The Story Behind The Advent Project
Last July in one of our planning meetings, we decided to celebrate Advent as a church. The team was very excited to help our community engage deeply with this season, and I was charged to help make it happen.
Thrilled and a little intimidated by the learning curve ahead, I immediately called my friend Troy Hatfield. Troy is the worship leader at Mars Hill Church, and one of the most liturgically-minded, Church-history-grounded people I know. He’s been leading the Mars community through Lent and Advent for many years, and has really shaped my understanding and appreciation of these deeper streams.
Troy graciously agreed to compile the text for The Advent Project. We figured out an overall framework together, and then he pulled together four stunning liturgies of scripture, readings, and prayers. This project couldn’t have happened without Troy’s experience and insight.
Once we had four killer liturgies, all the worship leaders from Willow’s South Barrington campus got together: Matt, Becky, Sharon, and Stephen from weekends; Brandon from midweek; Tony from Impact; and Delwin from Elevate. We gathered around a big table, read through the four texts, and began to dream about this project. Our starting place was:
Let’s pair up in teams and figure out how to record each liturgy in a way that will most help our community engage with Advent. We should feel free to bring our own style, passion, and experience into the mix. The only constraint is that each liturgy needs to be fully recorded in one studio day.
Brandon and Becky dove into week one, Tony and I tackled week two, Delwin and Sharon ran with week three, and Matt and Stephen dug into week four. We had a number of starts and stops, a few triumphs and dead ends, but in a few weeks, we had rough demos sketched out for all the major moments. Very exciting. Time to head into the studio…
Our goal was to record the entire Advent Project in four days, completing one liturgy per day. We quickly realized that our goal was a little overly ambitious, but most of each liturgy was captured in one gloriously long day in the Willow studio. I can honestly say that these were some of the most fun days I’ve had in a long time.
While every musician did a killer job tracking their parts, the hero of The Advent Project was Aaron Ruse. Aaron was the engineer, co-producer, mixer, mastering engineer, music-director, and sonic guru of the entire thing. He took our firehose of creative ideas and melded them into something you can actually listen to. (And when dealing with eight different artists working on four different recordings, that is no easy task!) Many thanks to Aaron.
It’s rare that all eight of us get to collaborate on one project, so the last couple months have been especially fun. But more than that, we hope that The Advent Project is a gift to you in this busy season of life.
May these sounds, prayers, and melodies help you create holy space every day. And may this holy space make room in your heart to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, and look forward to His return.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.