by Michael Ash
I grew up as a Christadelphian – it’s quite likely you haven’t heard of us. We’re a small community of Christians who tend to keep ourselves to ourselves, but we look after each other and anyone who might cross our path – we’re like a big family.
And like any family, we have our ups and we have our downs. We’re all still learning about our individual faiths by reading the Bible and attempting to enact God’s will as we go, but we’re also just humans – we still make mistakes and we have our disagreements. It was this disharmony that sparked my desire to learn how I could best help my community and in turn, serve my God, but it wasn’t until I was nearly 20 that the opportunity presented itself to me.
For years, I’ve been playing in church bands: working my way up from understudy guitarist to rhythm and lead, and then on to lead vocals, directing the worship and playing music from 4-part harmony hymns to modern Hillsong pop songs. But I’d never played anything I’d written.
In the summer of 2017, I took a trip of trust to Marseille on a whim with a couple of new friends where, in front of the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica in 40-degree heat, I penned what would be the first song for Route 66 Movement.
It was at that moment that I realised my faith and music were intertwined – that I could use these to begin to help fix the problems I could see in our community. As Christadelphians, as Christians, and as humans we can be very closed off, stubborn and shy away from our responsibilities and our mistakes. I didn’t (and still don’t) believe that all these problems were unavoidable. A lot of our problems in life are rods we make for our own backs, and a lot of these are down to a lack of honesty.
In life, we like to show the positives and how amazing everything is – naturally, of course, we want it to be that way – but that’s not really the case, is it? So many things in our lives are misrepresentations and twisted truths we tell ourselves, and in these we often trip up; perhaps our lies come unspun, our mental or physical health takes a turn, or people we love turn away from us… But many of these, particularly in our spiritual lives, can be avoided by simply being honest.
And that is the cornerstone of my music: honesty in life, honesty in love, honesty in faith.
My faith is the core of my music for Route 66 Movement. Now that’s not to say every song is an explicit ‘Praise Thee’ song. Faith in my music is a lot more nuanced – we already have a plethora of praise songs and unrealistic behaviours represented in Christian music and we live in an age that is crying out for honesty, for relatable conversation and equality so our music needs to cater to that.
Route 66 Movement is a collaborative project with one voice – ours. It may have different writers and musicians, but the songs are open and honest and humbling. We are focused on creating music deeply rooted in faith, but that draws on individual experiences and allows those young and old who are exploring their faith to relate to fellow believers on a human level as well as a spiritual one.
As much as we want to praise our God and share those wonderful moments, we are not afraid to express the times when we are vulnerable, the times when we have doubts, poor mental health, and the times when we are at our lowest. It’s in these moments that we are most honest, and people can draw the most comfort from these because we all experience them.
That common, human experience is vital because the truth is we are all at very different stages on our journeys with faith. No two people believe exactly the same thing, for everything we read and our understanding of it is influenced by our life experiences. So it is not for me, or anyone else for that matter, to criticise, condemn or tell you how or what to believe. Faith is ultimately your own personal journey and our music aims to accompany that, whether you believe in the same God as I do or not.
Jesus said that to lead your best life, you need to do two things: love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. While faith is the core, and honesty the cornerstone of Route 66 Movement, the foundations are love. It is an inclusive project that aims to inspire and show love to all people regardless of their background. There is no soapbox. There is no pastor. It simply comes from a place of love to give comfort to those who seek it.