Hillsong Conference has traditionally been the launch week for the next praise and worship album out of Hillsong Church for over 20 years, so what is different this year?
This year, Hillsong Worship is combining the latest live album recording with Hillsong Conference 2015 in Sydney, Australia.
Not only the recording process is different this year, but also the whole approach to this album has been completely different from other years. In an effort to never do something for the sake of doing it, the decision was initially made to not record a new Hillsong Worship album. The songs that come out of this house have always endeavoured to be authentic, written not for a successful musical release but in the words of songwriter Matt Crocker, "putting a voice to what God's speaking personally and corporately."
So this year the Creative Team didn't want to release another album for the sake of it, but waited and listened to what God's was saying. In April the team released a song specifically written for Easter called "Oh, Praise The Name". Immediately the church embraced the song unlike any other, as the spirit of that season was so powerfully expressed in song. The track was released for the greater Church, and the reception was so enthusiastic it soon became the first song of what would progress into a full album.
That call to corporate and individual devotion, and that commitment to equipping and unifying the greater Church have become the themes of this album. As songs came in from all over the world, God breathed and soon it became undeniable that there was an album that needed to be recorded and that Hillsong Conference was the time and place to do it.
Recording at Hillsong
Recording an album at Hillsong Conference is significant for many reasons. One of the mandates of Hillsong Conference is "to equip the local church", and that means gathering all different backgrounds and denominations, and inextricably seeking God. What takes place is an electric atmosphere of collaborative progress as the goal to move forward overshadows the distraction of discongruity.
The writing process of this album has been just like that. As Hillsong church has expanded all over the globe, the practice of capturing the sound of this house has developed to become a far more internationally collaborative process; the purpose remaining to speak to the greater Church of what God is saying now.
Now, for the first time ever, there have been global collaborations from so many parts of the multi-campus church â Sydney, LA, London and NYC. And what this has created is a new sound of praise and worship that really is a sound of the Church worldwide; a picture of what God is doing here and now, relevant across culture and generation.
The preparation has involved exhaustive amounts of hard work, but even that has become a unifying factor in drawing the team together and focusing their efforts on getting the best sound possible to express their honest worship to God. The team took over the top floor of one of the church offices in a very unglamorous studio set up and spent countless sleepless nights sharing ideas and working together to push the musicality forward. The atmosphere of combined effort lead to more co-written songs by multiple members of the team, often across different campuses.
This whole process has looked completely different to other years, and it means the Worship team are all entering Hillsong Conference very tired, but closer than ever. A desperation for God to move in these nights is apparent in every conversation, and the Hillsong Conference theme of "Speak, we're listening" is a cry that is echoing through each song, lyric and sound.
One song called 'Open Heaven' began when Matt Crocker sat at home and instead of trying to write a song for an album, he decided to put into song a very personal and intimate revelation he had.
What came out was an understanding that an eternal God can speak a word that is individually relevant to an infinite amount of people. And this seems to have become the theme to all the other songs, each coming from such a genuine place of God speaking in a soft whisper to an individual, that is echoing into the hearts of millions of people.
The team have never been more excited for a project. In each session of Hillsong Conference, people are being lead into worship with new songs and better-known classics, and all the while it's being recorded.
Hillsong Worship have done their best to express their genuine heart of worship in these new songs, now all they can do is pray for God to breath upon this record and let Him do what He wills with it.
Daniel J. Mathew is a musician and writer based in Los Angeles.
Daniel J. Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html