Now fast approaching the position as CCM's most popular female vocalist, REBECCA ST JAMES has come a long way. She spoke to Mike Rimmer.
In recent years, Rebecca St James has seen her career sky rocket to the point where she is now one of the most respected young CCM artists in America. Her integrity and passion for ministry has meant that she is also seen as a significant spokeswoman for young people. Over here in the UK, Spring Harvest appearances and a short tour in February have brought her music to a new generation.
As I walk into the room to meet her, she is seated under the heat of bright television lights as a camera is tested and another interviewer prepares to fire some questions. Before they roll, Rebecca stops everything and asks if they can all pray. This is clearly a woman who practices what she preaches and with the release of her fifth album 'Pray1, she describes the project, "It is really centred around the whole subject of just seeking God and humbling ourselves before him and praying. The subtitle of the album is 2 Chronicles 7:14 that says, If my people will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their ways then I will hear, forgive and heal their land.'"
God has been teaching Rebecca a lot of lessons about praying, even in the process of making the album! "The thing that was a bit of a strain was praying for songs to come and they weren't coming when I needed them to come, and deadlines were looming and the pressure was on, and to trust God when the pressure is on is often-times very hard. Easy to say but hard to do! I definitely learnt a lot about trust and handing it to God without taking it back into my own hands. I failed at that quite a few times but hopefully I'm learning more about it."
She continues, "It was quite interesting to see how inspiration came out of the chaos because one of the songs I wrote was 'Peace' which talks about being still before God in the chaos of the world. I really did know his peace and deep down knew that everything was gonna be OK, and I think God definitely gave me that song to keep me from going crazy!"
So what does Rebecca think of being touted as a voice for her generation? She responds, "I think God has given me opportunities to reach out and to speak out to members of my generation, and to be bold about my faith and encourage others to be the same. I've been pretty bold about encouraging other young people to wait and to not have sex before marriage, and to commit to living God's way. I've been open about my virginity and that I'm gonna stay a virgin until after I'm married. When people do give away their virginity, they're giving away something precious and it's not something to be given away lightly, and so I want to let people know that it's an important thing. And then I'll also share with people if they have made the mistake of having sex before marriage, they can go through times of feeling like I'm so unworthy, I'm so unqualified to do what I'm doing, and I think God assures me that it is in his strength that I do this'.
Since we're talking about marriage, celibacy and the like, I pluck up the courage to suggest that when it comes to Rebecca finding a husband, she's probably a bit formidable! She pauses to consider the idea and then smiles, "Maybe. I don't know. I think the whole stage thing and the stage persona and being in the limelight and stuff, I think that is a little bit intimidating to people, and I think when they get to know me off the stage and see me looking awful with no hair done, no make-up, they see the real Beck! But it is a little bit hard to build up good strong guy friendships when you're out on the road all the time."
Before I'm tempted to feel sorry for her, she adds, "I think that this isn't God's timing for me right now to pursue that kind of relationship. He wants me to focus on what he's called me to do and to give him my all and to give the ministry my attention. I'm quite happy with that! I'm really actually very content and very fulfilled doing what I'm doing. I'm loved by my family and by my friends and one day I feel that God will open up the doors and the opportunity and it will be the right timing for that kind of relationship, so hopefully I'm just gonna be patient and wait."
With a broad grin on my face, I suggest to Rebecca that maybe it would be easier if she just asks her father to find a husband for her somewhere. She laughs and considers, "Probably it would be easier! He'd actually pick someone very good. I really trust him! My dad and I are very good friends but I don't know, I'd quite like to get to know the guy myself I think." I suggest that it is a Biblical approach. "Yeah it is actually very Biblical," she admits but then sighs, "I don't know, we'll just see eh?"
One unusual gig that Rebecca has played in up for the Pope when he visited America. That's quite even though she didn't get to meet His Holiness, remembers, It was very exciting! We actually came up Louis the day before and watched all the Secret Service people and FBI going through their series of preparations for him coming. The next day there were 23,000 young people that were involved in that rally and we performed with dc Talk and also The OC Supertones. It was just a really awesome event. And then to hear him speak the word so strongly, he was very, very Biblical. Here was this almost 80-year-old man who was just speaking to young people and they were on the edge of their seats just really listening and he was talking about having purpose in our lives and really seeking after God. About not letting anyone look down on us because we're young but -pie and being bold and serious about our faith and I was just like, "You go Pope. It was very cool."
Talking of cool, the 'Pray' album contains a couple of cool cover versions and she seems to have this thing about covering songs written by dead guys! Rebecca laughs out loud, "You put that so delicately Mike. Yeah, you're kinda right. But then I did record John Farnham's 'You're The Voice' a few years ago and he hasn't died yet. I covered Keith Green's lord You're Beautiful' which is just an amazing worship song I've known : ever since I was a child and then also Rich Mullen's 'Hold Me Jesus' which is just so comforting."
Does Rebecca ever consider what's going to happen when she dies? "Yeah, I have", she responds. "I think everybody would think a little bit about that and hopefully that we will leave a legacy, that we will be remembered after we're gone. I hope to be remembered as a woman after God's own heart. I want people to have seen that love for him that hopefully shines through in what I do and say. I think that's one of my goals. And I hope people see me as a servant too, like I want to serve God, serve people. Mother Teresa is one of my heroes and she's definitely left a legacy of love and she was such a servant, both of God and of people and I long for that. We don't know how long we have on this earth, I could be gone and in heaven by tomorrow and none of us know and I think that's why we've got to live today like it's our last but live it following after God."
Rebecca has recorded "Come Quickly Lord" on 'Pray' about Jesus
returning. Does she have a sense of the Church getting its act
together? "Oh definitely, and I think there is a sense of urgency that
Jesus is coming back soon, We can even see it in the world around us
with the overwhelming amount of earthquakes and floods and just all
these things that are happening that are pointing towards the End
Times. I think it is a wake up call to us that we've got to get our
act together, we've got to be bold Christians and not luke warm in our
faith and that's something I hope to promote.