If you’d have told me just a short year ago that today I’d be singing in a church band, I probably would have laughed at you. Last November, I was busy stripping down to my skivvies as a burlesque entertainer. You were likely to find me sleeping in on Sunday mornings, not singing in church.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Now Sundays consist of caffeine (first thing’s first), a mic check or two, and songs that would make Johnny Cash smile—if he went to church—or smiled.
How did this happen?
Don’t worry; this isn’t a born again thing. If my back weren’t jacked right now, I’d still be teaching pole dancing classes—and singing in church—albeit separately. I still swear like a sailor and lie on occasion and have many impure thoughts. And most of the time, I’m pretty okay with that. I don’t think anything in my past was unclean or that I need to repent for it. It’s not like that.
And no, I didn’t have a crazy calling to faith. I’m navigating the waters of being part of a religious (I don’t like that word) community again rather slowly. I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in the big picture of things and what I do or don’t believe.
The whole church band thing happened because of community. Not necessarily a faith community—though we all attend and perform for City Square Church—but a community of genuinely good people.
Jonny Church Band—yeah, it was a joke that stuck—meets every Wednesday night for rehearsal. Brian Kemp-Schlemmer, co-founder of and co-pastor at City Square (with whom I’ve bonded over our mutual love of the musical Rent), cooks everyone dinner. It’s stick to your ribs kind of stuff. Comfort food—like curry and potato soup and polenta with red pepper coulis. Did I mention he bakes fresh bread?
I don’t think many families eat together anymore—because, you know, there are soccer games and dance classes and overtime since that work project needs to be done tomorrow—but we do. We have dinner together. We check in on each other’s weeks. There’s always laughter and joking. There are usually cast iron pots and beers in hand. That’s right, we drink at church functions.
After dinner, we get to work. But it’s really not so much work as it is a jam session. Sure, there are new songs to learn, harmonies to master, lyrics to memorize in preparation for Sunday, but it’s nice and low key. We experiment a lot. We trust each other. We make suggestions. And it just works.
It works because Jon Rodis has this cool, old time country kind of approach to the music. He’s stupidly talented and writes these songs that hearken back to an earlier time and yet still work in the context of today. My boyfriend lays the bass line. Jon Willey comes up with these killer beats not by reading music but by feeling music. The Coleman sisters scope out the harmonies and we sing like old school R&B girl group backup singers. And now we’ve got Nate on the keys, which adds this awesome new layer to what we do.
And I’m just happy to be there.
It feels like family. I know I can walk in there having a shitty day and leave feeling uplifted. There’s something really special and therapeutic about that. Really life-giving, as most folks at City Square would say.
So why am I singing in a church band these days?
It’s simple. It feels like home.