Saved, healed and set free by the power of the Spirit. That's the heart of Cherry Hills Worship, as it is the heart of their church, Cherry Hills Community Church. More than just a Sunday morning soundtrack, the musicians and songwriters at Cherry Hills are putting music to what's happening in their midst in the Greater Denver area.
The 13 songs of their self-titled record tell the story of the strong, constant, courageous Father reaching down to earth, and of the faithful touching His heart with prayer, praise and worship.
With the new project starting to gain momentum in the national conversation, it made sense to find out a little bit more about Cherry Hills Worship from Worship Director Jeremi Richardson. Here are 9 questions with Jeremi.
1. Tell us about your church, and the worship community there.
Our church is south of Denver, Colorado in a town called, Highlands Ranch. Throughout the history of this church, music has always been important and honestly a catalyst of outreach for our community.
Over the past four years we've been on a journey of taking music from a place of performance to place of experience through worship. This has looked many different ways, and most recently realized with this new project. We've been fortunate to see the work of God all around us as we've climbed this mountain together. He is taking men and women, boys and girls from a place of reservation to a place of freedom. Miracles are happening every day and lives are being restored back to the heart of the father.
I'm so thankful that God has blessed Cherry Hills for 30-plus years and overwhelmed that he has called us to release these songs for this specific season in the life of our church. I believe that this is just the beginning!
2. What's your songwriting process like?
Everyone on the team has a different process. Some have a specific writing day where they spend time in prayer and study and write from that time with the Lord. Others catch a vision and write from this place of revelation. Personally, I can be anywhere and a song comes on. Actually, an example... one song on this project was written in about 30 minutes on the side of the interstate at 2 in the morning after I landed home from ministering in California. I pulled out an iPad, opened GarageBand and sang this song from top to bottom in that amount of time. That song is called "Piece By Piece."
3. How do you balance musical excellence and relevance with congregational appeal and Sunday morning usability?
This balance is a continual conversation among our team and a place of prayer for many of us. There is a such a unique musical dynamic happening in worship in this bracket of time. From song keys, musical stylings and other aspects, I'm seeing a trend of release and response in worship. This is a growth place for many, including our congregation. We are asking them to do something: actively participate.
For several years church music was more platform art than heartbeat driven. We actively ask for the worship of a heaven to happen in our midst. In return, that would mean that his heartbeat would be felt and heard in our times of worship. This sometimes is easy and sometimes stretches us in our love of Christ and others.
4. Do you have any stories about the songs that were written for this record, maybe things that were happening in the life of your church?
Several of these songs are favorites of our church: "Stronger than the Grave", "Hallelujah", "Piece By Piece", "Oh Jesus", and so on. Many of them come from specific prayers and testimonies in our congregation.
One of them can be found on the song, "I Won't Run Away." In February 2016 I was praying in the prayer room of our church and came in and out of the spirit in prayer. It was as if Heaven was touching the earth and I kept walking in and out of heavenly places. During this time of prayer, I feel God right-sized, clarified, and called me into a specific work at Cherry Hills. He showed me things he wanted to do and it was so clear that I could even see the times of worship he was preparing me and us for.
This calling actually began 20 years earlier and things he showed me at a young age were brought back in that time of prayer. I was so freaked out that I stepped back and wouldn't fully walk in it. I started seeing this walk in and out of his plan mentality in the teams I was leading and began praying, "We want more, and we won't run away." This song released that word over us and we are not going back. God has promised to pour out His spirit and we will stand and see the work of the Lord! We want more!
5. How does the wider ministry of releasing this music go hand in hand with the local ministry of your week-in, week-out church music ministry?
We are a worshipping congregation. We are all-in, no matter our mood or circumstance. These songs are an extension of that concept and what God is doing in our church. These are not the songs of the worship leaders but the songs of our church. They are a direct link to the heart of our church and everyone that listens hears the sound of testimony/prayer being released in the body of Cherry Hills.
6. What's one thing you've learned in the process of recording this record?
To not doubt his plans. When we first felt called to do this project, there were so many factors that seemed impossible to obtain. From songs, musicians, money, etc., God met our faith and made the path straight. We've been stepping out further in faith as a team since we took this plunge and I am seeing our congregation doing the same.
7. What is the Sunday morning worship culture like at CHCC?
Our culture is growing in expression every week. Currently, we have the full gamut of worshippers. We've got reserved, expressive, loud, soft, joyful, tearful, etc.; our services are often led with a 200-plus member choir. This choir is one of the strongest gifts to our church regarding worship. Many people, I believe, can see themselves in the faces of this choir. They are pushed to higher places in Christ by their willingness to worship with their all and as an extension of their personality and faith in Christ.
8. What are some ways you intentionally grow as musicians, worshippers and as a community?
Communication--how can we further the mission of our church and department--with our craft, referencing other artists, spiritual discipline, and expectation continually pushes us to grow as a community and as individuals. We are currently in a season of gratitude. We are carrying this attitude of thankfulness into all areas of our worship culture: personal and corporate. We accept the opportunity for personal preparation so that we can steward our corporate gatherings without the hiccups of getting in the way by lack of preparation.
9. What's next for you all, now that the record is out?
Christmas! Honestly, that is the current reality we are in. Although, I believe these songs can be used to grow, encourage, and build the body of Christ. We have not received the full clarity of our next steps. In times of prayer I keep hearing other churches, communities, and people singing these songs, and I am not sure how God will accomplish this reality. My faith is high and spirit open to his direction for the next steps.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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