning as well; he can inspire all the planning as well. But we're learning that still in the moment we need to allow God to move. Those have been some of the most amazing times of worship when God has taken over and something has happened that we hadn't planned. When we're not in lockdown we have three services and they aim to be similar, so we do plan and try to keep them on time but we always try to be obedient to God asking ourselves, if we're leading worship, what is God doing in the room? You wouldn't want to miss what God is doing and do something we thought we're supposed to do. It's harder now online as it's all pre-recorded. As we're planning and filming the worship we're still aware of God's presence and what he's saying to us. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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