All Belong Here – An album review
When you’re not sure
who you really are
When all you feel is
the shape of your scars
And you have more wounds
than you can count
Open your eyes, look all around
You aren’t alone, this is your home
All Belong Here- Communion Song by Lenora Rand / Hannah Rand
You may remember that around this time last year (and by that, I mean a year ago TODAY EXACTLY) I published a post entitled Hinges. It’s actually one of my favorite essays. It was about an experience I had at Wild Goose Festival last year and it involved a band called The Many.
I’ve been listening to their latest album, All Belong Here, and trying to write a review of it. I mean, sort of. I don’t actually know how to DO that, but then I don’t know how to write book reviews either and that seldom stops me.
So, let me come at this another way. I’ll tell you a story. I know how to do that.
For most of my life, I was one of those un-churched people you hear about. I believed in God, but I’d broken up with him when I was nine. I never really stopped believing in him, but I lost my faith. I was angry and disappointed. I didn’t trust him, and I certainly didn’t trust church. Between the way the church handled my parents’ divorce, to coming of age as a survivor in a Boston suburb during the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, I saw the church as mean, hypocritical and, quite frankly, sinister.
I flirted with church in college. I sang in the choir (such as it was) and attended services for a bit. Then the pastor who led it let me down. It didn’t take much. I ran away again.
When I was going through the worst of my divorce, when I was starving and drinking myself to death, my best friend kidnapped me and dragged me back to church. That’s not even an exaggeration. She threw my skinny butt in her mini-van and hauled me to the office of the pastor at a church we’d been attending sporadically. That church became my church for a time. It healed me in many ways. They had an incredible worship leader- he had a beautiful voice and he sang primarily contemporary Christian music.
There was one song he sang on Father’s Day, a day when my heart wasn’t just tender, it was a gaping, wide open wound, that sent me fleeing to the bathroom in tears. I grew to love that song. I listened to it all the time.
I heard it on the radio the other day and I cringed, which took me aback. I began to reflect on the fact that I don’t listen to much of that music anymore and why that might be. I think it’s the certainty. I think it’s the gloss. I think it’s the hustle.
The funny thing is, in that season of my life I think it was the certainty that appealed to me. My whole life had blown up, the very ground under my feet seemed to be shifting (granted, that could have been the wine…) and I needed a clear cut faith. I needed it to have hospital corners and dead bolts. I was afraid of EVERYTHING, and so the music and faith life I gravitated toward needed to have all of the answers.
Today I am healthy and sober. God and I got back together. Turns out it was a huge misunderstanding. We’re crazy about each other. And because the ground under my feet is solid, there is room in my faith for more questions than answers. There’s room for mystery and brokenness. A longer table. No doors.
When my Favorite and I stumbled upon The Many last year- and I do mean stumbled, we were half asleep and in pj bottoms- it wasn’t because we were being sold some perfectly packaged thing, it was because as we lay there in our tent in the woods almost asleep, we felt invited. The Many’s songs all sound like an invitation in the same way a dear friend being vulnerable with you creates a safe and sacred space and invites you to do the same. The music drifted through the dark woods and called us to the table.
More and more, especially as I grow older, I come to believe that church is where you find it. I’ve struggled to find a church that feels like home to me. I seem to find more certainty, more gloss, more hustle. I don’t need a latte bar in the lobby. I need my heart to be broken. I want my heart to be broken for the things that break God’s heart. I need my church to be a place where it is safe to tell the truth. More often than not, I feel my connection to God more fully in church basements in a circle of creaky folding chairs than I do in the rows of polished pews upstairs. Perhaps I need a jacked up church, a church with more than a few dents in it, for me to settle in.
The Many’s music feels like church to me.
My friend Glennon is fond of reminding us that the two most frequent phrases in the Bible are “Fear not,” and “Remember.” She also points out that the word remember means RE- member. The opposite of dismember. As in, put back together. My favorite church experiences are the ones that have called me to remember who I am, who we are, who we are called to be, together. That it’s okay to admit you’re broken because we are ALL broken in some way at some time- and broken is not irreparable. Maybe we are all broken pieces that fit together, somehow. Together, we are whole. When we are remembered.
Come and remember who you are here
Do this to remember who I am
Come and remember you belong here
All belong here
It’s an album that speaks to a faith I recognize. A faith that is challenged by the pain and suffering I witness. It’s music that allows for frustration with God, that doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t pretend to. One of my favorite analogies for the kind art that speaks to me is to compare it to kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with precious metals. They RE-member the broken pieces with something lovely. The philosophy behind it is that we honor the history, the REALITY of the object not by hiding its broken places, but by acknowledging them and making them beautiful.
I think that is The Many’s special gift.
Here we are. We are broken. We need You. We need each other.
At this table come as you are
Broken and bleeding’s ok
At this table eat and be filled
Come and drink in this grace.
The Rand family can WRITE. My goodness. I would be happy just to read their lyrics, but I don’t have to- because OH MY WORD are Hannah Rand, Darren Calhoun, Leslie Michelle and Kerry Anne Pritchard a group of gorgeous singers. They’re incredible individually but to get to partake of what the four of them create together? Well, it’s a bit of a feast- which makes me all the more grateful to have been invited to their beautiful, busted up table.
I am headed to Goose again. Like, right now. I’m so excited to listen and learn, to tell my story, to dance, to laugh and to hear The Many, come back to the table and have my heart broken in the church under the canopy of trees and stars.
Follow The Many on Facebook!
Please, please, PLEASE buy their album, All Belong Here. Like, BUY IT. Artists need to eat, y’all.
If you live in the area and are considering attending Wild Goose– DO. IT. You won’t be sorry.