All creating is a work of collaboration. We see this in our triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who made this world and all the heavens at first out of nothing, but then out of things he already created: people, created out of dust of the earth; seas, created out of expanses of water gathered into sections; fruit, coming up from the trees that started from the seeds that burrowed into dry land. Every time we gather together as people in our churches, we create a worship service in collaboration to give praise to our God and receive from him gifts of created things—bread and wine. And by drinking this common cup and bread, we commit to collaborating together to live life as followers of Jesus.
Rain for Roots: The Backstory
What I love about the Body of Christ is that there is always some kind of creating going on. God created us to create, and members of a small Anglican Church plant in Nashville, TN are no exception.
Rain for Roots is a musical group committed to creating beautiful, serious, scriptural, adult-friendly music for children. It all started when Flo Paris, Ellie Holcomb, Alice Smith, Katy Bowser, and Sandra McCracken were gathered around a birthday dinner table, frustrated at the lack of serious children’s music that adults would actually like, having young children of their own and noticing the deficit. This collaboration of friendship around a dinner table started a collaboration of ideas, and soon they were partnering with Sally Lloyd-Jones and using her poems from her Baby’s Hug-a-Bible to create their first release, Big Stories for Little Ones (2012), followed by The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like This (2014), Waiting Songs (2016), and now All Creatures (2020).
Rain For Roots’ music is everything I wanted my kids to listen to, which is the plight for the woman who had her children before this music was around! I’ve been saying this to friends who have children and don’t have children, and those that don’t have children have said, “Heck, I listen to Rain for Roots all the time!”
I’m the Worship Arts Director at an Anglican church plant, and we use Rain for Roots songs during Nursery time. We’ve even created hand motions for a song recently so the very young can engage even if they can’t verbalize everything yet. There’s something about the songs, the texts, and the instrumentation that bring a dignity to children’s music that I believe has been lacking in the Church. I’m really grateful that we have musicians now seeing the need and offering up beautiful gifts for the Church, ministering primarily to our future: the children. So often we treat Sunday mornings as an offering that children can’t partake in because they are too young, antsy, or immature to understand what worshiping God or having faith means. But what we are truly doing in our best efforts is training them to be adults by including them as we come alongside, showing them what it is all about. Sunday mornings are for them, too. And might I add, some of us truly need to become children again, as Jesus says, to understand his ways. This is what I love about the Rain for Roots model. The songs aren’t oversimplified; they are just the simple truth that all of us need and require a reminder of.
The Album: All Creatures
The album All Creatures starts out with the traditional text of “All Things Bright and Beautiful” with a new punchy, modern melody that I would teach my whole congregation, written by Sandra McCracken. I love how the text expresses all of the things God has made, declares they are good and beautiful, and then instructs gently with:
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well
There is something very communal about the songs on this record. Maybe it is because there are many voices singing the songs in general, including the children of the band members. Homeschool mom Flo Paris’ song, “Hallelujah (Psalm 148)” is reminiscent of early worship songs meant to encourage the voice of a congregation with echoes and longer notes. Flo and Alice Smith’s “Tell Me” has the same effect, but with a gospel feel and a choir section while McCracken’s “The Heavens Are Telling (Psalm 19)” is a collaboration of scripture text read by one of the band members’ children and a responsive refrain that is simple and easy to catch.
Other songs on the album are just plain fun and quirky, mostly written by jazz singer Katy Bowser Hutson. My favorite is “Listen, Listen,” which speaks of seeking wisdom while crying out to the Lord, and sounds like a theme song to a cautionary western tale with saloon piano, banjo, and a boot stomp. “Afraid of the Dark” written by Katy and her husband Kenny Hutson, is a lively song from the perspective of a child afraid of monsters, but deciding to trust in God: “God who watches over me never goes to sleep; You know me inside and out and You promised You would keep me.”
Of course, there is room for the beauty of a lullaby (like in other Rain for Roots records), with the closing track, “Wisdom and Grace” by Sandra McCracken. Such sobering truth and beauty in these words every adult and child should meditate on:
Now the span of our lives
It is made of sorrow and labor
As the days pass away like the grass
How soon we are gone
Teach us to number our days
That we may apply our hearts to Your ways
Oh, teach us to number our days with wisdom and grace,
Wisdom and grace
This record reminds me that the God of wisdom and grace, in his great work of creation, created us to come together in unity—adult and child alike—to marvel at his creation, and to use his creation to create things together for the building of the Body of Christ and the welfare of the people in the surrounding community. When we can number our days with the wisdom of God, knowing our time is short and that we can’t do this life alone, we will be steps closer to the godly collaboration that the Lord himself seeks for us and even created us for. And even adults can get it.
If you’d like to listen to Rain For Roots and order their latest album, visit rainforroots.com. You can also purchase the All Creatures album wherever music is sold!
Rachel Wilhelm is the United States Team Leader at United Adoration (ACNA) and Director of Worship Arts and Artist in Residence at Redeemer Anglican Church in Dacula, GA. She released her full-length album, Songs of Lament, in 2017.