As Christians around Sydney – and around the world – sing songs written by composers and music groups from Sydney Anglican circles, it’s always exciting to discover another addition to the mix.
One & All, a group born out of the parish centred on Christ Church, Springwood, started in early 2020 when Ngaire Buckley, her husband Jonathan and James McDonald – who attend Springwood’s evening service – began writing together.
They created the songs “He Is Faithful” and “The Wondrous Christ”, but were these songs any good? They turned to other members of their church to find out.
“We were trying to write music that we could sing at our church and that, God willing, others could sing at their churches,” Mrs Buckley explains. “So, we spent some time workshopping them in a band rehearsal setting to see whether they were any good, and what happens when you get into a room and start to play them together.”
As this larger group continued writing into 2021, the next step was to teach the songs to members of the evening service to see what they thought. The feedback was encouraging, so they started to consider publishing some of their work.
“We didn’t really have a name originally, but when we began to think about releasing the music, we had to put a name to it!” she says with a laugh.
With financial support from church members, One & All entered the studio and recorded the EP He Is Faithful.
“When we said we were going to make an EP, people were really excited, saying, ‘When’s it going to be out? We want to listen to it!’” Mrs Buckley says. “That’s a real blessing.
“We have only been able to do it due to the generosity of members of our church. It’s expensive to put music out, so we’re very grateful to all the people who contributed... and then told people about it!
"Our church put a huge amount of faith in us.”
Co-writer and musician with One & All, James McDonald, is currently a trainee with Emu Music. He says the bulk of the title track was written during the first COVID lockdown, when the church was working through a sermon series in Genesis called “Faith of our Fathers”.
“We were struck by the continuing faithfulness of God, which never wavered – not when his people had faith in him, but even still when they failed to have perfect faith in him,” he says. “The song took on even more meaning and strength [because of the lockdown], as we were each personally challenged to keep trusting God in the midst of uncertainty: that his promises were still true and that he was still faithful to us.”
Mrs Buckley says One & All aims to create songs that are enjoyable to sing and biblically “right”, so that whether the songs are being sung in church, or by someone in their car, what is heard and sung will “write the truth of God’s word on their hearts”.
“It also needs to be musically simple – which doesn’t mean that musicians will go, ‘Oh, this isn’t fun to play!’” she adds. “Rather, it needs to be singable by a congregation. If you want to write for the church, it needs to be within the capacity and ability of the church.”
The group is still busily writing, although a song they recently began is so “weighty” that it will require much more thought and reading before they can proceed.
“We’re trying to distill really broad theological concepts into four minutes!” Mrs Buckley says, adding that the group eventually reaches a point with each song where “we’ve all looked at it and prayed over it, and trust it is at the point where it will be of service. From a creative perspective we always want to improve things. And from a spiritual perspective, we want them to be the best they can possibly be to give glory to God, but we know he works through our imperfections.
“[With the EP] we’re now seeing people listen to it and hearing them say they enjoy it and putting it on their playlists, or saying, ‘I sent this to my music director at our church’, so that’s encouraging. From here on we pray that if God chooses to use it, he’ll use it in other churches that need it.”
He is Faithful is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music. You can also download the music here.